Thursday, November 29, 2012

Topsight > What's in Topsight?

So my new book Topsight is written for a general audience—people in organizations, consultants, undergraduates, and others who want to better understand information flow in organizations. What does that cover?

Let's just take a quick look at the table of contents. The book is organized around four phases.

It starts with an introduction, of course:

  • Chapter 1. Why We Need Topsight–And How We'll Achieve It

Then the four phases. 

Phase I: Planning a Study
  • Chapter 2: Developing a Research Design
  • Chapter 3. Building in Protections
  • Chapter 4. Gaining Permission
  • Chapter 5. Preparing for Data Collection

In this phase, people learn how to design a study to achieve topsight. This phase is a bit different from those you'll see in most field methods books, though, for a few reasons.

First, topsight requires an integrated-scope approach. So the research design has to gather data from three different levels (macro, meso, and micro) as well as etic and emic data (your perspective, their perspective). 

Second, topsight involves examining an organization, not a culture or a set of individuals. So the design has to be responsive to the stakeholders in the organization, including gatekeepers at different levels as well as participants. So the design has to be responsive to those dynamics. 

Third, any one of these stakeholders can say no at any time. So I discuss how to get them to say yes.

Phase II. Conducting the Study
  • Chapter 6. Introducing Yourself to Participants
  • Chapter 7. Observing
  • Chapter 8. Interviewing
  • Chapter 9. Artifacts
  • Chapter 10. Collecting Other Sorts of Data

In this phase, I discuss how to collect the data that you'll need in order to achieve topsight. Again, due to the methodological and analytical requirements of topsight, these chapters will be a bit more specific than you'll see in many field methods books. For instance, you'll need to take field notes openly and in real time during observations—not the norm in ethnographic research. Similarly, interviews involve a certain rhythm and touch on different levels of scope.

Phase III: Navigating Data
  • Chapter 11. Triangulating Data
  • Chapter 12. Coding
  • Chapter 13. Reporting Progress: The Interim Report

Topsight is not just oriented to organizations, it involves being responsive to organizations. So in this phase, the book focuses on how to navigate the data you've collected and how to relate the different parts of the data together. In the end, topsight requires building solid arguments for change, so Phase III is argument-oriented: it involves building claims from triangulated data, figuring out how to put "street signs" on your data via coding, and keeping your host organization in the loop.

Phase IV. Analyzing the Data
  • Chapter 14. Introduction to the Analytical Models
  • Chapter 15. Resource Maps
  • Chapter 16. Handoff Chains
  • Chapter 17. Triangulation Tables
  • Chapter 18. Breakdown Tables
  • Chapter 19. Developing Activity Systems
  • Chapter 20. Developing Activity Networks
  • Chapter 21. Developing Topsight Tables

This phase is where the unique aspects of the approach really kick in. Each model provides a different view of the data you've collected. Together, they provide integrated views at the macro, meso, and micro levels, allowing you to examine how the three interact—and to diagnose the systemic issues at play in the organization.

Phase V. Reporting the Results
  • Chapter 22. Describing Systemic Issues
  • Chapter 23. Turning Findings into Recommendations
  • Chapter 24. Writing the Recommendation Report
  • Chapter 25. Beyond Field Studies

I mentioned that topsight is really about making arguments for change, right? And these arguments aren't simply academic: we're talking about concrete changes that may cost the organization (in terms of money, time, reorganization) but that should pay dividends (in terms of addressing systemic issues that are holding the organization back). In this phase, I'll discuss how to turn the analysis into a solid argument for change, one that provides findings but goes beyond them to furnish concrete recommendations. 

The book can't take you to the next step, which is testing and refining these recommendations. But the last chapter gives you some pointers to the next steps.

Finally, two appendixes:
  • Appendix A: Resources
  • Appendix B: Rolling Your Own Free, Customized, Free, Multiplatform, and Free Qualitative Data Analysis Tool. For Free.

The first is a set of resources you can read for more information; the second is based on a blog post I wrote a while back, discussing how to manage qualitative data.

Can I be candid? I get more enthusiastic each time I read through this table of contents. I hope you're interested too. 

Keep your eyes on this space for more about Topsight

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