inefficient and unpleasant. In
response, people do whatever
they can to adapt the system to
their needs: They augment the
system with personal files, attach
memos to reshape the meaning
of forms, and use “illegal values”
in fields to extend the system
to meet unanticipated circumstances. The resulting extended
socio-technical system may be
less coherent, but it is often
on a higher trade-off curve.
Such “local fixes” are required
in the deployment of real systems, and are essential for enabling
systems to respond to diverse
and changing worlds. Users usually keep them below the radar,
because they are often thought
to offend system developers, who
may see them as criticism for not
getting the system right.
In contrast, when system
developers accept the inevitable
need for such “fixes,” a further
move can be made: The technical systems can be designed to
support this work of extension,
providing more responsiveness with less loss of coherence,
less burden on users, and often
very little technical effort.
For example, margins on forms
support going beyond the frame
of the form; supporting “illegal
values” empowers users to better
express real business conditions;
and “multi-lane” systems support
out-of-band (human) handling of
special cases, letting routine usage
remain unencumbered by
exceptions. Such extensions can support
individuals making notes to themselves, groups maintaining alignment, or even large-scale drifts in
the usage and value of a system.
As an additional advantage, when
kept within the technology itself,
these records of extensions can
inform ongoing development [ 2, 3].
• Figure 1. Tension between responsiveness and coherence ( 1 dimension).
for large groups
to work together
September + October 2012
• Figure 3. Families of trade-off curves.