Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 36: contextual management 14 and evolutionary and revolutionary change 9

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 18, 2016

This is my 36th 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 1-35.) This is also my 14th installment within this series on an approach to business management that I have come to refer to as contextual management.

Management, and certainly strategically oriented management is largely about managing business processes and their execution, and tracking performance and results achieved. And this means both managing and leading in the here-and-now, and fine tuning and adjusting business process systems so as to keep them as effective as possible.

I began discussing business process change: change in what a business does and how it does it as it strives to achieve its business model and its business mission and vision goals – in an evolutionary and long-term sense in Part 34 and Part 35. And I continue that here, where I will explicitly distinguish between random and non-trending change, and trending change. Then, to complete at least this series’ discussion of a set of issues that I have been developing and addressing, I will delve into the topic of stressors as sources of both challenge and opportunity.

I begin all of that with randomness and trends, and by offering a perhaps appealing cartoon analysis that I will then significantly challenge for its underlying tacit assumptions. And that simplistic, cartoon analysis is as follows:

• Random change can at times mask overall ongoing trends but it tends, if truly random and both for direction and degree on a step-by-step basis, to drift around some same-mean value for whatever is being measured.
• Randomly changing systems might drift away from that more central, “average” value and even significantly and in essentially any possible direction, but they do recurringly drift back there again and they keep doing so – and certainly when this randomness is the predominant source of ongoing change in a system.
• As such, randomness in systems can be and often is viewed as representing static – background noise in discerning and tracking any underlying trending behavior that might also be taking place – where to follow up on this example, that “central point” might actually be systematically shifting over time, even if slowly in comparison to the rate of more “random” fluctuations.
• And this is where I take a conceptual leap, possibly untenable assumptions included. If the only performance results that are measured seem to best fit this type of undirected random pattern, then it can be construed that this system is not actually evolving as it is not exhibiting any systematic long-term change.
• And more crucially here, it can be viewed as unnecessary and even inappropriate to consider such systems in strictly evolutionary terms.

I am going to at least begin this posting’s main line of discussion by explicitly challenging that last point. And I do so in terms of a phenomenon that I have been variously discussing in a progression of series in this blog: business systems friction.

• A business organization that is effectively overrun with performance limiting friction: ongoing information development and communications challenges that impact upon its overall performance,
• Is likely to show a significant amount of apparent randomness in its core process performance with process instances sometimes working and sometimes not, at least effectively, and with the consequences of this in any one process in question impacting on any and all other processes dependent on it for their functioning.
• So a business, that has reached a probable or outright change management extreme for loss of focus and functionality, is likely to present itself as being lost in random, non-systematic change and at a business process by business process basis level and at higher operational levels too (e.g. on an overall transaction level with some of them working well and others not.) Yes, I write here of organizations that are in significant need of systematically organized change – which in this case probably means a true transition in what is done and how. And I cite this extreme here in terms of a lack of focus in what is done and in what results from that effort, and as apparent randomness and inconsistency in what is observed.
• Baring that extreme, a business that is facing reduced performance effectiveness from random, hit or miss performance is probably at the very least in need of planned for evolutionary change. And in fact a well run business, as a core part of its ongoing strategic planning, should always be looking for ways to more consistently perform at peak and with minimal randomness or drift in how things are done or in what is achieved from them. It should be looking for directions it would profitably intentionally evolve towards.
• Randomness per se in business process performance might not reflect already ongoing evolutionary change. But it can indicate a need for it, and either along a simple more linear development pathway, or through discontinuous, nonlinear, more fundamental transitional change.

If I were to cite a metaphorical example here as a point of comparison, a person drowning and flailing their arms and legs while doing so – and seemingly randomly, might be splashing up a lot of water. But they are not exactly going anywhere, in any meaningful purposeful direction. That type of behavior and result can and in this example does create compelling need for more organized, directed, trend-creating effort: swimming or being helped by others toward safety. And I have been writing here of accomplishing that and its equivalent in a business context.

• Trends, can and do occur without intent or planning and particularly adverse ones with the gradual reduction and loss of function and efficiency that they can create.
• Trends can and do arise as a result of ongoing planning and ongoing care of execution – and optimization, and really efficient value creating trends always arise as a result of such intent.
• Never simply rely on the possibility of luck and chance leading you to and along a positive trend without planning and effort. Unplanned “business as usual” as a defining default option cannot work and certainly not long-term.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will turn to consider stressors, and as sources of challenge and of opportunity. And I will discuss them as defining motivators too. 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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