29 days ago

Five Elements of Responsibility by Design

I have been developing an approach to #TechnologyEthics, which I call #ResponsibilityByDesign. It is based on the five elements of #VPECT. Let me start with a high-level summary before diving into some of the detail.


Values

  • Why does ethics matter?
  • What outcomes for whom?

Policies

  • Principles and practices of technology ethics
  • Formal codes of practice, etc. Regulation.

Event-Driven (Activity Viewpoint)

  • Effective and appropriate action at different points: planning; risk assessment; design; verification, validation and test; deployment; operation; incident management; retirement. (Also known as the Process Viewpoint). 

Content (Knowledge Viewpoint)

  • What matters from an ethical point of view? What issues do we need to pay attention to?
  • Where is the body of knowledge and evidence that we can reference?

Trust (Responsibility Viewpoint)

  • Transparency and governance
  • Responsibility, Authority, Expertise, Work (RAEW)

Concerning technology ethics, there is a lot of recent published material on each of these elements separately, but I have not yet found much work that puts them together in a satisfactory way. Many working groups concentrate on a single element – for example, principles or transparency. And even when experts link multiple elements, the logical connections aren’t always spelled out.

At the time of writing this post (May 2019), I haven’t yet fully worked out how to join these elements either, and I shall welcome constructive feedback from readers and pointers to good work elsewhere. I am also keen to find opportunities to trial these ideas on real projects.

Related Posts

Responsibility by Design (June 2018) What is Responsibility by Design (October 2018) Why Responsibility by Design Now? (October 2018)

Read more »

3 years, 6 months ago

The Quantum Organization

In road traffic, says my friend @antlerboy, the one with the most momentum has the most responsibility. Perhaps that’s true in other fields too?

Meanwhile, in a hierarchical organization, the one with the highest position has the highest authority. This is known as positional power. Unfortunately, responsibility and authority are not the same thing.

According to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum can be determined, and vice versa. This is one of the central principles of quantum mechanics.

An analogous problem in most organizations is that responsibility and authority are poorly aligned. In other words, the person who pulls the strings isn’t always the one who gets the blame when something goes wrong. And similarly, the person who does the work isn’t always the person who actually knows how to do it properly. Position versus momentum.

There is a useful technique for organizational analysis known as RAEW (responsibility, authority, expertise and work), which was described by Roger Crane in the 1980s and adopted in some versions of Information Systems Planning. Unlike better-known techniques for responsibility assignment such as RACI, which describe how responsibilities ought to be distributed in an ideal (linear, clockwork) organization, the RAEW technique allows us to analyse how (badly) responsibilities are distributed in a real (chaotic, quantum, snakepit) organization.

And maybe fix some of the problems?


Related Posts: Clockwork or Snakepit? (June 2010)

Wikipedia: Responsibility Assignment Matrix, Uncertainty Principle.

Open University: Handy’s four types of organisational cultures

The vast majority of business tools that I see in use, fail to give you position and movement. I find them useless for context or learning.

— swardley (@swardley) April 8, 2016

Updated 8 April 2016

3 years, 6 months ago

The Quantum Organization

In road traffic, says my friend @antlerboy, the one with the most momentum has the most responsibility. Perhaps that’s true in other fields too?

Meanwhile, in a hierarchical organization, the one with the highest position has the highest authority. This is known as positional power. Unfortunately, responsibility and authority are not the same thing.

According to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum can be determined, and vice versa. This is one of the central principles of quantum mechanics.

An analogous problem in most organizations is that responsibility and authority are poorly aligned. In other words, the person who pulls the strings isn’t always the one who gets the blame when something goes wrong. And similarly, the person who does the work isn’t always the person who actually knows how to do it properly. Position versus momentum.

There is a useful technique for organizational analysis known as RAEW (responsibility, authority, expertise and work), which was described by Roger Crane in the 1980s and adopted in some versions of Information Systems Planning. Unlike better-known techniques for responsibility assignment such as RACI, which describe how responsibilities ought to be distributed in an ideal (linear, clockwork) organization, the RAEW technique allows us to analyse how (badly) responsibilities are distributed in a real (chaotic, quantum, snakepit) organization.

And maybe fix some of the problems?


Related Posts: Clockwork or Snakepit? (June 2010)

Wikipedia: Responsibility Assignment Matrix, Uncertainty Principle.

Open University: Handy’s four types of organisational cultures

The vast majority of business tools that I see in use, fail to give you position and movement. I find them useless for context or learning.

— swardley (@swardley) April 8, 2016

Updated 8 April 2016