A client embarking on a pattern of transformation through systemic management recently asked ‘How soon will I be able to use the software to manage the company?’ It’s tempting to think that by buying and ‘installing’ the right software, a company can magically acquire a whole new way of operating that will lead to more throughput and success. Why is this a deeply flawed assumption?
Stability and variation
Why can a software never manage a company? First of all, in order for a software to be applied and run with some degree of success, there has to be an environment where processes are well designed, procedures are clear and well managed, and where the system is highly stable in a statistical sense. Very few organizations are like this. Secondly, there is always bound to be a certain amount of variation generated by the complexity of human interaction. This is not the kind of thing that a software can govern. The day to day conflicts and misunderstandings that are inherent to everyday work require skillful intervention and management. The Thinking Process Tools developed by Eli Goldratt as part of the Theory of Constraints can be very usefully employed to manage and reduce variation intrinsic to human communication and interaction.
When we assist organizations in re-modelling their processes and overall management in a systems based way, we introduce them to Critical Chain, the Project Management algorithm developed by Goldratt for finite capacity scheduling. There are various softwares on the market that support Critical Chain, but none of these will be able to ‘take over’ the complex human activity of management. Indeed, when Goldratt first developed such a software he wittily called it ‘Disaster’ meaning that if anybody thought they could use a software to do everything they would be heading for a disaster.
The Critical Chain approach to Project Management is not just a technique or an algorithm. It requires a completely different mental framework, one that eradicates procrastination and multitasking, that totally empowers by clearly allocating responsibility so there is nowhere to hide, that necessitates a constantly high level of focus and that requires complete subordination to the goal of the organization.
Not change but Transformation
When we work with organizations we show them that they can decide to tackle one aspect of their organization at a time, but it is much more effective to lay out a map for the entire company and all its areas to move forward towards a systemic solution. We’re interested helping an organization to work fundamentally better and more profitably based on a different kind of organizational design. This design is one that can leverage Critical Chain to create an organizational structure where the organizational model and the way of operating become one. This is an approach based on knowledge so, while software can help support the effort, there are no short cuts. It takes months and not weeks to begin on the path towards a stable, systemic organization, but once the solution is mapped and applied, it is truly transformational in its reach.
See also our series on Systemic Management: