A colleague and I recently had a chance to visit an amazing government office.
Among the many things we were shown, which included an office of the future, prediction markets, and collaborative strategy rooms, we were shown a simple little tool for documentation. Documentation is important in the government because employees are only let go for proper reasons. Most companies provide this documentation when they fire you to avoid lawsuits and the like. Governments require even more documentation, which is often so hard to acquire that many bad employees skip by for years.
How to solve this?
RSS Documentation. Put the data flowing out of our work into a personal file for each employee. Review that file during performance reviews. Whammo, you have an auto-documentation system for firing (and promoting) people.
The key here is that our work needs to be in programs that have RSS feeds. Some of the newer technology has this (like this blog) but many of our old programs don’t. There does seem to be a trend to move our daily business work into programs that can have RSS feeds.
Once you have these feeds that represent actions taken by employees. You will need a program that parses the data to recognize the name of the employee. It will then go into their file. If you want to get crazy you could also parse it by project, roles, or duties. Then you would have a running record of the actions taken for each project.
Ya, I know, the system can be gamed. Anything can. I really don’t know how to solve that problem. I can say that having tons of data documented is a huge step. Remember most are coming to the table with no data other than a bi-yearly review.
With tons of data you could start to perform trend analysis, comparison analysis, independent review. You could even establish milestones and deadlines and allow the employee to meet or not meet them. Imagine having that happen several times and auto-tracked in your personal file.
You could also do team analysis. This is something we viewed during our tour. The manager in charge would find a successful team and see what happened when those folks left the team. Did they also improve another team and did their current team see a drop. Imagine how powerful that is, you could find dead weight and determine powerful pairings.
Well, this seems so perfect for performance reviews and firing people. It has to be only a matter of time before this happens. Management is going to know what i am doing all day long, at specific times, and going to be able to call me on it 6 months later…
Interesting… An astute line manager could easily subscribe to user contrib feeds to keep track of edits made by subordinates to say the internal corporate wiki (assuming MediaWiki). Or for really overbearing companies – employee’s public Twitter feed, MySpace pages, blog, delicious tags, etc, etc…
I still believe that having syndicated logs of actions taken by employees within applications/services doesn’t remove the need for a human (both manager and peers) to review and make sense of it all.
Roy – i am going to be making several pitches to u over the next few months. U and I to build a documentation 2.0 app (u code, i market). Then we will build some silly iPhone apps. It will be fun and u know u want to do it!
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