Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 28: contextual management 6 and evolutionary and revolutionary change 1

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 23, 2016

This is my 28th 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 1-27.) This is also my sixth installment within this series on an approach to business management that I have come to refer to as contextual management.

And as a starting point for this addition to what is already an established narrative, and as brief orienting explanation of what intentional and contextual management are, I repeat here from Part 26 that:

1. If the goal of intentional management is to arrive at and follow a standardized best practices management approach that is optimized for the specific business and its circumstances,
2. Then the goal of contextual management is to add adaptive flexibility into those intentional management systems, and structured allowance for exceptions and course deviations as need for them arises.
3. While intentional management as a basic approach is about structure and consistency, contextual management is included to add flexibility and resiliency, where a more rigid and unaccommodating alternative to this combination would be less likely to effectively, sustainably work and certainly long-term and in the face of change.

I focused in Part 26 on more fixed and standardized management processes and on examples of where that approach would apply. Then I turned in Part 27 to consider a set of three functional requirements examples of where flexibility and adaptability would offer greater value, and certainly in meeting long-term and ongoing needs. And at the end of Part 27 I said that I would continue that line of discussion by reconsidering intentional and contextual management approaches in more general terms. I will at least begin that here. And I added in that context that I would reconsider what “optimized for the specific business and its circumstances” means, as used in the text of my first numbered bullet point as repeated here at the top of this posting. There is a saying to the effect that the devil is in the details. I will also at least briefly consider some of the types of details that come up in the intentional management/contextual management context here too.

I begin all of that here by acknowledging that up to this point, I have largely addressed management in this series as if any change faced by it was going to be special case exception in nature, and more fundamentally self-limiting in impact, and not long-term structural in nature. I have not, to put that somewhat differently, addressed management systems here in terms of long-term or fundamental sweeping change. I will step back at this point to at least begin to reconsider intentional and contextual management approaches, with that longer-term and more comprehensive perspective in mind.

• Contextual management can best be seen as a core approach for creating business agility and effectiveness, that falls within a larger intentional management framework.
• Intentional management is about developing and executing upon the right management processes and systems so as to better meet the needs of the specific organization and its circumstances. And in this, intentional management approaches can be seen as the core implementation framework for an organizations’ basic business model as it is currently conceived at any given time (which among other details means this approach is grounded in its implementation in here and now and short timeframe considerations, at least as a starting point.)
• Businesses and their contexts and the challenges and opportunities they face can and do change with time, and long-term as well as short-term. So intentional management also has to address and accommodate change, and both as it arises in a slow and evolutionary form, and as it more suddenly arrives as might be required when facing disruptive events – both circumstances that can require making permanent and even profound long-term course correcting management adjustments.
• Intentional management, to cite a very fundamental decision point example, might or might not mean developing a single overall, consistent management system that would be uniformly applied across the entire organization. Business acquisitions, for example, might require allowance for management process and I add corporate culture differences in order to preserve the value that was sought in bringing an established business into the overall organization in the first place. Change management and efforts to prevent its being needed, on the other hand, might mean bringing diverging management approaches into more unified alignment too, within a single overall organization – and the breaking down of silo walls that engendered those differences.
• Contextual management addresses a key phrase that I just inserted in the first sentence of that last bullet point: “might or might not.” It and the strategic reasoning that informs and shapes it, play a key role in making the types of overall business decisions that would shape, for example, the two scenarios that I added there in that bullet point.
• This is because businesses as a whole are dynamic and they have to be responsive to change and opportunity if they are to succeed, and long-term. And management system failures almost always express themselves as inflexibility or as dysfunctional attempts at flexibility in the face of the demands of change, and from outside of the organization in its competitors and its marketplace if nowhere else.

I began raising the issues of business evolution in these bullet points, and will turn more explicitly to that set of issues in my next installment to this series. And after that I will reconsider intentional and contextual management systems as the businesses that employ them face and work in an increasingly global, ubiquitously online and connected world. In anticipation of that, I note here that this means working with and accommodating as necessary, both legal and cultural differences that can arise when managing a geographically dispersed workplace and working with and meeting the needs of a more widely diverse marketplace. 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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