Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Building a business for resilience 32 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 24

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 10, 2018

This is my 32nd installment to a series on building flexibility and resiliency into a business in its routine day-to-day decisions and follow-through, so it can more adaptively anticipate and respond to an ongoing low-level but with time, significant flow of change and its cumulative consequences, that every business faces in its normal course of operation (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 542 and loosely following for Parts 1-31.)

Essentially every business in operation that is of any significant scale and for headcount and level of business activity carried out, has at least an informally laid out table of organization in place that graphically depicts its functional systems and subsystems, and its management structure as that oversees those functionalities. The goal in that, is to formally lay out and codify, or at least to formally acknowledge who is responsible for what and who reports to whom, in the overall management and running of the enterprise.

I have variously challenged the standard tree structure table of organization model, as usually presumed and followed in that type of exercise, in multiple places in this blog, offering alternatives to it that would adjust it in part, and at least occasionally substitute for it in whole. I have, as one aspect of that larger effort, been pursuing a relatively complete alternative to that business modeling and planning tool here in this series, and certainly since its Part 28, where I have been offering and discussing a communications pattern-based alternative to it. And I begin this posting by stepping back from the more detailed line of discussion that I have been pursuing up to here in that posting progression, to in effect reconsider the forest as a whole rather than focusing on the more individual trees, to express this metaphorically; I step back here to consider modeling approaches for visualizing and understanding a business as a whole here.

One of the places in this blog where I have challenged the more traditional tree structure table of organization, has of course been my series: Best Practices for Building a Better Table of Organization, as can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 2, as postings 219 and following, for its Parts 1-5. But I have more fundamentally challenged this traditionally pursued business modeling approach elsewhere too, as for example in my series Intentional Management (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 472 and loosely following for its Parts 1-51, and see in particular its Part 3: the matrix management model and its variations for an at least brief discussion of a business model where the traditional tree-like table of organization fundamentally breaks down.)

So I offer my communications-flow and connectedness approach to modeling a business and its functionally significant structures here in this series, both as a didactic tool and for purposes of this series and its narrative, and as a more fundamentally useful tool in its own right; this approach does more effectively describe a matrix management organized enterprise than a more traditional table of organization can, for example, as well as describing a more traditionally structured and managed one. And it also can be used to map out and better understand what from an overall strategy and planning perspective, would be seen as systemic breakdowns where expected operational processes and management patterns are not always followed, and even systematically so (see Intentional Management for a more lengthy and detailed discussion of that complex of issues.)

This noted, I turn to the intended topics points that I said I would at least begin addressing here in this posting from a communications oriented business modeling perspective, as offered at the end of Part 31. And I begin this continuation of this series’ more ongoing narrative by explicitly noting an assumption that I have been making here, and very specifically so in Part 31: an assumption of organizational scale where, for purposes of this communications-oriented discussion I presume that any business that might come under consideration here, has either:

• Reached an overall headcount that exceeds Dunbar’s number, or
• It is so geographically dispersed that no one there can reasonably expect to actually know, and know well everyone else at the business, and even if the overall headcount there is low enough so that in principle might be possible (e.g. where the headcount is less than and within the networking connectedness limits imposed by Dunbar’s number.)

That is when the intra- and inter-communicating tiles of the organizational model that I present here, become crucially important and both for mapping out a business and for understanding its effectively realized day-to-day operations, and the decision making processes that actually inform them (as expected and planned for by the executive leadership in place, or not.)

I initially offered a to-address list in Part 30, that I laid a foundation for discussing in Part 31, and that I repeat here, with some rephrasing as follows:

1. Even the most agile and responsive and effectively including communications capabilities can only go so far. Effective communications, and with the right people involved in them have to lead to active, effectively prioritized action, and with feedback monitoring and resulting reviews included in all of that too.
2. Both reactive and proactive approaches to change and to effectively addressing it enter in there and need to be explicitly addressed in rounding out any meaningful response to the above Point 1.
3. And I will at least begin to discuss corporate learning, and the development and maintenance of effectively ongoing experience bases at a business, and particularly in a large and diverse business context where this can become a real challenge.
4. In anticipation of that, I note here that this is not so much about what at least someone at the business knows, as it is about pooling and combining empirically based factual details of that sort, to assemble more comprehensively valuable and applicable knowledge base.
5. And more than just that, this has to be about bringing the fruits of that effort to work for the business as a whole and for its employees, by making its essential details accessible and actively so for those who need them and when they do.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin a discussion of Point 1 from this list, doing so in terms of the social networking and communications connectedness taxonomy model that I offered in my earlier posting: Social Network Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy. And I set an organizing reference point for doing so here, by pointing out a specific detail that I offered in Part 31, and by putting that in perspective. The majority of the official communications in an organization, and certainly in one that meets the scaling criteria noted here, might be top-down and even vetted in some manner by management and even by senior management where branding or other business-wide issues are involved. But the more under the radar communications that flow in all directions within these organizations, and even in more explicitly top-down authoritarian ones, can be just as important and even more so – and certainly if that organization is to show any real resilience and agility in the face of the novel and unexpected, and certainly where top-down communications would be more delayed-reactive. That is where the value of networkers and communicators who can and do connect between tiles in this organizational model become both significant and vitally so, and certainly if the novel and unexpected are to be responded to in anything like real time.

• This can mean networking between supervisors and supervisees, but just as importantly this can and does mean peer-to-peer networking too, and the bringing together of resources and capabilities needed to address these challenges and opportunities.

I made note of feedback in Point 1 of the above list, and will address that, completing my Point 1 discussion at least for purposes of this series, in my next installment to it. And I will do so in the context of addressing Point 2 and its closely related issues. Then, after that, I will proceed to consider and address the remaining points of that topics list. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

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