Equality Assurance: Optimizing Non-discrimination Policy and Practice with Robust Axiomatic Design and ARIZ QA Transformed Through the Contract Theory of Ecology


ARIZ is a method of resolving design contradictions by identifying design assumptions to reject, and then forcing the designer to investigate the physical feasibility of constructing mechanisms that defy the rejected design assumptions.

The Taguchi method of Robust Design fine-tunes already functionally tolerable design parameter variances to dampen the interactions among them that degrade the net impact on society of the system’s overall functioning.

Nam Suh’s Axiomatic Design requires that design parameters be independent and that information be kept to a minimum to keep design complexity down, and brings matrix methods to bear on Robust Design problems.

These three methodologies define state-of-the-art Quality Assurance, and have had wide application, especially in manufacturing, but also in other fields, including business process design and organizational policy management.

What all three methods lack, however, is a recognition that the variance they seek to reduce and fine-tune, and the contradictions they seek to resolve, are the result of a lack of contractual agreements to bring the behavior of freely acting agents in nature in harmony with one another and with the human beings and organizations involved in the enterprise being optimized.

Contract-Based ARIZ

ARIZ frames its method as the search for novel applications of reliable physical mechanisms to arrive at non-intuitive designs that render performance or quality variables independently optimizable in ways that otherwise would require trade-offs.

But the Contract Theory of Ecology teaches us that physical mechanism are only reliable because the agents involved have long-standing contract obligations with one another. It is thus paramount to any undertaking that we take care not to obstruct the means by which those agents fulfill those contract obligations when we come up with novel ways to get them to work together for our own human aims.

The Contract Theory of Ecology thus looks beneath the level of reliable physical mechanisms which ARIZ takes as the ground floor of innovative design. It looks instead to discover new physical principles by following the clues from known contracts in nature, to contracts as yet poorly understood or entirely unknown.

The Contract Theory of Ecology, in other words, recognizes that invention in engineering is always the practical driver and forefront of pure research into natural phenomena, and embraces the questioning not only of design assumptions but of physical theories and their postulates in the search for the resolution of conflicts among design parameter optimization inter-dependencies.

Contract-Based ARIZ, therefore, takes ARIZ down to the true foundational level of design parameter orthogonalization.

Designing-In Equality Assurance

To design equality optimization into human resource management systems, we must apply Taguchi, Nam Suh and ARIZ methodologies, but only as they are transformed fundamentally by the Contract Theory of Ecology.

While it may seem non-intuitive that physical laws are voluntary contract arrangements among forces in nature, it is more intuitive to recognize that the predictability of human behavior in organizations arises from voluntary contract arrangements among humans. While it may seem unnecessary to assume the former in order to embrace the latter, in practice there is always a tendency to reduce human behavior to physical principles, through the application of either micro- or macro- generalization, both of which form essential design rethinking methods in ARIZ.

Thus to avoid the error of homogenizing and mechanizing human free agent behavior, we must reconceive ARIZ by replacing its foundation in the erroneous theory of static physical law with the more robust principles of natural philosophy found in the Contract Theory of Ecology.

No matter how we reduce human behavior, through macro- or micro- generalization, we are still left with free agents acting wilfully. Since we understand human agency much better than non-human agency, it makes most sense to stick with designs that seek resolution of contradictions in terms of human agency rather than in the agency of the components of human biology or in the agency of human organizations, though we will have occasion to refer to those agencies from time to time.

Human equality is the negotiation of quality of life by humans based on each human’s own self-determined definition of quality of life. Designing how an organization operates, therefore, if it is to incorporate equality assurance fundamentally, must force the variance of the organization’s impact on each participating human’s quality of life towards, rather than away from, each human’s own definition of quality of life. It must become all things to all people.

Equality Assurance Design Optimization

The design contradiction at the root of Equality Assurance Design Optimization, therefore, is simply the old adage that, “You can’t be all things to all people,” or “You can’t please everybody all the time.”

Contract-based ARIZ would reject this limiting assumption and ask, “How can our organization be all things to all people involved in it? How can it please all people involved in it all the time?”

Non-contract-based ARIZ would immediately go awry here, for it would seek physical principles underlying the variable “quality of life” that apply to all humans. This homogenizes the human experience of quality of life, and ultimately results in system discrimination because it presumes to define a standard definition of quality of life that will be strongly shared by most humans involved, but not by many others.

Contract-based ARIZ seeks instead to set up an on-going process of negotiation among all humans involved that allows the organization to flex in whatever ways necessary to meet the contract requirements of each human involved to meet their own needs based on their own individual definitions of quality of life.

Thus the two basic premises of Equality Assurance are:

  1. Quality of life is participant satisfaction.
  2. Equality is total customization of design parameters to individualized functional requirements.

In other words, Equality Assurance goes beyond Quality Assurance to require that each participant provide her own Functional Requirements, and that the Design Parameters mapped to each participant’s own Functional Requirements are independent of each other and of those of other participants.

The Protected-Class Design Matrix

Of course, in a large organization such a design matrix would be completely unmanageable.

But we can restrict our constraints to protected-class categories to simplify the matrix.

Instead of each individual, we take each protected class under non-discrimination law and policy, and allow the members of each protected class to define themselves sub-categorically within each protected class. The resulting sub-categories would become the Customer Definitions. Functional Requirements would then be defined for each Customer Definition, and independent Design Parameters mapped to them.

This much is straightforward Taguchi methodology with Axiomatic Design.

Contract-based ARIZ comes in when we find, inevitably, that we cannot get Design Parameters to be independent. This creates contradictions that cause trade-offs between the FR of some Customer sub-categories vs those of others.

To resolve these, we do not use traditional ARIZ. We use contract-based ARIZ.

Can the FR of the two sub-categories be satisfied with other Design Parameters? Can the Customer Definitions be refined in such a way that the FR come out compatible? This depends entirely on our ability to help not only the individual members of the self-identified customer sub-categories enter into new contract relationships with the members of the sub-category with the conflicting FR, but also to help the members of both sub-categories enter into new contracts with everything in nature.

We look beneath the sub-categorizations at the individual free agents involved and go back to the beginning point of design, and ask, how can each of these individuals be satisfied – how can the design be changed so that it can be all things to all these people in regard to the conflicting FR’s?

Open Scrum for Equality Assurance Redesign

To find the resolution we need to bring all the individuals, as individuals uncategorized, back to the table to discover new ways of categorizing and sub-categorizing them to reformulate Customer Definitions and FR’s in ways that give us orthogonally optimizable DP’s for them.

Individual needs are dynamic, too. So our system must be resilient, responsive and smoothly adaptive to the continual shifting of each individual’s definition of Quality of Life. Annual readjustment of the entire scheme of category and sub-category should occur just as it currently occurs with Open Enrollment in healthcare benefits.

Open Scrum for Equality Assurance Redesign must therefore become an annual event for any organization truly committed to designed-in equality.

There is also the practical reality that at any given time there will be some contradictions still in the process of being resolved, and others as yet unrecognized. Thus the system must manage the entire lifecycle of its own continual self-improvement by providing the means for identifying, initiating resolution processing of, and processing the resolution of contradictions, as well as for establishing interim negotiations to broker compromises that temporarily bite the bullet on unresolved trade-offs. The resolutions would go into effect generally only at each year’s Open Scrum time. More urgent resolutions, however, should be permitted to take effect once they are arrived at through negotiation and redesign, just as changes to health benefit selections are currently permitted mid-term upon life-change events.

The End of Complained-In Equality

Modern methods of Quality Assurance over the past few decades have done away with the wrongheaded deficiences of “tested-in” quality control. Applying the Contract Theory of Ecology to these methods allows us to bring analagous rectification of Equality Assurance to do away with the wrongheaded deficiencies of “complained-in” equality.

Gone will be the reactive complaint-based systems of non-discrimination risk management that correspond to the tried and failed “test-in” methods of QA that have been rejected throughout manufacturing industries worldwide for decades already.

But this new methodology applies not only to Human Resources management within a workplace, but to all government.

All government bodies can apply this same method of designing-in equality to transform their operations into truly democratic mechanisms of self-rule.

Local governments can leave behind their disastrous complaint-based systems of code compliance to embrace a dynamic self-adjusting method of arriving at resolutions to all its policy contradictions. State and national governments could, perhaps, do the same through administrative law, but a treatment of how to apply Equality Assurance in a context of tension between Constitutional and Administrative Law, and between judicial, legislative and executive branches of government, requires further analysis that lies beyond the scope of this article.

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