11 November 2009

The New ERP - Part 4

What executives and managers in most organizations lack is a sound "theory" about how their own organization works and responds to its environment as a "system." They know how each department works -- more or less -- but they have never really stopped to think how the "system" works as a whole.

Asked directly, most executives and managers could not tell you -- with specifics -- why three of the initiatives that they have undertaken in the last two years seem to have delivered some improvement (but not all that they expected). Nor could they describe for you precisely why another five of the initiatives they labored over delivered no measurable results -- assuming that they actually did no damage to the organization. (Of course, this whole conversation assumes that you can actually get such executives or managers to admit that things they tried produced no results, in fact. Generally, they have willingly pushed out of their mind those matters over which they have expended precious time and energy to no effect -- only to give up in disgust. Then they tried the next management fad in its place.)

"I am not yet convinced regarding the connection between 'knowledge' and 'theory,'" I hear you saying. Then consider this:

How many people had seen apples falling from trees (or witnessed similar events) for how many hundreds or thousands of years before Sir Isaac Newton postulated a "theory" about a force we call gravity? Everyone had experienced gravity and everyone had information about the effects of gravity, but until Newton, no one had any knowledge about gravity.

Once the "theory" was set forth, cause-and-effect experiments could be developed to measure the effects of gravity. Based on the results of these experiments, one could then postulate if-then correlations: if we do X, then Y should be the result.

If management is anything, it is about being able to propose actions with a predictable -- not random -- effect on the "system" to which the action is being applied.

But, what of the second wrong assumption in the chain of reasoning (in the prior post)?

It should be clear now that it is not more information that will help us manage better. Rather, it is a sound theory or logical framework by which to understand how the "system" functions and interacts with its environment. The second wrong assumption is, then, "More information means we can manage better."

The correct approach would be to say: "If we can develop a sound and effective framework or theory by which to interpret the information coming from our organization (our "system"), then we will be able to manage better."

And, since developing a theoretical framework is likely not a function that will be much enhanced by technologies, then the next step is not to rush out to buy new software or hardware. Clearly, the next step should be to find a way to develop such a sound theoretical framework.

[To be continued]

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