Philip Sheldrake

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Tag: emergent strategy

Value flows when data flows meaningfully through sociotechnical networks – in search of the ideal data architecture

Competitive advantage and profitable growth doesn’t come from scale anymore. The rate at which big players in any and all industries beach their supertanker is unprecedented.

Competitive advantage and profitable growth doesn’t come from efficiency anymore either. What’s the point of making unwanted product efficiently?

Competitive advantage and profitable growth comes from adaptability. Pure and simple. Adapt or die.

A 2011 article in the Harvard Business Review pronounced adaptability the new competitive advantage. It asks how your managers can pick up the right signals to understand and harness change when they’re overwhelmed with changing information. The conclusion – instead of being really good at doing some particular thing, companies must be really good at learning how to do new things.

As Peter Senge points out, organizations only learn through individuals who learn, perhaps aided by machine learning these days. And learning craves meaningful data.

Lack of data was the problem of the 20th Century, yet the opportunity and challenge of the 21st is having too much of the stuff. This is the landscape of digital transformation and, I believe, the very bedrock of the meaning of business: establishing and driving mutual value creation (PDF).

Value flows when data flows meaningfully through sociotechnical networks, and I've been on a mission to find out how to make this happen. Read more

Talking garbage and the purpose of business

garbage

The third in a series on the topic of the purpose of business. Follows:

  1. What, exactly, is the purpose of business? An answer post-Drucker
  2. Debating the purpose of business

Business exists to establish and drive mutual value creation. Steve Denning challenged this statement, preferring Drucker's assertion that the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer. I responded, and he has challenged my response:

we may be talking about different things: theoretical purpose of a firm and how to run it

"satisfying all the stakeholders" isn't a viable heuristic to run a firm. See Making Management as Simple as Frisbee

“satisfying all the stakeholders” was tried in mid20thC. It led to Garbage Can firms.

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Garbage

Steve refers to "garbage can firms" in his Forbes article, Is The Tyranny Of Shareholder Value Finally Ending?, an eloquent take down of prioritizing the pursuit of shareholder value. When it comes to garbage it quotes a trio of academics – Cohen, March and Olsen – who in 1972 explained: Read more

Deliberate and emergent, by design

crab sand

I've been trying to reconcile the apparent tensions between the deliberate and emergent strategy schools of thought. After all, it's a fundamental question at the heart of organizational life today.

Defining deliberate and emergent strategy

The deliberate strategy process is the one with which most people are most familiar if only because it dominated 20th Century organizational life and still does. A senior team reviews the market, the trends, the SWOT, the fruits of R&D, etc., and formulates strategy – where to play and how to win – that the wider organization is then charged with executing. And based on nothing more than atavistic agricultural habits that are now largely irrelevant, we exhibit a predilection for going through this process with a calendar based drumbeat.

Emergent strategy adherents on the other hand insist that such practice is pure fancy. It's divination beyond the realm of even the most cogent, gifted and able senior leadership team. The deliberate strategy process supports C-title egos and little else. Rather, we're better off making the organization sensitive to even the slightest changes, the weakest of signals, and developing an organizational fabric with the agility to react appropriately, to exploit opportunity and close down risk. Read more

Stowe Boyd’s manifesto and The People’s Front

The People's Front

Stowe Boyd recently published "A Manifesto For A Third Way Of Work" (although the title will change). The manifesto forms the basis of the book Stowe plans to write throughout 2014, crystallizing the perspectives and insight he has forged and assembled over the years. And if you've read Attenzi – a social business story then you'll know Stowe and I think alike on many matters.

[Update 20th March 2014: the title changed to A Manifesto For A New Way of Work.]

Here are the major theses, and I have identified with an asterisk the four I have chosen to argue below.

_____

Dissensus (versus Consensus)

— active and directed dissent is a better way to counter the cognitive biases of groups and individuals, and to sidestep groupthink; essential to increased innovation and creativity truly driving business

Cooperative (versus Collaborative)

— sidesteps the politics and collectivism of consensus-based decision-making, and shifts to looser, laissez-faire cooperative work patterns

Creativity (versus Tradition)

— new solutions to problems are needed, and traditional approaches may not only be broken but dangerous

Autonomy (versus Heteronomy)

— paradoxically, as we come into a time when we acknowledge that we are more connected to each other than ever before, a great degree of autonomy will become the norm; old demands to subordinate all personal interests to those of the collective will be displaced by a personal re-engagement in our own work and a commitment to a deeper work culture that transcends any one company’s corporate culture Read more