Analysis of Information Access

Information has to mix with other information--within the same group or within the same mind--in order to connect the dots and enable the logical connections that make it actionable.


Within a process flow, information, by itself, is value-agnostic.
Its value is created when a person who needs to use it has it at the right time and at the right location in the process.

  • This allows them to use it to keep the process flow moving as efficiently as possible.
  • This also makes that information pivotal, no matter the nature of its other value factors.
Product prototyping process flowchart with team ownership swimlanes. Background is an orange gradient. Swimlane labels are black blocks with white text. Tasks performed and/or shared by various teams are green or blue, with black text. Image Credit: Copyright 2022, Rebecca Lewis


There is a different value factor "personality" for each process flow.

For example, visualize the following within a Build Lab:

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  • Exhaustive list of vegetables

Pivotal and Needed for Flow:

  • Pilot Bill of Materials (BOM)


Multiple value factors include but are not limited to:

  • Cost to originally obtain the information
  • Task(s) enabled by it
  • "Exchange cost" for passing it between agents in the process
  • Value or leverage of the particular process agents who have it or need it
  • Size and impact of the bottleneck created by its absence...


Analysis and problem-solving for bottlenecks caused by...

  • the right information...
  • not being held by the right process agent...
  • at the right time.

Same product prototyping process flowchart with orange gradient background. White dialogue bubbles with black text state information that needs to be passed between teams, related to certain tasks, like 'What do people like?' for setting requirements, 'Will this lead time work?' for ordering prototype materials, 'Torque spec?'for assembling the prototype, and 'Built in-house or by vendor?' for defining processes. Image Credit: Copyright 2022, Rebecca Lewis


  1. What information, if absent, creates a bottleneck?
  2. What process agent needs that information?
  3. What agent has that information?
  4. What's the most efficient way to make the exchange before the agent needs it?


Information bottlenecks can come in different sizes and impacts, but they are all bottlenecks.

  • KEY POINT: They aren't exactly hidden. They're someone's pain points.
Therefore, if I'm thinking about more people's interests than just my own, it is possible for me to anticipate them.
Thankfully, that's our team personality!

Same product prototyping process flowchart with orange gradient background and white dialogue bubbles. A large black dollar sign with a thin, bright-yellow outline accompanies each white dialogue bubble. Image Credit: Copyright 2022, Rebecca Lewis


Each bottleneck is a clearly identified opportunity to make an incremental improvement... without having to brainstorm further about "how to improve things."

This transforms "information bottleneck hunting" into a practical method of TREASURE HUNTING!


In rockets, redundancy is one strategy used to manage risk. The stakes are different with robots.

  • A vintage-looking green-and-black metal can of BAB-O Cleanser has been made into a whimsical robot with googly eyes. Black text in a white dialogue bubble asks, 'Where will I fit 3 brains?'Imagine if a robot had 3 computers, for just in case
  • Various risks and solutions are given different weights in the two situations
Once risk factors and potential solutions have been identified and weighted, rough ROI calculations can help with decisions.


Information Risk Management Strategies (not exhaustive, in no order):

  • Centralized Access
  • Standardization
  • Automation
  • Process Improvement
  • Translation Between Paradigms
  • Illustration of Ambiguous Information


Dispassionate, objective strategizing about eliminating or preventing information bottlenecks doesn't do very much good in a toxic culture.

  • Sometimes, such strategizing is even punished.
Psychological safety and the valuing of ideas, no matter in what social context or "time context" they are packaged, are minimum requirements.

  • It seems pretty silly to me that lack of valuing each other's contributions is a really easy way to miss out on innovation.


The more I learn about objectively facilitating the flow of information within a process flow, the more I suspect the below.
(I'm constantly looking for ways to test it out.)

  1. The same dynamics that make it so that it is in our own interest as a company to value contributions, no matter how they are "packaged" within a social context...
  2. Also make it in our own interest to behave similarly as social groups within larger social groups...
  3. And also make it in our own interest to behave similarly as individuals within social groups and within individual relationships.


Some information in our own flows is easily accessible to anyone, like our PLM database.

  • However, even better would be a dashboard or tool that queries the specific PLM information needed, at the right time or frequency
In any company, we all intentionally possess specialized skills, backgrounds, and roles.

  • Therefore, we all hold and obtain some information that others do not have... it is solely-held.


If I am not an engineer, and if I regularly need a piece of solely-held, pivotal information that requires research, expertise, and engineering judgment--which I do not possess--what are my options?

My Own Options

  1. Do my own manual research and approximate what an engineer might tell me about it if I were to ask them.

    Horrified Emoticon
    is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

  2. Take up a lot of an engineer's time by not doing my homework and by not giving them context and details before I ask them questions.

    'Horrified' yellow emoticon
    is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

  3. Email all necessary details so an engineer can evaluate them and give me an answer--at the least cost to their own part of the flow.

    Yellow-emoji-shaped mylar ballon with a black smile, one plain oval eye, one 'winking' eye, and eyebrows.
    is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  4. Set up a "low-cost" way, within their own part of the flow, to routinely leave that information for me somewhere, before I need it.

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    is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

My Own Conclusions

Do you see how easily we could miss out on innovation because of social factors?

  • If I were to refrain from asking for information because I felt timid, or even if I were to not value someone else's time when I ask for it, the flow would be slowed, at the very least
Do you see that objective tools and automation drastically lower the risk of missing out because of social factors?


What pivotal, solely-held information am I missing? Who holds it?
Who needs to use my own pivotal, solely-held information?

  • How would we know about each other's needs and resources?
  • How could we exchange the information?
  • Would that exchange be inefficient enough to bottleneck the flow of information?
  • How much of our time would be taken away from our main roles in the process flow?
  • Would it be worth it?


The above thought exercises let you identify something specific and practical that you can do NOW to incrementally grease the information wheels within the flow.


  1. You perform thought exercises when you find your own work blocked; OR
  2. You strategize about the whole system and plan for it ahead of time


  • KEY POINT: Just because I know how to make practical plans for the future doesn't mean that I should completely sacrifice the present for them.
Sometimes, I'm tempted to over-solve current problems. What can I do?
  • Stay connected and engaged with the present.
  • Evaluate whether I'm doing anything now that will limit my options in the future.
  • Evaluate whether any current potential actions exist that would positively synergize my options in the future.



"How do we efficiently translate the R&D BOM from R&D engineering's logical context into our own logical context, so we can build it?"
What are our options for untangling this messy problem?

  • Do we only have manual options?
  • Is there any portion that could be automated?
  • How will we compare our options?

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We need some kind of translator between the two logical contexts.

  • Technical Writer?
  • Technical Project Manager?