George Mason University

CS491 Great Principles Fall 2002

Assignment A5 due 10/7/01

In the next class we will discuss an interesting contribution that computing has made to the understanding of business -- the workflow. To prepare for this class, please read the essay, Completing the Loops, which explains the "Action Workflow model" and applies it to a case study at GMU. After reading this essay, write out your answers to these questions:

(1) What is the difference between a human process of coordination and an information process?

(2) Give an example of an action loop that occurred in your life recently. How many action loops do you participate in every day?

(3) In ordinary discourse we say that one person made a request of another. In computer discourse we also say that one server made a request of another server. What distinguishes the human request from the computer request?

(4) There are numerous ways to break an action loop. Give examples of breakages in each of the four segments, and when the customer or performer is missing.

(5) What are the consequences to you as customer if you break an action loop? To you as provider? As you examine this, consider the issues of trust, loyalty, and professional identity.

(6) We say that a request does not "occur" until the intended performer "listens" a request. Give examples of requests that you have "listened" even though the requester did not use the words "I request". Look at situations in which the requester gave you hints or gestures, but no utterance that would be recognized syntactically as a request. What does this imply if you are making a request? Perceiving that someone is making one of you but you are not sure?

(7)We say that breaking a loop as biological consequences as well -- the participants feel sensations and have emotions. Here are some possible ways for A (customer) and B (performer) to break a loop:

(i) B never responds to A's request
(ii) A cancels the order when B is almost ready to deliver it.
(iii) B forgets the due date.
(iv) C (a third party) observes example ii.

In each case, think of examples in which you were A and B, and report on your biological consequences. Think of when you were an observer (C) and report on the biological consequences that happened in you, even though you were not part of the loop.

(8) What does it feel like to participate in loops that complete? What moods might arise in workplaces where everyone takes care to complete their loops? What moods might arises when some people do not take care to complete their loops?

(9) Suppose that you observe a coworker who causes workplace breakdowns by not completing loops. What assessments would you have toward the group manager who permits this to continue?

(10) Many university faculty say that their students are not customers and that the customer model is inappropriate for the university. In what ways are students customers? Do you accept the faculty argument? Why or why not? How do you feel when you interact with faculty who practice their interactions within this interpretation?