Intelligence magazine (South Africa), April 2005, published extract from a report by the Gartner Group (2005) which highlighted forces which will enhance or hamper workforce performance, productivity and leadership. Here follows a brief extract (not available online, subscriptions available here):
Disruptive Effect: The Devaluation of Judgment

Strategic Imperative: Strike a balance between the support of systems that improve operational efficiency and those that reinforce people’s decision-making judgment. Too heavy a focus on efficiency will undermine individual contribution and productivity.
We have an overdependence on computer applications as proxies for common sense and good judgment. The technology-intensive workplace often shrinks people’s capacity to exercise problem-solving judgment. A company’s verbal commitment to empowering employee decision-making prowess gets tested in the face of efficiency-focused software, which tends to squander judgment and decision-making discretion in favour of efficiency.
In the computer-driven workplace, people routinely face quandaries. Do they respond correctly or instantly? Should they be creative, or should they respond to mountains of “administrivia”? Should they communicate the changing patterns in customer response or simply wait to react? Should they delight their customers or should they adhere to policy? Generally, the tools, applications and success metrics are so narrowly designed, so tightly prescribed and so unimaginative that they intrinsically discourage judgment and decision making.
To be sure, those quandaries are not new. Some are evidence of bad management, others theoretically illustrate why companies employ intelligent, thinking human beings in the first place. The question becomes: Are business applications and tools designed to encourage or thwart independent decision-making? In most cases, the design of an application – its fields, its focus, it’s intents – thwarts discretion in favour of maintaining the scripted answers.
The solution is balance. Although some applications, services and tools are appropriately designed to support policies and curb unpredictable responses, an equal number of services, tools, applications and user interfaces should be designed to encourage discretion, easy access, judgment, customer satisfaction and knowledge sharing.
Action Item: Analyse the roles, decisions and information that characterise classes of rules and users. Design processes, applications, services, web sites and tools to support people’s judgment. Be brutally honest about requirements definition and application design.

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