Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 46: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 7

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 27, 2018

This is my 46th 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 1-45.)

I used Part 45 of this series to develop and offer a foundation point for this next installment, discussing cost and profit centers, and how functional groups and services within a business connect outward from themselves, and both within the business itself as a whole and outside of the enterprise too, and in multiple possible ways for both.

Then at the end of Part 45, I added that I would turn here to consider:

• How managers at essentially any level or position in an organization can facilitate these processes and systems of them for their business, from their inclusion in the conversations that help shape them and keep them effectively focused.

And as a part of that I added that I will further discuss how complexities and constraints in business systems can and do arise for managers throughout a business, and certainly when dealing with the types of issues that I have been raising in recent installments of this series. Then after addressing that, I will reconsider, yet again, ad hoc and special exception practices, and the emergence of the “ad hoc standardized” and its consequences. But I begin all of this with the above restated, here bullet point-formatted issue of how to more effectively include and enable managers and at all levels of an organization, in these value creating and utilizing transactions.

There are a number of approaches that could be pursued in addressing that goal and how best to achieve it. And more effectively involving and including managers from throughout an organization here, really is a challenge for a great many businesses so this is an important set of issues to consider.

I could cite top-down authoritarianism here as an example of how this can be systematically stymied. But instead, I cite a phenomenon that can hinder such open and inclusive involvement and even when effort is made from the executive suite to be more inclusively involving here. And it reflects a scenario that I have seen play out too many times from my own consulting practice, that I make note of here as a real world alternative to the type of open involvement and participation under consideration here. Consider businesses that over time develop at least selectively impervious silo walls around key functional areas or other categorically important domains within their overall organization, where their local leaderships in effect create and maintain their own fiefdoms there, within that organization.

I have discussed that phenomenon a number of times in this blog, and how that scenario can arise as a defensive and even self-protective measure in businesses that are in trouble. And the barriers that I make note of here can sometimes arise more easily from that, than they would from having managers in a business who simply seek to consolidate power and authority around themselves for their own personal gain and for the benefit of their own egos.

But my focus here is on inclusion and involvement and on building a business to be a cohesively interconnected whole, and without such barriers. And I begin addressing that, at what might be the most important starting point that could be considered for this: a business’ corporate culture.

• I stress here that bringing managers more widely and fully into these conversations does not necessarily mean reaching out to limit their autonomy or independence, or working to encourage rigid conformity among them. I am not writing here, of one way conversations or of promoting that approach.
• This is about reaching out to listen as well as talk, and in genuine dialogs. And it means enabling managers by building a framework of acceptance among them, and even of open and overt support for calculated risk taking where a manager would follow the basic systems and approaches in place, but with an awareness of the positive value of new and of change too and of their being allowed a measure of flexibility there.
• And just as importantly, this means allowing and encouraging wide ranging conversations and ones that can and do lead to the shaping and refinement of policy and practice, that both encourages and allows wider stakeholder participation in what is done and how.

This highlights a potential assumption that can all too easily enter into reading and I add following the approach laid out in my first bullet pointed topic of discussion for this posting, as appears at its beginning. I do not assume what can become automatic and even blind pursuit of some single rigidly interpreted and adhered to, business-wide set of processes and understandings. I also allow here for flexibility and change, and the capacity and the opportunity to plan for and carry it out, and with all necessary transparency among involved stakeholders as would be called for in order to make that work.

Why do I start with the corporate culture here, for this? That is where expectations and opportunities would arise if they do at all, for making this possible, with managers trusting and having reason to trust that they are empowered to communicate and participate in the decision making processes that affect and even shape their work. That is where the people working at a business in general are encourage to, or discouraged from thinking about new possibilities too.

This leads me to some basic and probably inevitable questions, given the tenor of this posting. First of all, what happens to standardized processes and procedures in all of this? And who gets to decide, and particularly on a specific-context by specific-context basis, what should be and in fact is standardized for this? The issues raised in that question become both more pressing and more complex as a business becomes more complex and widely geographically spread out. Now, and with that in mind, how can a business and its senior leadership maintain overall organizational consistency while allowing for necessary flexibility and opportunity to at least locally prototype test out new alternatives to what might be more standard and routine? And this brings me to the next to-address point that I acknowledged as coming up in this series, towards the top of this posting:

• Ad hoc and special exception practices, and the emergence of the “ad hoc standardized” and its consequences.

I will discuss these questions and this point in my next series installment, and as these types of business practice alternatives can and do arise in the context of at least nominally expected standard and routine processes and practices. 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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