Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 33: contextual management 11 and evolutionary and revolutionary change 6

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 2, 2016

This is my 33nd 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 1-32.) This is also my eleventh installment within this series on an approach to business management that I have come to refer to as contextual management.

As a part of that ongoing narrative, I have recently been discussing four specific points of overall strategic and operational concern, and approaches for more effectively addressing them:

1. The issues of what causality is in terms of facilitating or limiting, and directly causing or preventing specific ranges of outcomes.
2. And the issues of “necessary” and “sufficient” in that context, where an input condition or factor leading into a causal node can be necessary but not sufficient, sufficient but not necessary, or both.
3. And I will, of course, discuss these issues in a longer-term and evolutionary context too (distinguishing between random and non-trending change, and trending change there.)
4. Then after that, to continue this to-address list of discussion points to cover, I will explicitly consider stressors here, and as sources of both challenge and opportunity.

I initially offered these four sets of issues for discussion in Part 31 and I then focused in on the first of them in Part 32. And I stated at the end of that posting that I would turn here to consider numbered point 2 of the above list next. I will do that here in this posting, but to more fully set the stage for that discussion, I will start by adding some further thoughts to my Part 32 notes regarding the first item on that list.

I wrote in Part 32, about causal linkage maps and about how business processes function and connect together in them, collectively forming ongoing work flow capabilities. And I then noted in passing at the end of that narrative that:

• Effective operational and strategic planning and execution can and do prune down the range of possible work process to work process patterns that can and will arise, at least under normative conditions, and certainly for a well run business.
• And disruptive events create their uncertainties by pushing a business, or at least some functional area of it into uncharted and unanticipated territory there.

These points are both true and significantly important; the more complex an overall business, the larger and more complex the entire, universal set of all, at least in-principle possible causal map patterns that might arise, as preceding processes and their outcomes feed into next-step successor processes as their activating or blocking input. But only some of these work flow pattern possibilities can and will directly, effectively fit into and support that business’ basic business model or support its overall competitive effectiveness. So in this context, effective operational and strategic planning and execution can be measured and understood in how they channel work activity and resource utilization and expenditure, into productive and business-supportive channels. And resilient businesses do this more effectively and automatically, and are better organized to restore effective process flows when drift from them happens.

And with the last of those points of observation in mind, “disruptive” can mean bad or good, and in both cases that can mean effective businesses intentionally diverting their activities at least locally within their overall systems, into less used but hopefully at least somewhat prepared for contingency-based operational channels. And this brings me directly to the final consequential issues that I would raise here in this series, in response to the challenges of that first numbered point and its possibilities:

• Fragile inflexible businesses, and more robust, resilient ones can be characterized and distinguished between in terms of the ranges of cause and effect patterns that can be accommodated in them without significant loss of competitive efficiency.
• Fragile businesses often only work effectively in one way at most for any given significant work flow, or they derail. Robust and resilient ones allow for greater operational choice there: greater operational flexibility in how business activities would be carried out in “on the fly” response to immediate circumstances and need,
• And with less significant loss of overall business effectiveness and its ongoing momentum when an unexpected adverse incident does occur,
• And without a marked increase in business systems friction faced there, with its capacity to expand out the range of business processes adversely affected.
• I intentionally phrased this in terms of negatives, as lost positive opportunity frequently translates directly into negatives and certainly if a competitor can move ahead by capturing an advantage overlooked and an opportunity missed.

And with this in place, I turn to consider “necessary” and “sufficient” as raised in point 2, above. And in the process of that I at least begin addressing point 3 here too, at least as it takes place at a more micro, business process by business process scale.

For purpose of this discussion, I note that business change does not just consist of the emergence of new operational processes and the retirement of old ones that no longer meet a business’ needs. That happens and certainly as a direct consequence of course correcting remediative efforts in restoring business effectiveness. But most of the time, change takes place more incrementally, or at least more subtly and through shifts in process dependencies: shifts in what is necessary and/or sufficient for what.

Systems safeguards, for example are instituted to make an experience-identified process that has been found to be shaky in its effectiveness more robust. And an input condition that had up to then been seen as both necessary and sufficient to trigger an action might be stepped back from, with a second input (e.g. a manager’s approval) now explicitly required before an employee can perform the task specified.

To take that more generally stated example out of the abstract, consider a process whereby hands-on employees reach back to a parts supplier to fine tune or correct orders placed for what they would individually do in carrying out their work. And as the functional team they work on ramps up – and assume here that it does, the number of such call-backs does too, until that supplier calls their manager, or more likely their manager’s manager. Necessary and sufficient for making that call is changed to necessary, with the manager of that team coordinating those feedback and request calls and consolidating them.

This is actually a case in point example where a new process might be added in, where managers would do this coordination, though this might also be addressed more as a new set of instances where an already ongoing supervisory managerial process would be followed. And in this case, and this should be fairly obvious: if an increase in the use of some supplied part and a corresponding ongoing increase in its failure rate appear, this should trigger due diligence review and follow-through processes too, in finding a better supplier of more reliable parts.

• I write of causal networks and maps here, and about how the impact of a change in state at one node in this type of system does and will radiate out, bringing some other processes into action and turning others off, at least for relevant instances of their possible use.

I began addressing change here, at a micro, individual process and its dependencies level. I am going to expand out from there in my next series installment to consider longer-term and evolutionary context too (and as noted above, distinguishing between random and non-trending change, and trending change there.) 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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