Putting Information To Work In Your Organisation

FOR GREAT CHEFS AND FOR MANAGERS, “Ideas are ingredients and ingredients are ideas”, meaning that what others have achieved is only the starting point
for creating something new, and that inspiration can also be found at the other end of the process, by looking at what’s available.

A chef acts immediately on some ideas and makes a mental note of others. Back in the kitchen, ingredients will be stored in some kind of order, so that nothing is hidden at the back and forgotten.

Organisations need the same control. Boardrooms don’t usually contain cupboards full of foodstuffs, but services, people and data roughly correspond to ingredients. The amount of information handled by any organisation is way beyond what a chef needs to deal with, but they have better resources too. Do they manage ingredients and ideas as well as the top chefs?

Data processing and automation of routine decisions are unimaginably sophisticated compared to what went before, but information is more than data, just as wisdom is more than knowledge.

Having the organisation’s acquired information easily available for planning would be a profound change; but a well-arranged info-kitchen would also help with mundane questions like “what’s the routine when x happens?”. For many organisations, getting to that state will be a long journey. The way they store their knowledge often corresponds more to a pile of half-rotting vegetables than to a neatly labelled spice rack.

Don’t expect statistics on the cost of poorly-managed information. Lost opportunities don’t show up in the company accounts. Don’t expect your technical people to lead. The technology you need may not have “geek appeal”, and managing information is your responsibility as a manager. It’s unfair to abdicate and expect your technical staff to take it on. So that’s an outline of the problem. At some future time I’ll come back to this with ideas for a solution.

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