I encountered a New York Times Magazine article about the "Hollywood Model" of employment, in which an ad-hoc team of specialists is assembled for a project and then dispersed on completion; the article suggests that this will become a more dominant mode of employment in the future. It's an interesting article, but I'm not sure I agree with the degree to which they predict the ascendancy of this model.

Meanwhile, at work, my colleagues and I have been struggling to resolve "integration bugs" in new products. These are the problems which arise when individual pieces of a product or design appear to work when tested on their own, but because specifications are pretty much always incomplete and architectures are imperfect, don't quite work perfectly when brought together in a system. Some such problems make themselves felt immediately, but others can be subtle and sneaky, surfacing only under extraordinary circumstances.

Specialists aren't good at figuring out integration bugs. They require a holistic understanding of a system, and a significant strength of my company is that we have a fair number of bright people who have been there long enough to have not only deep understanding of their own specialties and broad understanding of the company, but significant understanding of the systems we work on. The Hollywood Model doesn't seem to allow for that, and so is vulnerable to integration bugs.

I don't think that every kind of work lends itself to managing integration bugs on the fly or to specifying every element exhaustively, so I think there will be a place for the "Corporate Model", in which people form a structure which remains stable across projects, for a long time yet.

From: [identity profile] metahacker.livejournal.com

Huh. 15 years ago, I posited something called "ad hoc workgroups", because that seemed to be what technology was enabling. Shoulda patented the idea... ;)

From: [identity profile] ironphoenix.livejournal.com

It has been used in the construction business for a long time... prior art could be a problem.

Also, nice usericon!

From: [identity profile] goldsquare.livejournal.com

Some of each

At my employer, we generally do product development for other companies. Sometimes in related industries, sometimes not.

Our internal structure is, to use your term, the Hollywood Model. While my manager is the head of a functional group (test engineering), when I am on a project my daily activities are coordinated with my team, and the project manager. When the project is done, or when my part is done, on to the next project and team.

Since my role is test and I am senior in it, I am responsible for that holistic understanding and depth of knowledge. Since we are a technically mature organization, there is always plenty of documentation and lots of other talented people to draw on.

We often interface with or work for teams which are structured in a more traditional way. They quickly learn to rely upon us.

Neither model had a monopoly on success, or failure. Usually the difference is in who is on your team.

From: [identity profile] ironphoenix.livejournal.com

Organizational maturity certainly helps... tribal knowledge requires tribal stability. We're struggling to get past that as we increase our size and complexity.

And yes, no process can substitute for people!

From: [identity profile] goldsquare.livejournal.com

We actively avoid tribal knowledge. We document everything.

It is the only way we can hand off our work to a customer with a clear conscience. It is what they need, and what they expect.

Your firm may not have to do that. But Present-You is always doing a hand off to Future-You. Or your replacement.

I worked at one firm that never documented anything, and I observed that after about 2 years, every programmer stopped being able to do anything new. They had to spend all their time supporting, fixing or updating old work. When people quit, either their stuff decayed or the first person who had to touch it, got a tar-baby.

It sucked and I don't believe in it. I am against tribal knowledge as a way of life.

From: [identity profile] writer-gal-007.livejournal.com

At my last job, they were trying very hard (i.e. high departmental priority) to institute this "Hollywood Model". For large and important projects requiring a high degree of innovation and creativity, it was my understanding that they were going to either (a) hire specialists (consultants) from outside the organization, pay them outrageously, and lose all their knowledge of the project upon completion when they all disperse; (b) bring together colleagues from other departments and/or bring together colleagues from diverse teams within our department, which is an interesting idea but a nightmare for managers who basically lose employees for long stretches of a time without much warning or incentive.

Most people I spoke with thought the concept of mixing up teams temporarily, having a more open model of collaboration, and drawing on strengths that might not be within a single team was great, particularly in a large institution known for having a truckload of unnecessary bureaucracy and for being more or less conservative when it came to change. However, nobody seemed to think the "Hollywood Model" was a good solution to this problem, particularly as it seemed like they'd be relying on the same specialists over and over again instead of pulling from different places within the organization.

Plus, you make a good point that there are some areas that the "Hollywood Model" just doesn't work for. I've been in a few organizations that have completely lost all institutional memory (no knowledge transfer, no records, high staff turnover) and it was a bloody nightmare trying to figure out how to solve problems, troubleshoot, address issues, or have any kind of consistency and efficacy in our daily work. Not to mention, as you said, situations where an in-depth understanding of the organization is absolutely critical.

I think it's an interesting time to be alive, that's for sure. So many weird and wonderful changes - and so many ideas that just don't work the way we hope. ;)
Edited Date: 2015-08-02 03:12 pm (UTC)


ironphoenix: Raven flying (Default)

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags