Don’t kill it, use it!

don't shoot the bokeh
Image by Pascal o/ via Flickr

I got this phrase from my boss. And, I found it as a very profound expression about what I do in my work.

Why? Because in organization, we have things that works, and things that doesn’t work. For those things that doesn’t work, we often felt split between continuing them and hoping they will eventually work, or stop them to avoid more failures. Those things can be failed policies, messy projects, initiatives with lack of supports or buy-ins; you name it. The problem with this is simple: we already invest our resources in it, but it doesn’t meet our expectation. It doesn’t work well, but it is there already, and we can’t just get rid of it like it was never exist.

A portrait of Cao Cao from Sancai Tuhui.
Cao Cao - Image via Wikipedia

In the famous warfare romance Three Kingdoms, there is a chapter where Cao Cao was in this dilemma. This part of the story was known as the Chicken Wing story. At that time, Cao Cao’s mind was split between two choices, to move forward with a battle he was quite sure would fail, or to withdraw the troops and end a hard-fought campaign through a long journey with a final loss. Simply put, he brought the war so far that it would be a shame to retreat or lose, but yet, he foresaw that victory was nowhere near to happen. Lost a lot already, and yet, nothing worth to pursue further.

Just like in warfare, organizations also experience quite similar dilemma. Particularly, if we talk about things we do as an investment for the future, such as new products for market development or new policies or system for organizational development.

When it comes to organizational development (OD), change and development efforts first deliverables are systems and policies that leads to the objectives of those efforts. These policies and systems are often times not installed perfectly in the beginning. Sometime, it is not because of bad design or planning, but more as of a resultant of uncontrollable business environment. Well, change are required when business environment is becoming more volatile and the future is becoming less predictable. Some may disagree with this opinion, but most people tend to stay with the same way of doing business when things are predictable and stable.

However, stability and predictability are now luxuries we can hardly have. Hence, it’s not easy to be sure whether our policies and systems we created in OD implementation will work effectively as expected. There is always risk in OD. The real issue is not avoiding the risk by resisting the need for change and development. What we need to be good at is how to manage the risk and turn it into an opportunity to develop.

In other words, it is about how to use policies and systems that are not working well as something that is eventually useful, instead of killing them. And how we are going to do that? The answer of this question depends on what are the business orientation of the organization.

I would say that organization leadership is the driver on this, and we can roughly consider that there are two types based on the orientation. There are organization who love to make sensational moves by making sensational policies and programs. This kind of organizations usually are easy in giving birth new policies, projects, and systems; and easy to kill them or stop them when they seems no longer sensational. However, there also many organizations with longer and sustainable orientation. This latter type of organization is more into strategic planning with a good cost-benefit analysis and risk management on the business process and deliveries.

The first one, I guess, is working on short-time cycle. It means that this type of organization tends to be more reactive, less patience for process, and prefer easy and quick investment. If we are working on this kind of organization, make simple policies or systems and short-sighted investment. Why? Because such things are easy to evaluate and modified with short period of time. Obviously, they are less effective and sustainable, but that’s what fits with the nature of the organization.

On the other hand, organizations of the second type is functioning in the big-picture strategy. This means that the organization are by nature working in terms of quality in process. This has its own risk, of which initiatives can wait a bit longer to take forms. It’s mostly because they want to assess the feasibility on considerable investment and good risk management. Therefore, this kind of organization prefer to have a detailed-complex plan that suggests good management and good returns in the long run. With this one, we have the luxury to modify along the way as we undergo the implementation. This way, we don’t need to kill anything that doesn’t work as expected. Instead, we make it evolve through the process.

So, that’s my thoughts on this. What’s yours?

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


2 thoughts on “Don’t kill it, use it!

  1. For the first type organization, we can start to develop business process with the following steps:

    1. Use and reuse organization resources based on their existing business process and work culture, and optimize them with fixing and patching weakness.

    2. When managing business process transformation, use the “KISS (Keep It Short and Simple)” method with direction to the mission or first phase goal. Once they reach this goal, they can proceed the next steps for the next goals with rapid developments based on target to sustainable growth.

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