Sunday, July 5, 2015

If the people of a corporation are talking about "Holacracy," as a way to run things, why is it so hard to simply take it to its logical conclusion?


The Salon.com article about "Holacracy" is the first I've heard of it. I suppose, if I were still doing IT, I would have heard about it a lot sooner, as it has its roots in the "Agile" software development model.

What's interesting to me about Agile is that I was doing it years before it had a name, or at least before I ever caught wind of it. The six years I spent working for Health Services Northwest (from 2002 to 2008) was agile development out of necessity. It was also probably the best six year of my professional life as an analyst/developer.

To understand why you first have to understand what Health Services Northwest was, and for the most part, still is.

In the health industry H.S.N. is what is know as an R.B.O, or remote billing organization. It was formed as a partnership between the Providence and Swedish hospital groups as a means to centralize, and make more efficient, the entire process of formulating patient charges, submitting them for payment, and then resolving any billing issues. And, as this necessarily involved a diverse panoply of payer groups, with complex hierarchies of ailment to appropriate treatments correspondences, you can imagine that it is, by default, a very information intensive process.

That I came to be hired by them at all was another serendipitous event (in a series of them throughout my career). I was initially brought in as a contractor by a tech temp agency. H.S.N. had already been involved in a year long effort of process review by a prominent consulting company (Point B) to identify key parameters; the ultimate goal of which was a reporting tool. A point for which a lot of concern had developed as the tool was way behind schedule, and work hadn't even started on it yet;
the problem being who to do it for an affordable price. Out of desperation, I think, they picked a temp agency and hoped a single coder could make it happen. At least with a modest dollar per hour figure they could claim to be doing something while not risking too much in the interim.

I was able to make it happen, but not because I was all that good of a coder. Two factors worked to save not only my bacon, but H.S.N's as well. First was the amazingly complete process outline that was created by the Point B person in charge (Paul Nevaro), and the second was the amazing group of claims analysts, and cash collection folks that the company had pulled from the two hospital groups.
These were collegial, smart, team oriented individuals who weren't afraid to take a hands on approach to getting working automation going. That and a middle management group that left us alone to just get it done.

That teamwork is what made it happen. And it was also that teamwork that got me hired into H.S.N.'s systems group as a full time employee. And it would be that same, ongoing teamwork, that would allow me to create not only the main data collection, and distribution system, but a ton of individual automation apps; apps that made it possible for the company to grow billing throughput significantly (going from about $2.5 billion to around twice that in six years). Automation apps I couldn't have written, or supported, without the very close involvement of every user in the company; as well as to say without having immediate management that just gave us free reign for the most part. Minimalist interface apps, I might add, from an app template, that did only a few specific things without any bells or whistles. The data in question would be loaded from a spreadsheet, or text, template, the business logic required applied, and the results then pushed out as required, through other, channel and format, templates, with the users doing almost all of the debugging, leaving me to fix the bugs, as well work on new apps. It became a fairly well oiled little machine.

I look back on that fondly now as I continue advocating a social/economic "holacracy." Function circles as cities indeed. Only why would anyone continue to hold on the ridiculous notion that we need to do it as a part of a commercial/commodity,consumption model? Why not just skip the middle man that is corporation and manage our own lives as truly integrated workers and managers; sharing not only the benefits, but the responsibilities as well? If corporate America is finally starting to see the light in empowering the people, shouldn't we take it to it's next logical step?

We pledge allegiance to the United States of Inc.: Corporations become nation-states in Silicon Valley's latest utopian management scheme