Tools for inventing organizations: Toward a handbook of organizational processes

The gap between the need to innovate and the tools for doing so leaves us with a problem: How can we move beyond the practices of today to invent the best practices of tomorrow? And where will we keep getting new ideas for organizational processes to adapt to a continually changing world? If we are to understand successful organizational practices, we must be able to recognize and represent the organizational practices we see. And to improve organizational practice in a particular situation, we must also be able to imagine alternative ways of accomplishing the same things. Finally, we need some way of judging which alternatives are likely to be useful or desirable in which situations.

This paper reports on the first five years of work in a project to address these problems by (1) developing methodologies and software tools for representing and codifying organizational processes at varying levels of abstraction and (2) collecting, organizing, and analyzing numerous examples of how different groups and companies perform similar functions. The result of this work is an on-line “process handbook” which can be used to help people: (1) redesign existing business processes, (2) invent new processes (especially those that take advantage of information technology), and (3) organize and share knowledge about organizational practices.

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