Schlagwort-Archive: Alignment

Pretending to lead

As long as one is mentally stuck in the previous millennium, one tries to ensure an outdated claim to leadership, although we have completely different framework conditions nowadays. More than 7.7 billion people, and over half of them are surfing the Internet. This means that we are only one click away from each other. In the interest of reducing the complexity, the resulting oppressive transparency leads to the formation of information bubbles. This strong networking is not only impacting everyday global life, but also the work within the boundaries of the company. The old head start of knowledge is power is slipping away from managers due to the fact that the sources are available to everyone. When in doubt, employees are better informed than their superiors. The claim to leadership is additionally challenged by new, self-determined approaches of cooperation: agile organization, holacracy, sociocracy, liberated companies. It makes sense that, in this situation, managers are looking for ways to act as if they still pulled all the strings.

If you carefully observe your own environment, you will find everywhere examples of leaders, who no longer know, what their raison d’être is. You can recognize them by the following examples.

  • Simulating decisiveness through goals
    An important function is to decisively set goals and stand up for them. This begins with verbal commitments to a goal: “I am firmly committed to ensuring that we think about how we should get involved in this matter in a foreseeable future.” And extends to targets that are so far in the future that decision-makers will neither take responsibility for the results nor will they even be available – “CO2 neutrality by 2050! “
    This is done in both cases as if something has been decided. In fact, the possible effects of such a decision are uncertain or in the far future, so that the decision-makers cannot be held responsible for the failure.
  • Lengthy alignments
    As the target groups observe every step of the decision makers, it is key to give the impression that one is actively working on a solution. Therefore, the influencing groups should be involved, and work on a consensus in joint discussion sessions. For this purpose, meetings are made on various topics, which should generate written agreements within a week.
    More and more often there is just enough time for a minimal consensus, which, however, requires all participants that they concede certain points. To do this, you have to overrun the timeframe, work in night shifts and then show the result after the deadline has run out. The appearance of effort is thus preserved, and the modest compromise is revaluated.
  • Distraction through finger pointing
    To counter any criticism from the outset, one simply accuses others of providing false information, abusing their power and manipulating the public. That way, the accusations of the opponents are preempted, and puts the ball for the time being in the opponent’s field. If the opponents then justify themselves, the criticism is distracted, and one is seen as a good negotiator.
    Fatally, the reference to smoke suggests the public to believe that there is a fire. Whether invented or true cannot be immediately comprehended. Later rectifications are not able to let vanish the invented facts. It is sufficient to be the first to see smoke.
  • Proclaiming sovereignty
    Professional demagogues eventually use the return to self-esteem. The own opinion is underlined and placed before all other points of view. With America first, this can be implemented, because the message is understandable and desired by the target audience – because they have no idea what it means to them. And since this approach works so well in the USA, others are now starting to catch up. And the people who follow this path celebrate themselves as saviors and strong leaders.
    Sovereignty and exclusion create a sense of “we” in one’s own group that exploits the “We are good – the others bad”. In order to set an effective starting point, one terminates existing contracts and expects at the same time the previous rights – without the corresponding obligations. Your own group pays the bill, as the misappropriated disadvantages only become visible afterwards.

Bottom line: Here, leadership is less an action than a semblance that sets the target groups in motion. After decisions have been made, changes should occur. However, changes are not foreseeable if they are in the far future, if lengthy alignments create an ineffective consensus, if blaming people for the own weaknesses distract and if propaganda fogs the audience. Fatally, those affected do not notice that decisions are being avoided – if you don’t decide anything, you don’t do anything wrong. Hopefully the target groups will wake up from the sleep of the innocent and remember that they are demanding decisions for their own benefit. Pretending to lead is no longer enough.

The VSM provides, what everybody needs

For a very long time, the horizontal and vertical division of labor was the basis for the breakdown of economic endeavors. The lack of availability and the slow flow of information required many handover points to propagate the intentions of the management and to create transparency of the business. At the same time, the tasks, authorities and responsibilities were designed in such a way that the actual value creators could fulfill their tasks without understanding the big picture. With the introduction of computers and their interconnectedness nowadays, all parties involved can reach the relevant information wherever and whenever, without the need for additional coordination expenditure. Since the companies reached the end of the one-way street of reducing costs, they are looking for new approaches, e.g. Holocracy, Platforms, Agility, Connected Company, etc. Although, there is already an approach available for a long time that fits perfectly with today’s requirements – the VSM.

The Viable System Model (VSM) describes the setup of a viable distribution of tasks. Stafford Beer introduced this model as early as 1959 in his book Cybernetics and Management. The VSM is part of a new view that has been developed for decades under the term System Thinking in the shadow of classical organizational theory. In this article we start looking at the model in general. Henceforth there will be more blog posts on this.

  • System 1 – Value creation (S1)
    In this area subsystems generate the deliverables. The products are manufactured respectively the services are executed. There is a direct contact with the environment, for example with the customers, the suppliers, and partners. This is where the value-adding activities take place. Each of these units is by itself a VSM with the corresponding components. In the new approaches these would be the sub-circles, the producers, the agile teams or the pods.
  • System 2 – Harmonization (S2)
    The value creation takes place in a small “company” (S1a) that behaves autonomously and self-organized. So that the individual subsystems interact, it is necessary to agree on the scope, the functionality and the interfaces. The vague exchange of information of the new approaches is made more specific in the VSM.
  • System 3 – Coordination (S3)
    Even though the everyday interaction in the S2 is harmonized, there is still a need in the here and now to focus on the big picture. For this purpose, the means to be used, the responsibilities and decisions are here made and disseminated in the operational units. Besides S3, an independent unit (S3*) is available in order to collect information that reflects the current state of the value creation as unspoilt as possible. The new approaches coordinate with, for example, backlog refinements and daily scrums, interaction platforms and governance.
  • System 4 – Alignment (S4)
    The company is constantly on the move in a direction that should be determined. This adjustment is influenced by the opportunities that arise in the environment. The direction of the company is determined by the leadership based on the new technical solutions that will be incorporated into future deliverables and on market opportunities that emerge. The insights will then be digested into a strategy and the associated planning that have an impact on all areas, including the development of employees and executives. In the new approaches, the alignment is left to the acting people.
  • System 5 – Final instance (S5)
    The areas of tension between the present (S3) and the future (S4) as well as between the company and the environment can not be resolved in Systems 1- 4. The last authority for such dilemmas makes the decisions that prevent the company from being damaged by its different internal interests. In contrast, the new approaches are based on a natural resolution of disputes through transparency and open exchange of positions.

Bottom line: Companies can not avoid putting themselves in a position that serves their purpose. The division of labor that eventually has a henchman performing simple activities dissolves. These same processes can nowadays be performed by machines and robots. The cascade for the distribution of information is also no longer needed due to the pervasive availability. As a result of the increasing digitization, there is a need to re-position the own company. The VSM provides, what everybody needs, since it allows realizing the bundling of tasks, authority and responsibility in one hand at the point of action as well as the agilization of lumbering companies.