Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 40: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 1

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 10, 2017

This is my 40th 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 1-39.)

I began focusing on the Who side of intentional management in Part 38 and Part 39 of this series, building from a more What and How approach to it that I have more actively pursued in earlier installments. More specifically, I briefly outlined this more Human Resources and Personnel-related side to intentional management in those installments, in order to further develop this side of intentional management as an organizing system, and to mesh it with the process and organizational structure perspective to this management approach. And I offered a briefly sketched out to-address list there, of at least some of the key points that I will address here and in installments to come as a part of that.

In the course of offering what might be viewed as this second-perspective restart on this series, I briefly re-sketched out a basic default management approach that I initially offered from a business process and systems side, this time from the personnel side (see Part 1 for my original presentation of this default, baseline model.)

I stated at the end of Part 39 that I would begin adding real-world complexities and requirements, and management approaches for best resolving them into this narrative here, and I will start doing so by posing a set of questions of a type that would come up in any significant review of the management systems in place in a business, and certainly if the leadership of that business were bringing in an outside business consultant to help more fully identify and clarify, and correct problems and challenges in place.

I begin this with the absolute fundamentals and at step one to any process of even just understanding where a business is now, independently of whether or not any change might be contemplated too.

1. How is a business under analytical examination being managed now? (Note: this is a complex question because it raises issues of what it is doing in principle and as a matter of intended process and practice, and of what is actually being done and on a day-to-day basis and by whom and where in the organization and under what circumstances, and how consistently. The following questions in effect dissect out what would go into this question and what would go into answering it and from both the intended side and the actual in-practice side to that.)
2. Does this business actually follow a seemingly entirely ad hoc approach as if it had no past and as if the experience of here and now, could hold no informative value in its future either?
3. Or does it more systematically pursue at least a close approximation of the default model approach as laid out in Parts 38 and 39 (and in Part 1)?
4. Or does it in some systematic manner differ from that, with non-default features brought in and included, and for at least specific areas of the business?
5. If this business does at least situationally resort to consistent non-default management approaches, where and how and when does it do so?
6. Is this resorted to in order to address specific perhaps recurring problematical situations or events, or in order to capture available value from specific perhaps recurring opportunities that the “standard” approach cannot handle in and of itself? Does this, in other words, reflect an alternative approach that might be resorted to on a needs and opportunities, functional process-defined basis?
7. Or do one or more specific areas of the business (e.g. specific departments or specific organizationally distinct sections of them, or specific satellite offices in a larger geographically dispersed enterprise) simply pursue their own course in how things are routinely done and across all functional areas and processes carried out?
8. This is only a starter list and one of the goals of any business review and analysis here would be to progressively, iteratively refine and elaborate on what is asked here, drilling down into the specifics of the particular business and away from the more generic as has been offered up to here.)

It is important to note that many businesses at least contextually and circumstantially find themselves in positions where for example, their executive leadership could legitimately answer “yes” to any combination of questions 2, 3 and 4 from the above list – and certainly for how their business is actually day-to-day run and across its entire table of organization. Though I add that a business that actually simultaneously pursues all of those management approaches is in most cases going to be one with an executive leadership that does not fully know that, until that is, that fact is brought to their explicit attention through an ad hoc process and performance review that would be added into their ongoing strategic planning schedule and even as a deviation from it for how it is carried out.

The ad hoc of question 2 in particular, is rarely discussed or even openly acknowledged and certainly if more systematic processes are at least formally in place – and even if ad hoc has become the de facto, actually followed norm for large and significant areas of the business as a whole. And this is where I shift focus in this installment from the What and Where and How of management to the Who of it. And I make this transition by noting that however the above questions are answered, and both for what is formally on paper as to how a business is supposed to be run, and for how it is actually run and day-to-day, its management is all planned out and carried out, and performance reviewed when it is, by specific, real individual people.

So I reframe the approach to management that I just outlined in my above first seven more-generic starter questions, in terms of who decides to do what and how of all of this, and particularly in actual practice and in the face of tight schedules and performance demands and in the face of real-world resource limitations, that might be very different from what is nominally and “officially” expected.

• When on-paper and official processes and official practices give way to alternatives that are actually followed, look for gaps and differences between what “nominally expected and officially followed” expects in the way of resource availability, and what is actually consistently and reliably there. And look for the perhaps even consistently recurring emergence of key resource shortfalls as “exceptions” too, that might in fact be predicable and even very reliably so for their recurrence.
• These gaps and shortfalls in most cases, in effect define the parameters that shape the “what is done” for how it deviates from the “what is formally on paper as being done.”
• When standardized effective processes break down, and for whatever reason in the immediate and often compelling pressure of the immediate here-and-now, ad hoc arises to fill the gap that this creates. This is a first response and the greater the ongoing and recurring uncertainty faced by managers under pressure to perform, the more likely it is to be resorted to and the more likely it is going to become the standard response taken.
• When specific recurring breakdowns become consistent and known for how they will arise and play out, alternative “standard” processes and procedures start to emerge – where they are still deviations from the officially expected.

This progression of points outlines one of the more common paths that would spell out why individual managers, and even particularly the best of them who actively seek to meet all of their performance goals and compete all of their assigned tasks and on time, can find themselves resorting to ad hoc and other non-standard management and business process approaches – and particularly when business systems friction: added in limitations to information availability and to communicated support, force them to decide and act on their own, and with them moving into what for them might be uncharted waters in doing so.

Ad hoc, to focus on that extreme deviation from standard-official here, can arise from sloppiness and ineffectualness, but that is self-limiting and if for no other reason than because poor managers who do it and consistently, tend to stand out poorly in their ongoing performance reviews in general. They make themselves and their job tenures self-limiting so their doing this and their making things up as they go along: their ad hoc tends to go away. But when good and even very good managers do this in order to stay effective in outcomes achieved, and they succeed in that and in meeting their assigned goals, their ad hoc and band aide solutions tend to be overlooked and they tend to go unreported too. That is where hidden but emerging patterns can and do begin to emerge – that come to light only when they are specifically looked for.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next installment where I will more fully consider questions 3 and 4 of the above list, and from a largely Who perspective. 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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