Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 30: contextual management 8 and evolutionary and revolutionary change 3

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 29, 2016

This is my 30th 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 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-29.) This is also my eighth installment within this series on an approach to business management that I have come to refer to as contextual management.

I wrote in Part 29, about how recurring breakdowns and problem emergence at some single node in a system of connecting operational processes can take two forms:

• It might mean that this node and its basic processes are fundamentally flawed, and with a track record of essentially always having been prone to failure, and of always being a likely source for the emergence of single point of failure complications,
• Or it might represent a business process or set of them that were effective and that offered value to the business, but that with time have become problematical as for example as the marketplace context that they would operate in has changed.

When a risk remediation review carried out after an occurrence of a single point of failure breakdown, suggests that the cascade of problems that has just been addressed, stemmed from a failed business process that fits the second of those patterns, that suggests that this organization has not been adapting and changing in ways that effectively meet the changing challenges and opportunities that it faces, and both from the externals of its marketplace and its competition, and from within. There, “from within” and failures to address change there, means uneven and disconnected adaptation, where single consistent organizing approaches and resolutions are not being built towards, when the business seeks to evolve and grow as a whole so as to remain competitively effective.

I stated at the end of Part 29 that I would turn its discussion around and consider operational processes and their success and failure from the perspective of causal linkages. And I added that after addressing this complex of issues, I will “discuss business evolution per se, and in its more gradual and more punctuated equilibrium model forms, where steady and even linear changes and upgrades in technology represent the former in a business evolution context, and disruptive innovative change creates the later.” To be more precise here, those technology development patterns in what is offered and/or how it is developed, manufactured or brought to market, represent possible examples of those two basic evolutionary patterns. But I start here with causal linkages, and with a goal of discussing evolutionary issues in terms of business systems patterns (systems of processes and their outputs and inputs) and how they evolve.

To put this in perspective with other, relevant series that I am concurrently developing in this blog, I have characterized larger causal and putatively causal patterns in my posting: Rethinking Exit and Entrance Strategies 7: crisis as a transition demanding challenge 6, as consisting of combinations of three types of elemental causal relationships:

• Sequential causal relationships where for example event A directly causes B and that in turn directly causes C. A and C, and of course B as well are all directly causally connected to each other.
• Concurrent causal relationships where for example A directly causes B and also directly causes C; B in and of itself does not in any way directly cause C in this situation and C does not cause B either, but they are indirectly causally related by virtue of their causal connection through A having happened.
• And as a third basic elemental component, I add here coincidental co-occurrence, where events are not causally connected, at least by any readily identified mechanism but they are observed to happen at the same time, at least in review of a notable business event or occurrence at hand.

My focus in that posting and I add on several others that have recently gone live here, has been on individual causal events and primarily at that more elemental process to process and outcome-to-outcome level. For purposes of this posting and its discussion, these three elements are simply building blocks that larger causal flows and patterns that seem to represent them, can be constructed from.

In a causal pattern map, sequential causality appears as straight uninterrupted lines, concurrent causality arises when those lines branch. If A and B are causally independent from each other, and certainly for recent measurable causality but both causally contribute to C arising, that would constitute a merging of previously causally separate lines on the map. And coincidental co-occurrence can be seen as noise in the system when seeking to identify the nodes in a causality map and connect them in a meaningful, actionable way. And certainly in the midst of a change-creating or disruptive incident it can be difficult at best to know what is what here for all of these basic causal element types.

But turning back to consider process flows again:
• A business’ overall system of operations can be parsed and organized as a set of process to process causality maps, with operational nodes representing decision and action points where ongoing causality in the organization is played out.
• Standard, routine processes and flows of them with their A to B to C linearities, their branching and their convergences – and their more coincidental co-occurrence noise that has to be identified and filtered out in any analysis here, represent the business flows that are commonly, recurring followed and adhered to.
• Risk remediation and back-up activities bring less frequently followed branches and convergences into play, and more linear flows of corrective and adaptive processes into play – and both when this means following at least partly preplanned event responses and when it means attempting ad hoc and unplanned-for novel problem resolutions.
• And the less commonly and routinely followed the plans in place and the more sparse the array of preplanned for possible contingencies with their possible new branching and convergence options, the more process noise will at least seem to be in play too – the more apparent coincidental co-occurrence that will have to be identified as such out of the causally connected novelty faced, so it can be set aside for separate consideration, and probably later.

I am going to pursue this organizing model in a changing and evolving context in my next series installment, and in that regard add that this will mean addressing both gradual, and punctuated, discontinuous change. And as set-up for that, I will discuss the issues of what causality is in terms of facilitating or limiting, and directly causing or preventing specific ranges of outcomes. And I will discuss the issues of necessary and sufficient in that context. In an evolutionary framework, the observable effects of specific actions taken, change for this with time and an A that for example used to cause B and be sufficient for that to happen might no longer achieve that end result.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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