Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 14

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 11, 2017

This is my 14th posting to a series on tactical and strategic planning under real world constraints, and executing in the face of real world challenges that are caused by business systems friction and the systems turbulence that it creates (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-13.)

I began addressing a short topics list and its issues in Part 12 and Part 13 that I repeat here for clearer continuity of discussion:

1. Different functionally focused stakeholders might reach different conclusions as to which processes and subsystems of them are core or peripheral, and as to which might be secondary-peripheral of them – and if so of what type (e.g. necessary but outsourceable, or no longer needed and dispensable.) And it is important to both clarify and discuss those differences, and reach a working consensus that all key stakeholders can come to at least tacit agreement upon, and certainly if a business is to enter into and carry through upon the right transitions for its own needs, and in the right way and with the right timing.
2. Then after that, and in the context of distinguishing between core and peripheral processes, I said that I would turn to consider areas and aspects of the business that can be linearly scaled up, and areas that represent true nonlinearities – places where simply scaling up according to the pattern in place would create inefficiencies.
3. And I added that I would discuss all of this in terms of crucial information availability and communications, and in terms of two types of case study examples: a retail business, and a software development business.

And I primarily focused in those preceding series installments on Point 1 of this list. I turn here in this installment to consider Point 2, noting that I in effect began doing so in Part 13 with a brief orienting discussion of negotiations and the negotiating process as they arise in this series’ overall context.

To put my fuller set of comments in response to Point 2 into context with the rest of this narrative leading up to here, I begin by noting that different people can and do come to different understandings as to whether it would be best to simply continue to develop a business along same-path forward linear lines, or to break away from that pattern through acceptance of more disruptive change and a true business transition. And the types of viewpoint distinctions that I raised in Part 13 when considering business processes and operational systems as they arise within a business, all apply here too when considering the business as a whole and from a more business model and strategic perspective as that in turn shapes and guides overall operational systems. New sources of disagreement and of divergence in understanding and prioritization arise at this higher organizational level too, but essentially all of the more process-level points of difference that I raised in Part 13 can scale up to apply here too – and I have seen that happen for a number of them, and certainly for all of those specifically listed in Part 13.

Let me draw a line of distinction here, as to how I am going to proceed in this posting. I focus on the more cause and effect level, functional interconnection issues of mapping out and optimizing business process flows and operational systems at that level, and the question of transitions per se, at that level, in series such as: Intentional Management (as can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation. See postings 472 and loosely following for that.) My goal here is to complement that narrative – not repeat it or recapitulate it. So my point of focus here is more on bringing relevant stakeholders together to more effectively arrive at a shared understanding of what has to be done and why, so they can coordinately manage and develop a business together more effectively – and regardless of whether that means entering into a genuine business transition, simply following a more normative linear path forward change process, or keep the business essentially where it is now but perhaps with better planned out due diligence or risk management and remediation systems in place to facilitate that.

In initially orienting summary, I set the stage for more detailed discussion here by noting that this means coming to shared understanding and working agreement in two functionally significant areas of consideration:

• What processes, and functionally task and specific goal-oriented systems of them are core or peripheral as already discussed here in this series – and therefore which ones crucially define what and how a business would be changed and grown around as a central area of critical needs and attention,
• And what of all of this would have to be more fundamentally changed in any value creating and sustaining adaptation and growth process – and what parts of that could simply be linearly scaled up and what of it would require a more disruptively novel (to the business) transitional-type change.

If core areas need more fundamental change, and that is the consensus reached, then the business as a whole needs to undergo a true transformational, transition change. If on the other hand, nonlinear change would only be needed in more peripheral and supportive functions and services, the next question might be one of whether these areas of the business would best be maintained and run in-house, or whether they could more cost effectively be outsourced to a partner business service provider. And the question might also arise as to whether these functional areas are in fact needed at all, or if a functional and table or organization reorganization that would eliminate their need might make more sense.

Up to here, I have focused on the What side of this complex of issues. I would finish this posting by offering a white board and paper friendly 2-D graphical representation tool that can be used as a How resource for more effectively addressing that.

• Organize operational processes and functionally connected task and goals oriented sets and subsystems of them as black box entries along one axis of a graph, running from:
• Core/essential,
• Through peripheral necessary that would best be maintained in-house,
• To outsourceable but still necessary,
• To dispensable.
• Vertical and horizontal orientation choice is arbitrary here, but for clarity of discussion let’s refer to this gradated pattern of centrality and significance of need as falling along the horizontal axis of a 2-D chart.
• And along a second axis of this graphical tool, position these same operational processes and sets and subsystems of them, according to how they would have to be changed in order to better meet current and emerging business needs.
• Assignment of position is semi-quantitative along this vertical axis, exactly as a correct position is determined along the above horizontal axis, with relative positions more important than anything in the way of absolute positions along these axes.
• And chart entries would be organized along this axis according to a progression of categorical distinctions such as:
• Processes and systems of them that are sufficient as is with any foreseeable change/growth to the business as a whole, and not needing an increase or change in their supporting resources,
• Sufficient as-is as processes but ones that would need a quantitative shift or adjustment in their supporting resource base to accommodate change in scale,
• Processes and systems of them that explicitly would need linear scaling up as well as resource base scaling – as for example with the task-assigned headcount required here having to increase as the business grows and with increased task worker specialization there. That calls for change in how tasks in these functional areas are broken up into distinct job descriptions and that also generally means changes in how work process systems are organized and managed,
• Processes and systems of them needing fundamental functional change that cannot be addressed by simple linear scaling up or workload distribution changes,
• And then comes need for introducing fundamentally new types of processes and process systems and their supporting resource bases, and phasing out old ones that no longer apply and doing away with them.

The idea here is to offer a broad brushstroke visual representation of where the business is now and where it is headed, and in ways that would highlight where linear same path change and growth would and would not make sense. Then the task becomes one of figuring out what type of risk managing, value creating overall business-wide changes would best be made and particularly where that means navigating through a perhaps maze of areas where simply linear growth would suffice, and ones where real fundamental change would be needed.

Examine this 2-D graph of the organization in terms of who sees what as core, peripheral or secondary-peripheral, and from what perspectives on the table of organization: from where they work at this business and view it from. And pay particular attention to where these varying visions and perspectives on the organization do and do not align with the patterns arrived at for what would require what types of change, within the operational structure of the business.

As a simplest baseline consideration, look for an overall business perspective consensus that might take elements from several or even many of the starter understandings brought to this exercise at its beginning, by the various stakeholders who are involved here. And more specifically, look for a combined perspective and understanding that would lead to the simplest overall pattern of change for the organization as a whole, and with the simplest true business transition where that would be needed, so as to minimize overall uncertainty and expense, and most readily maintain business productivity and market reach while doing so.

• I write here of looking for the simplest, most cost-effective and productivity change goal in this, that could be arrived at most economically and securely as the business strategically and operationally shifts to arrive there. And I offer this type of tool as a means of taking that exercise out of the abstract, by making it more visually understandable and in part where you need to consider the details and as a whole when you need to step back and consider this from more of a “big picture” perspective.

I will have more to say in this series that relates to both of the first two points of my three point topics list as repeated at the top of this posting. But I am going to conclude this series installment here, with a goal of turning in my next one to that list’s Point 3. 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.

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