In the summer of 1988, one year into his Masters program at Harvard University, Diego interned with Apple Computer’s Strategic Technology Group. At their Cupertino, CA, headquarters, he interviewed twenty-two visionaries in the computer science field, including Doug Engelbart, the inventor of the mouse and windowing at Stanford Research Institute; Alan Kay the project manager and person responsible for the personal computer at Xerox PARC; Ted Nelson, the inventor of hypertext and hypermedia; and Ivan Sutherland, one of the inventors of modern-day graphics. His 48 hours of recordings with these industry visionaries highlighted important concepts in the areas of computer supported cooperative work, interactive multimedia, object-oriented programming, and transparent network computing. In addition to conducting interviews, Diego spent time watching Apple developed and produced promotional videos that presented a future world enhanced by personalized computer technology. Hearing thought leaders in the field talk about technology that was, at that point, still ten years away, played a major role in Diego’s development and had significant bearing on the future of his work.
“What motivated me most to get into this self-managing professional team and team server work was social change. I was a community organizer for the [American Friends Service Committee] AFSC and I saw that corporations were the most effective at bringing about change...I wanted to study the tools and methodologies they developed around marketing and finance, manufacturing and strategic planning, but more importantly I was interested in how to create innovative organization designs because most organizations are designed hierarchically. I found that technology was the missing element needed for supporting coordination and communication which are critical to horizontally-based organizations.” -Diego
At Harvard, Diego worked with Dr. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the author of Change Masters and a Sociologist at the forefront of innovative business management and change management practices, and Dr. J. Richard Hackman, an organization behavior maven in the areas of self-management and team dynamics. Under their guidance, Diego conducted independent research on the coordination and communication required for self-managing organizations and systems, what inhibited the creation of adaptable organizations, and why hierarchical designs are often seen as the model organization. He posited that human communication and coordination often take on a hierarchical approach, but as soon as technology infrastructures are introduced, one can create markets. While self-designing and self-managing organizations are a common occurrence today, back in 1988 few people were thinking about how to build these markets effectively. Diego’s research found that the model of organizational hierarchy was supported through Management Information Systems (MIS). By focusing on this piece, he was able to determine the coordination and communication infrastructure needed to support dynamically adaptive organizations. Additionally, he examined professional development approaches because without consciously changing the way individuals worked, they would automatically mimic the authoritarian systems they were exposed to, from the family unit (parents), to their work environment (bosses), to their educational experiences (teachers), to their religion (ministers, etc.). With individuals automatically approaching their work from an authoritarian model, Diego saw that a systematic approach to retraining and reorienting staff was crucial to building a non-hierarchical management system.
“I was really interested in understanding how authoritarian structures of management could become team self-managed or self-designing organizations, concepts that were being promulgated through Rosabeth [Moss Kanter’s] and Richard [Hackman’s] work as well as Tom Peters’ work In Search of Excellence. I found it all really fascinating, given my passion for social change work.” -Diego
After receiving his masters degree Diego was recruited by Hewlett Packard Labs to envision the future information/computer architectures required for horizontally-designed organizations. In conjunction with the Change Management Team, Diego helped conduct a study with the Center for Effective Organizations at USC which analyzed ten HP product development efforts. Their findings indicated that the most effective product development efforts had a team-developed vision, meaning that the team responsible for producing the project had together gone through ideating a detailed vision of what they wanted to create and the customer/market conditions. To support this, Diego developed the Team Server platform, a computer system that supports teams in mapping and documenting their work, capturing both the vision and the details of the planning process and allowing for easy adaptability. Additionally, the Team Server would easily capture changes so that as teams posted information, salespeople in the field could read and comment, thus shaping the product. In this information marketplace, consumers could rank products and the system would aggregate and report this information to the team. The Team Server supported the conditions for team self-management covered in Diego’s paper “Computer Support for Self-Managing Teams” published in the Journal of Organization Behavior in 1994.