The Creation Environment
An Introduction to NavCenter


[Editor's Note: These models for the NavCenter™ processes were developed in a DesignSession(sm) held for that purpose in the knOwhere(sm) store, Hilton Head, South Carolina, from June 12-19. Participants included Bill Blackburn, Bryan Coffman, David Desmond, Brenda Eckmair, Bill Espinosa, Jay Smethurst and Gail Taylor.]

Imagine an environment where work gets done. Imagine a way to see the entire enterprise and immediately understand it. Imagine an organization in which every member knows why they are doing what they are doing and how it affects the entire enterprise. Imagine a project in which every decision takes into account both the needs of the project and the needs that the project serves. Imagine a space whose sole purpose is to achieve the mission of the enterprise, whose essence is the purpose of the company, whose every facet charts, documents and facilitates the bringing of that purpose into reality.

The Purpose of NavCenter facilities
Coming out of a DesignShop® event, a company will find itself charged with a mission. Unified, determined and focused behind a common vision, the DesignShop participants must instill the vision with the rest of the company, design and implement the projects by which the purpose can be achieved, and hold and reaffirm the vision as they move farther and farther from the DesignShop experience. How does the vision get shared? How can projects that are further and further removed from the DesignShop event and participants maintain integrity of purpose? How can anyone keep track of all that must be done for the purpose to be achieved?

Installed inside the company itself, a Navigation Center™ environment is the embodiment, expression and essence of that purpose. By entering the space and engaging the NavCenter KreW and environment, anyone in the company can learn the breadth and scope of all ongoing projects, see the interrelations of several concurrent projects, or delve into the details of any of the current or planned projects. The work of the NavCenter system is to bring into being the company's vision for its future. The value of every action, thought and word is measured by how well it achieves the company's purpose. Bringing the power of group genius to bear on the projects at hand, the NavCenter system brings the purpose into reality in such a way that new possibilities are continually revealed and realized.

For such far reaching goals to be accomplished, everyone in the organization must understand the work and the reasons for it. The NavCenter system manages and communicates knowledge of projects, of the company, and of the world so that the organization can act in a coordinated fashion. More importantly, the NavCenter system brings people into contact with this vast knowledge base and with each other in ways that promote collaboration, synthesis and group genius.

A NavCenter environment is a specialized Management Center™ environment, and it uses combinations of Environments, Processes and Tools (see the Seven Domains model) similar to those found in MG Taylor® Management Center environments. The factor that drives the differences between Management Centers and NavCenter environments is the very specific purpose of the latter. While a Management Center environment is designed to support numerous, large groups doing a variety of work, and NavCenter environment is designed with a specific purpose in mind. Nested inside a specific company, the NavCenter environment is the focal point for the entire fulfillment of the company's purpose.

A NavCenter Process Model
The four key elements of the NavCenter system that serve to realize its purpose are Dialogue, Grok, Align and Act.

Component Description
Dialogue Work with the NavCenter KreW and other teams to design the next steps for individuals and teams. Interact with information, people, processes and environments in discussions that facilitate the design of appropriate next steps.
Grok "Grok" comes from Robert Heinlein's novel, Stranger in a Strange Land. Literally, "to drink". The metaphorical meaning is "to understand, usually in a global sense." In a NavCenter environment, knowledge is available in ANDMap® tools , Project Status Map, Time & Task Map, Infolog, WorkWall® units , and KnowledgeWall™ systems, and available on the Internet.This information allows any viewer to Grok the whole project and the ways in which the components progress and interact.
Align Each project must be aligned with the purpose of the company and of the NavCenter system. As the hub, the NavCenter environment is the ideal vantage point from which to examine the relationships of the parts to the whole. Alignment does not imply that there will always be agreement--in fact, differences in opinion and vantage points provide the creative tension by which solutions are generated.
Act Carry out action steps that are aligned with the larger goals. Each act will be efficient, effective and will bring the goal of the company closer to reality. The first stages are vital for effective Actions, but the first stages are meaningless without the Actions that they produce.

The function of the NavCenter process that is best demonstrated by this model is to effectively take projects from the realm of Dialogue and discussion to the realm of Action. For projects to be truly effective, they must be designed collaboratively, through open dialogue between teams, members of teams, and anyone else who has a stake in the success of the project. The NavCenter environment specializes is providing forums and processes by which truly collaborative Dialogue can take place. By interacting with high frequency and low magnitude, teams work to minimize or eliminate the number of "compromises" that normally degrade and divert the original vision and mission of the project. In this environment whose only purpose is to achieve a goal, Dialogue can occur without the normal interruptions and distractions of offices or conference rooms. Dialogue also occurs between people who enter the environment and the environment itself. The information and data that is presented in various forms all over the NavCenter environment only become meaningful knowledge when people interact with it (Dialogue) and relate it to their own experience and context.

For designs to function as an appropriate response to the demands of the environment, designers must first Grok the context within which they are working. For people to understand new ideas and vantage points, they must see them, manipulate them and work with them. The NavCenter system, with the Knowledge Wall, the living ANDMap® and status maps, the dashboards, the WorkWall units, the Internet access, knowledge is everywhere. A quick check of the ANDMap will tell anyone the status of every project that is relevant to the success of the the company's goals. A look at the Knowledge Wall will yield some glimpses of work that recently went on in the space as well as information about how other companies have succeeded and failed in doing what this company has set out to achieve. A project team can SEE how and why their project is important to the larger goals. The leadership and the community can SEE when several key decisions will have to be made. This presentation of all relevant knowledge for all kinds of learners allows anyone who enters the space to Grok the purpose of the NavCenter environment and of the company itself.

Each project that is coordinated by the NavCenter staff must be Aligned with the purpose of the company. Communication with other teams, through the ANDMap and status maps, as well as through facilitated dialogue, gives each team the knowledge with which to proceed speedily and wisely. Each step in the process is designed within the vantage point of the larger goals so that each Task level project is aligned with the Logistics, Tactics, Strategy, Policy, Culture and Philosophy of the company as a whole. Often, too, a project may seem vital from one vantage point, but when looked at from a broader perspective, the project actually proves to be detrimental to the whole. By having access to the progress of every project in an organization, the NavCenter team is positioned perfectly to see how well each new project aligns with the real goals of the organization. The NavCenter crew is also an ideal position from which to see how seemingly unrelated projects could add value to each other. This sort of aligning of projects with each other and with the whole of the organization is one of the most powerful facets of the work of the NavCenter crew.

The next step is to Act. One of the MG Taylor® axioms is "The only valid test of an idea, concept or theory is what it enables you to do." The NavCenter is a place of action. Decisions are made and immediately implemented. Projects are accomplished and goals are achieved. The NavCenter system represents a different way of working, one which advances the gains that are made in the DesignShop event. Each team in the NavCenter environment that achieves a goal can see why their action is important and how their work fits into the work of the company. The coordination of individuals and teams into a concerted group produces both results and more opportunities. The genius of the actions is created by the early stages of the process, but the process itself proves its value in the concrete results it produces.

A NavCenter system works with knowledge, and the axis between Grok and Align represents the realm of Synthesis. With all of the information that is available, it becomes vital to be able to manage that information, and that is the role of the 10 Step Knowledge Work Process® model. Simply monitoring information, though, only produces well-organized research material. It is in the Synthesis of information that value is added. Deciphering the important signal from the noise, relating the work of parts to the whole, discovering connections between divergent fields of knowledge--those are the ways in which knowledge becomes valuable and useful. The information that is presented in various ways around the NavCenter environment, the books that have been selected for the NavCenter library, the details of the work of other teams in other departments are all selected and organized to facilitate synthesis and new ways of thinking. Insights into the relationships between different parts of a project, a company, an industry and a universe allow groups to approach problems from new vantage points and thereby create ingenious solutions. It is the synthesis that often allows group genius to emerge. It is also this synthesis that creates the alignment between the various components that are working to achieve the company's goals--by presenting the big picture in detail, the NavCenter environment allows individuals to see how their decisions affect the entire organization. By seeing how they are tied together, the members of an organization can appreciate and participate in the shared vision of the organization.

A Second NavCenter Process Model
The first model highlights several important aspects of a NavCenter system, but this next model speaks to a facet that is downplayed by the first model.

In this model, Grokking, Aligning and Acting all fall under the domain of Dialogue. Grokking and Aligning interact with each other as different parts of the process of Synthesis. To Align with other teams or the larger goal, it is necessary to be able to Grok what the goal is and what other teams are doing and why. By Grokking the wealth of knowledge, Alignment becomes both a viable option. By pursuing synthesis through Grokking and Aligning, teams can produce Acts that are more likely to be in tune with the vision of the company.

To say that these three processes are couched in Dialogue, however, speaks to an issue that is often left unstated: Everything Speaks. The environments in which we work and live, from the architecture (see article) to the color patterns, reflect and shape what we think and how we behave. The environment speaks to us. The walls, the plants, the books, the games and the furniture all give very intentional messages that this is a place to work, and work in a different way. The attire and demeanor of the KreW and the other people working in the Center reinforce this atmosphere of focused and different work. The ANDMap, the KnowledgeWall display, the books and magazines available, and the knowledge of the KreW all explain loudly that this place of work is focused on one project--that accomplishment of the goal. Everything speaks, from the design of the space to the arrangement of pens on the WorkWall units.

Everything speaks, and we respond to everything--even if our response is to reject or ignore. We are therefore in constant Dialogue with other people (even when we are not speaking), with walls, with books, with lighting and with information. Grokking, Aligning and Acting, therefore, are based entirely on Dialogue. What grokking goes on without interaction, without Dialogue? How can alignment occur without give and take, without Dialogue? How can actions occur without communication, without Dialogue? These Dialogues go on all the time and shape the patterns and actions of our lives, yet we hardly ever notice them. In a NavCenter environment, these Dialogues, while frequently unnoticed by those using the Center, are consciously slanted to bring people together in collaboration and group genius.

Related articles:
What Goes On In a NavCenter™?: A Matrix of System Components and Activities
Designing, Building and Using a NavCenter™ System: A General Timeline for Implementation

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