2000/07 Making Accountability Visible Using IT: From Command-and-Control to Bounded, Empowered Coordination

Submitted by daviding on Fri, 12/23/2016 - 02:38


Ian Simmonds and David Ing


Empowerment is a key component of the Sense-and-Respond design for an adaptive enterprise. Within bounds set by the enterprise leadership, individuals are given the authority to choose the most appropriate means (procedure) for the situation at hand. This recognizes that the representative of the enterprise in direct contact with a specific customer, and individuals in the community supporting that representative, have the greatest understanding of the company's one-on-one relationship with that customer.

The rise in empowerment in the workplace has muddied accountabilities for outcomes. The industrial age model of work-as-procedure had clear accountabilities: the supervisor specified the procedure, and the worker executed it. In the knowledge economy, Haeckel and Scherr have observed, an empowerment model requires a shift from accountability for executing a procedure to accountability for producing an outcome. Accountabilities are negotiated between individuals their in roles as customer or supplier.

Accountability brings issues of explicitness -- the need to write things down between the parties involved -- and disambiguation -- the need to become clear about a desired outcome, and any associated conditions of satisfaction. Within any enterprise of a scale beyond continually face-to-face communication, particularly where economies of scope are sought, information technology support for accountability is essential.

This paper explores how to design and deploy information technology support for accountability in general, and for the case of bounded empowerment in particular. Explicitness and disambiguation would both appear to be laudable goals. However, deeper accounts of the nature of organizational work and its computer-based support -- such as Wenger's maxim that "practice is not the result of design but rather a response to it" -- suggest that caution is appropriate. We review the literature on work practice, accounts and accountability, and "technologies of accountability" to suggest directions for the transformation of enterprise information technology support systems.


Ian Simmonds and David Ing, "Making Accountability Visible Using IT: From Command-and-Control to Bounded, Empowered Coordination", Proceedings of the 44th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the System Sciences, at the World Congress of the System Sciences, at Toronto, Canada, July 20-21, 2000.