Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 41: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 2

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 29, 2017

This is my 41st 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 1-40.)

I began explicitly discussing intentional management as a systematic approach to business operations and strategy, from a more What and How perspective in this series. And then I switched orientation and began addressing it from a Who, and a more Human Resources and Personnel perspective in Part 38, Part 39 and Part 40. And as a key organizing element to that, I offered and began to systematically build from a to-address topics list, that I repeat here for purposes of narrative continuity:

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.)

These points, as offered here take a more What and How perspective than they do a Who perspective. But at least since Part 38, I have begun systematically addressing the issues that they raise from the perspective of the people who would carry them out, and certainly at a management level. And in that, my comments as offered up to here address in large part, lower level and middle managers who actually work with the hands-on employees who perform the bulk of the work in any business that goes into actually carrying out goals and priorities-oriented tasks and processes. If the expected and the official of a business’ operational processes and procedures are bypassed and functionally replaced with a more ad hoc, and on a real world day-to-day basis, these are the people who would make the decisions to do that.

As already noted, ad hoc in this can become the actually followed and adhered to standard and certainly when resource restrictions and other challenges mean that official and formally expected cannot work as well in meeting actual performance goals and deadlines. Ad hoc per se does not necessarily mean one-off. This type of systematic necessary ad hoc, as a work-around for keeping the business functioning can be one-off but entire alternative and essentially set systems of actually carried out processes and practices can arise too, and in ways that cut across the table of organization and in ways that the senior executive leadership of the business do not know about.

When this type of systematic disconnect between hands-on and lower and middle management, and executive leadership there, hits a tipping point for prevalence and level of impact, this becomes a change management demanding problem. But I write here of “sub-tipping point” situations for the most part, acknowledging that even the best businesses can have elements of this type of disconnect and its inefficiencies in at least a few of its offices and functional areas in them. So I am not explicitly offering this posting or this portion of this series as a whole, as a change management discussion per se.

With that said, I have already delved at least briefly into the first two of the numbered issues in the above list in the immediately preceding postings to this series. And my goal here is to at least begin to address Points 3 and 4 from that list here, and once again from a Who perspective. And I begin by briefly reconsidering Point 2 in order to put that discussion into perspective:

• 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?

The answer to that question, as simply stated is yes, that can happen. I have all too frequently seen this in early stage startups, and particularly when their founders have launched their ventures with visions developed from their hands-on work and from frustration of never having an opportunity to pursue them when working for anyone else. Some of them have had at least low level management experience, working with small teams, and I have run into true mavericks with at least some middle management experience who have attempted to start their own businesses with a yes to that question too.

They each start their particular startup “as if it had no past and as if the experience of here and now, could hold no informative value in its future” because they have never really learned the value of systematically building for ongoing consistent operations – or for ongoing and consistent strategy either.

Systematization can create stability, and it can enable agility and resilience and in ways that a strictly ad hoc never can. And this brings me to Point 3 and to a serious, systematically organized effort to create and adhere to a consistent and “official” to the business, operational and strategic approach.

• This type of approach cannot simply flow down from on-high and from the executive suite to all below it on the table of organization.
• Effective, realistic, sustainable operational systems that can be adhered to and without recourse to ad hoc work-arounds require ongoing communication that actively includes and involves the people who have to carry them out and who have to live with their direct consequences: good, bad or indifferent. And all of this communication has to go both ways, and in fact in multiple directions.
• And this means communicating with and really listening to the people in a business who are at the sharp point of the stick for processes and practices and systems of them that are in place, and who would find them supportive of their doing their work effectively or challenging for that or even as preventing it – and with that creating impetus for all of those work-arounds and ad hoc alternatives.

I add here that these notes also address the Point 4 alternative to Point 3 as listed above. Managers who actively seek to do their jobs well and who actively seek to enable the teams that report to them to succeed in this too, arrive at following a Point 2, 3 or 4 approach as a response to the resource based context that they work in and the level of support that they do or do not receive in doing their work and as they seek to find a for-themselves, most productive and reliable path forward.

I am going to turn to Points 5, 6 and 7 of the above list in my next series installment. And in anticipation of that, note that I will focus there on communications enablers and restrictions, and on how a Point 2, 3 or 4 approach is arrived at and particularly by the best managers who seek most actively to perform well in reaching all of their assigned goals and on time.

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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