Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 34: contextual management 12 and evolutionary and revolutionary change 7

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 15, 2016

This is my 34th 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 1-33.) This is also my twelfth installment within this series on an approach to business management that I have come to refer to as contextual management.

I began addressing a series of topics of overall strategic and operational concern, and approaches for more effectively addressing them in Part 32, that I will continue working my way through here in this installment:

1. The issues of what causality is in terms of facilitating or limiting, and directly causing or preventing specific ranges of outcomes. I began addressing this in Part 32, from a causal linkage map perspective and then continued that discussion in Part 33.
2. 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. I began addressing this set of issues in Part 33 and will continue its discussion here.
3. Then I will switch from a more immediately here-and-now perspective to discuss those first two sets of issues in a longer-term and evolutionary context too (distinguishing between random and non-trending change, and trending change there as I develop that line of discussion.) I will at least begin addressing this point here in this posting too.
4. Then after that, I will explicitly consider stressors here, and as sources of both challenge and opportunity.

I began discussing Point 2 and its issues in Part 33, by briefly citing a real world example of how necessary and sufficient can become necessary but not sufficient for a specific business process to be followed. The basic scenario that I outlined there was one in which employees working hands-on on a team, under the organizing supervision of a manager, have been in the practice of directly contacting a supplier for parts that they use in their work, if they run into problems with them. But the team they do this work on grows in headcount and workload scale, and the number of such calls to that provider expands out at least as rapidly if not even more so. So the parts supplier calls their manager, or even their manager’s manager to ask that this be handled differently and with fewer collectively disruptive calls from production line personnel.

To put this scenario in a management systems perspective, I write here of a business that seeks to pursue a non-authoritarian management style where its employees are expected to function more autonomously and with minimal supervisory oversight. And that approach can work for many types of business when they are small and only require minimal organizational structure and complexity. But the scaling up and growth of this business has created stress points in its overall systems and certainly at key flashpoints of it – such as the one under discussion here, where a once simple and effective might no longer work effectively.

Now, a hands-on worker’s input that was operationally treated as being both necessary and sufficient when seeking corrective responses from this supplier, becomes necessary – but not sufficient in and of itself, with their manger in charge having to sign off on this type of supplier contact too. And this is a situation that is also likely to invoke development of a new process whereby this manager is now tasked with coordinating, and where possible consolidating these requests to suppliers. And this would essentially automatically mean their documenting the overall numbers of faulty part and related complaints coming in from hands-on employees, or their assigning this task to a specific individual on their team and with them setting up and updating a parts quality control database to capture this flow of information. And cumulative entries into this database would be used as input for a remediative process in which this supplier and their products provided would come up for review, for possible replacement. I limited myself to somewhat less than this level of description and discussion in Part 33. But it is likely that the decisions and actions that I address even here in bare bones outline, would be more complicated than presented up to this point too, with exchanges taking place between this purchasing business and this supplier, to see if problems that have arisen could be resolved with, for example, better quality control on their part before shipping so fewer parts failures would occur for what was received.

To at least briefly continue my management systems analysis of this scenario, growth here has come to require nonlinear scaling up of a specific work process flow in this business here, with new processes instituted, and with processes already followed changed. And in this case, it might be argued that this has led to an at least specific context rethinking and reframing of part of the overall business model in place too and certainly when an older, smaller and simpler understanding of this business might need adjustments to allow for smoother scalability And if this business has to keep making changes and adjustments of this type as it grows, the cumulative result would be that its overall management system become at least selectively much more top-down oriented for command and control decisions and oversight, and with employees acting less autonomously and certainly where their more independent decisions and actions might create what amount to collisions with others working there.

• I have been writing in this discussion, and in my overall discussion of causal linkage map analysis, about how activity at one functional node and in its processes can radiate out for its impact to affect larger portions of the overall operational system in place. That is definitely true when a change has to be made in how processes are carried out and by whom, or when the necessary and sufficient parameters that would go into implanting those processes have to be changed.

I am going to conclude this portion of this overall line of discussion, at least for purposes of this series, with a second working example, and one that I have seen arise a number of times, and both in startups and in more established businesses: micromanagement.

Micromanagement takes place in several ways. It can occur, for example, where a manager or even a senior executive or owner insists on being hands-on involved in directly carrying out tasks that others, more subordinate to them on the table of organization, should be doing. This can mean that manager, to simplify the terminology here to one title, making decisions as to where and when and how this work is to be done, when those decisions would more reasonably be handled by the people who are at least nominally responsible for this work, who report to them. Or to consider this example from an explicitly “necessary and sufficient” perspective, this might mean management or senior management adding in “necessary” signoff requirements in places where this can only create slowdowns and friction in what could be more smoothly run business processes and operations.

• One of my first startup postings to this blog: Maintaining a Vision while Loosening Our Grip addressed this challenge from a new and still very small business perspective where the founding owner had real difficulty stepping back to let others on his still forming team do their jobs.
• I am still at least loosely connected to an established nonprofit that actively provides job training and related support services to underserved communities, where its CEO spends way too much of his time working on tasks and managing issues that he should be delegating to members of his staff. A consequence of his insisting on remaining directly hands-on involved in all of this is that he does not, and cannot have enough time in his own work schedule to really effectively take care of all of the tasks and responsibilities that he in fact should be handling himself. So his own schedules and completion dates for that work tend to avoidably slip at times – as he is seemingly always running from one fine detail issue to another when he really needs to focus more strategically on the big picture. I have to add that I both like and respect this very hardworking leader; he is really wonderful as a person. The problem is that he still has a lot to learn about leadership per se, and certainly about how that of necessity means knowing when and how to delegate, and how to step back and let others actually do their own jobs themselves.
• And to add a third example here and a fourth scenario to this posting, I am actively involved with a new nonprofit, where a key leading member of their executive team is unwilling to let others – including others on that team, go through their own learning curves in doing their own work there. So she keeps stepping in because she feels the she could “do this faster and better” – and without showing any awareness of the impact that this approach creates in undermining the people she needs as this organization grows, for the scale of the community that it actively serves. And she keeps failing to genuinely see how this prevents these people she works with from learning how to do their jobs there better too.

My first example in this posting focused on a circumstance where growth and scalability in an organization can in effect demand greater top-down oversight and managerial involvement. These next three examples serve as counterpoint to that where growth and effective scalability in that can just as fully demand letting go and allowing greater autonomy and with corresponding changes in where necessary and sufficient oversight sign-offs should be required.

I stated at the beginning of this posting that I would at least begin addressing Point 3 of the to-address list that I am working on here: discussing how these systems change and adjust and adapt in a longer-term and evolutionary context. I have in fact at least begun addressing that set of issues here. I will directly and explicitly switch to addressing Point 3 in my next series installment, and will then proceed to discuss Point 4 and stressors as well. 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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