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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

• More of the Same -- A few days ago, I linked to Britt Blaser's Escapable Logic blog, on the topic of broken managerial capitalism. In Britt's latest, he touches on the reason for such managerial failure -- one very familiar to those who read this blog regularly, or who are students of TOC...
"The problem with super-organisms is that they're on their way to becoming real organisms, but they lack the full-on coordination tools, like a teenager in the awkward stage. Companies and nations are super-organisms that seem a lot more super than they are. When a company or nation is foundering, its internal fiefdoms start pointing fingers and avoiding blame. Sometimes the internal competition is killing the company faster than the company's competitors. Make that usually internal competition does more harm than the competitors."
...Yes folks; the old local optima resulting in global suboptima...the failure of managers, rightfully focused on their own responsibilities, to at least occasionally look up from their own work to see if and how they are actually aligned with and contributing to the success of the whole -- the larger organization.

Britt goes on to quote Marc Canter of Macromedia fame, on how such a failure to communicate in a systemic manner within a larger system (in Marc's case, the "supply chain" associated with media) results in local optima of conflicting media standards...
"There is an entire eco-system out there - surrounding the world of media. I helped create one of the leading tool vendors 'in this space' - Macromedia - but there are others as well (Adobe, Avid, Discreet, Sonic - to name a few) - as well as hardware vendors (Sony, Phillips, Samsung, Matsushita, etc.) all who profit from media in one sense of the other.  All of these companies have some sort of 'grand media strategy' that usually includes the end-users and developers committing to their platform, standards and/or 'solutions'. But when it's all said and done, at the end of the day, they all don't want to work together."
Didn't anybody learn from the oft-cited BetaMax debacle? Even today, the big media conglomerates, specifically and ironically Sony, stuggle to align the desires of their content side (to protect and lock in control of media) with those of their hardware side (to allow customers to maximize the use of the same media).

Now these particularly sticky situation may be an extreme, but as Britt points out, the dilemmas and conflicts engendered by this "failure to communicate" (or even play nice together) as a system can do as much, if not more, to perpetuate constraints than any external factors like market conditions and competitors. It is, in most systems, the "meta-constraint" inhibiting the ability to fully capitalize on their capabilities.

This classic conflict of having to act locally, but think globally is a tough one, if the too common belief that if one manages the individual links of a chain optimally, the chain will optimally benefit as well. It ain't the links (except maybe for the weak one) -- IT'S THE LINKAGES. It's the relationships of the links, and especially with any currently logistically constraining link that is at the center of effective management.

As Doc Searls and the rest of the Cluetrain gang like to say in thesis numero uno of their manifesto...
"Markets are conversations."
...And not just markets. If delivery systems, whether inter- or intra-company (supply chains) are seen as interrelated chains or networks of processes, turning inputs into outputs used by the next link/process, essentially strings of little mini-markets, companies and supply chains are conversations as well.

As Eli Goldratt likes to say of supply chains, "No one gets paid until the end customer puts down his/her money for the product." The failure to recognize this, whether within a single company or throughout the whole chain, is the root of real constraint to getting companies, supply chains, and economies. There is more capacity in organizations than they know. If they could just free up some of the energy wasted on internal conflict, they could tap it and move further and faster than they dream.

And, as I've written about recently, the path to getting out of these conflicts and on to coordinated effort is through a strategy of alignment around dealing with constraints through a holistic, "whole-system" view of "the conversation."

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