Human Interaction Management Theory

HIM is a formal theory of processes that extends, alters and re-frames ideas originally developed in the early 1980s (Holt et al. 1983) and subsequently associated with Role Activity Diagrams (Warboys 1989; Ould 1995; Warboys et al. 1999). The mathematical foundation of HIM draws on and unifies petri nets and the pi-calculus (Harrison-Broninski 2005b “Managing Process Change? Easy as Pi (and Petri)”).

The theory of HIM shows how to describe processes so as to facilitate effective, efficient management of teams, communication, knowledge, time, and plans (the “5 Principles of HIM”).

Fig. 4 Plan template for managing a Youth Offender Case

A further concern of HIM is to provide software support for processes involving human collaboration, including those that cross organizational boundaries, which it does via the definition of a new kind of software system – a Human Interaction Management System (HIMS). A HIMS is not a centralized server managing the progress of concurrent, hierarchical, finite state machines (like current mainstream BPM software), but rather a means to manage distributed objects. A HIM process is a set of objects (known collectively as a “Plan”), of which copies are owned by each player in the process. Each player does work in the process using their own HIMS, which uses messaging to ensure that their own copy of the Plan is synchronized with the copies held by their peers.

Note that it is possible to take part in an HIM process without using a HIMS – as long as one player is using an HIMS, the others can collaborate via email, for example, and the sole HIMS instance will still ensure that the work is structured according to the Plan definition for all players.

The 5 Principles of HIM

HIM analyses collaborative work processes in terms of their inner structure rather than from their external manifestation in terms of particular communications. Rather than being based on a specific aspect of human collaboration such as messaging or document sharing, HIM is based on five fundamental features of human-driven processes, the “5 Principles of Human Interaction Management”. As an organization is effectively a manifestation of long-term human collaboration, the “5 Principles of HIM” apply equally to organizations and to any other form of project or venture. The five principles are discussed below, along with their implications for any modelling framework that aims to capture human collaboration.

(1) Team building: To create effective teams, it must be clear who is involved in a particular process, and what each person brings to the table. As a starting point, the identity, skills, experience, and personal characteristics of each person must be captured. It is then necessary to define each individual's responsibilities, and negotiate his/her commitment to accepting these responsibilities.

A modeling framework for collaborative, adaptive human activity must contain Role and User objects, both as types and as instances of those types.

(2) Communication: If people are to manage their interactions with others better, their communications must be structured and goal-directed. Within a process, there must be specific channels of communication for different purposes, each of which unifies messages transmitted via a variety of means (email, text message, FAX, voice-over-IP, etc.).

A modeling framework for collaborative, adaptive human activity must contain Interaction objects representing interactive, multi-party communication channels.

(3) Knowledge: Organizations must learn to manage the time and mental effort their staff members invest in researching, comparing, considering, deciding, and generally turning information into knowledge and ideas. The people responsible for creating and managing this knowledge must be able to control its usage and distribution.

A modeling framework for collaborative, adaptive human activity must contain Entity objects that can be created, versioned, and shared in a structured way.

(4) Empowered time management: Humans may not sequence their activities in the manner of a software program, but there is always structure to human work, which must be understood and institutionalized so that it can be managed and improved. This means empowering people to choose and/or create their own work activities from an appropriate range, guided by understanding of organizational context (so that they can aim to deliver maximum value) and restricted by business rules that prevent contravention of applicable policies and standards.

A modeling framework for collaborative, adaptive human activity must contain Activity objects that can be marked up to enable validation and control.

(5) Collaborative, real-time planning: Human activities are concerned often with

solving problems, or making something happen. Such activities routinely start in the same fashion – by establishing a way of proceeding. Before you can design your new widget, or develop your marketing plan, you need to work out

Fig. 5 HIM modelling framework

how you are going to do so – which methodology to use, which tools are required, which people should be consulted, and so on. In other words, process definition is an intrinsic part of the process itself. It takes place via negotiation between all involved parties, and is not a one-time thing but happens continually throughout the life of the process.

A modeling framework for collaborative, adaptive human activity must support creation, update and deletion of objects and their user interfaces as part of the work process itself.

The HIM modelling framework includes objects of over 30 different types, and provides a diagrammatic notation to depict them, as shown in Fig. 5.

However, most HIM users never use this object model or even know of its existence. Rather, they create, use and manage Plan templates in a simple, intuitive way by dealing with Stages, Roles, Activities and Deliverables.

HIM also provides guidelines on use of the approach, by identifying a number of patterns resulting from the five principles. Some of these patterns are described in following sub-sections.

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