January 08, 2006
Truistic musings

In my life, I work a lot with collaboration software, both as a provider, and as a consumer. Recently a truism occurred to me, thinking about institutions of size beginning to take up more freeform collaboration software (or, as may also be the case, seeking to exert greater control over the freeform collaboration software which has gown up from the grassroots). It's a shower thought, so the punchy language was my structure to keep it straight:

Collaboration is the personal ownership of responsibility. Compliance is the institutional ownership of responsibility.

When an individual takes part in a collaborative endeavor - posts a message in a chat room, creates or edits a page on a wiki, comments on a weblog post, or even just sends an email to a distribution list - they are stating something from themselves, be it a fact, an interpretation, or just an apparently innocuous joke. In many systems this ownership is tacit - the authentication happens at the front end, and the attribution is placed without a thought on the part of the owner. This is, imho, healthy.

Compliance, on the other hand, is an organization's statement that they are aware of, and at a high level responsible for, these individual statements. This can take the form of knowing what these messages are (and persisting them in offline stores), or the SOX signatures of the CEO on the financial statements.

There seems to be an interesting struggle between these two, in that the latter takes a retrospective view in most cases, where the former is forward moving. The former is, in many ways, more tightly binding in a social construct, accreting over time and collaboration, whereas the latter is binding from external forces - legal, regulatory, institutional. And despite the press coverage of the failures of leadership at our major companies, compliance is rarely personal in this interpretation.

How can the two of these be normalised? Need they be?

Posted by esinclai at January 08, 2006 09:24 PM |