Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 9: looking beyond simply managing personnel 5

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 22, 2014

This is my 9th installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-8.)

I stated at the end of Part 8 of this series, that I would focus here on the issues of weakest link operational processes and practices as they emerge in supply chain systems and other business to business collaborations. And I begin that here with the fundamentals and with a selective discussion of best practices per se, and of finding and achieving an effective operational balance between and among them.

I have been discussing and focusing on best practices for years now. And I have done so both in my own workplace activities and in hands-on day to day practice, and when discussing business practices in talks and in my professionally oriented writings. I step back from a more detailed suggested policy and practice approach here as I tend to pursue when discussing specific business contexts and challenges, to consider best practices in general. And I begin that by noting that:

• Effective best practices have to be flexible and adaptable to the specific business they would be deployed in, with its specific business model, its available resource base, and its marketplace and competitive contexts.
• With that in mind, some best practices are in fact tightly constrained and are in effect forced into specific standardized forms. Legally mandated accounting practices and standards as exemplified by generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) come immediately to mind here as a working example, where a business can find its own way and develop its own practices for many other areas of its overall operations, but where its accounting has to closely adhere to specific legally defined processes and standards.
• Many of a business’ operational processes can in fact be developed and managed to meet their own particular goals and preferences, and without the type or level of outside process-shaping mandate as found in its accounting and bookkeeping processes and methodologies. As long as a business, for example, does not use intentionally deceptive or misleading methods in their marketing when drafting their message, they can market through whatever communications channels they wish to use, and they can allocate their marketing budget in whatever directions and ways that they want to as they reach out to their customer base.
• In the middle of this tightly constrained, to primarily open spectrum are operational processes that may not be as tightly regulated and constrained as are GAAP-compliant accounting and bookkeeping practices, but that are still significantly constrained if they are to work effectively and create ongoing sustainable value.
• Most of the time when I speak and write of best practices in the specific, I am in fact discussing more general and flexible organizing principles and practices that would go into shaping best practices day-to-day details, and both for shaping what is done and for evaluating results achieved from that. And that is what I write of here in this series installment, and with a very specific focus on those middle ground of semi-constrained operational processes that I noted in my fourth bullet point, directly above this one.
• Here, and in the collaborative business to business context that I am discussing, if best practices as a matter of general principle are developed to meet the needs of the specific business model and its contexts for a precise fit, they also have to create efficiencies when that business works with and has to connect with other businesses and their processes and practices too, through them.
• And this brings me to the issues of operational balance, and both within a single business and between businesses where that becomes a source of competitive value.
• Business efficiency emerges as the overall result of its complete flow of ongoing and recurring, and occasional practices and processes. Achieving and maintaining business excellence operationally is all about developing and managing a suite of processes and operational procedures that work well together. Very few if any operational processes ever operate as if in a vacuum; their success comes from how they connect into a larger whole.
• That represents operational balance as it is measured within the single business. Adding in supply chain or other business to business collaboration here simply adds to the constraints complications for how any given connecting operational process or practice would have to work. Business to business collaboration and making that mutually beneficial for all participating enterprises simply expands out the range of points where a point of interface process has to connect into, and service other processes and their needs and it expands out the scale and scope of that “whole” that any given process has to find balance within.
• And when connection with outside businesses that have their own history and strategy and their own closely held proprietary information is added into this, new levels of uncertainty are added in as well as wider ranges for possible operational mismatch or disconnect as separate businesses always have their own corporate cultures and implicit, automatic assumptions, their own goals and their own priorities.

What is a weakest link in this set of contexts? It is an operational process or practice that fails to effectively connect into its context, breaking or at least limiting functionally effective chains of ongoing activity, increasing risk of such failure and its consequences, or both. This applies when processes and practices are viewed entirely in-house for their impact within a business. This applies equally directly and fully when a point of increased risk or failure would arise at an interface where businesses seek to work together collaboratively for their mutual benefit.

I have changed the order in which I present this discussion from what I proposed at the end of Part 8, and will move from the general and abstract in my next installment to consider some specific working functional area examples, beginning with Information Technology processes and practices. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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