The Management of Creativity


Creativity has been defined in dozens of ways, but essentially it means the process by which novel but situationally appropriate outcomes are brought about. The field of creativity is in full bloom. Thousands of pieces of research have probed creativity. These researches have x-rayed such opaque matters as what kind of people are creative individuals; what motivates them; how creative people go about identifying, defining, and solving problems; what efforts are creative; what constitutes creative thinking, what techniques aid creative problem solving; what sorts of environments foster creativity; the assessment of creativity and the level of creativity of human efforts; etc.

The management of creativity in organizational settings is relatively far less researched, but is of great importance in a world of huge collective challenges and fierce competition. It fuses two fields—management and creativity. Management can be defined in many different ways, but broadly it is an organized effort at improving the functioning of organizations through such processes as the fixing of goals, the development and implementation of a strategy for achieving goals, the control of operations to ensure that goals are being met, the coordination of interdependent activities, the creation of structures and systems, the management of human resources as well as of other stakeholders and so forth.

As a field, the management of creativity has some distinctive aspects that differentiates it from general creativity. The management of creativity involves various collectives: dyads, teams, departments and divisions, organizations, associations of organizations, even governance systems of communities and societies. Even when one is discussing managerial creativity (the creativity of individual managers), the focus is on creativity displayed in a collectivity and relating to the various tasks that need to be performed in that collectivity. The work-related context channels creativity in important ways—towards achieving the goals of the collectivity and in discharging various management functions. The focus is not ‘pure’ art or science, or individual self-actualization, but on creative behavior in an organizational setting in which the organization’s goals, policies, structures, systems and so forth call the shots. Although individuals working in organizations certainly attempt to pursue their own interests, they do so keeping in mind organizational requirements, and this feature strongly influences the form that creativity takes in organizational settings.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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Rethinking Organization’s Infrastructure


An architect’s work requires more than site selection and structural design. A building also has an infrastructure, a complex and sometimes invisible web of systems that work together to make the building functional and livable. These include the mundane heating, electrical, plumbing, and air circulation systems, as well as the essential channels for people movement and telecommunication hookup.

Infrastructure is not just an add-on. The development of new technologies that provide efficient solar heating also required architects to consider a new set of factors when siting a building. Just as the invention of the elevator paved the way for today’s concrete and steel skyscrapers, some new organizational concepts and technologies are needed to make horizontally oriented structures workable and vacuum free.

The organizational infrastructure needs to make the new corporation work. Issues such as the hierarchy of reporting relations, the career structures they imply, and the middle managers who populate must be considered, along with ways to rethink control and coordination so that new learning, rather than resigned compliance, is produced.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Creativogenic Management Style


Management style can both impede innovations and facilitate them. The old firms—once dynamic and vibrant—today fail in terms of deficient management style and resulting ineffective culture and structure. Such firms are managed on machinistic lines, with strong belief in centralization and extreme specialization of functions. This means that coordination of interdepartmental activities is done mainly by the head of the concern. Strong departmental loyalties bred by lifelong career paths only within the functional department make interdepartmental collaboration very easy. Information flows mainly vertically rather than also diagnolly and horizontally. A strong hieracrch-bound operating culture saps initiative at lower levels. An organic mode of management is much more suitable in technological change-driven turbulent markets like electronics. In this mode, solving technical problems is the priority, not maintaining functional turfs, and so decisions emerge through interactions rather than being made by the formally designated bosses. Also, the expert in the situation—who could be quite a junior fellow—calls the shots rather than the formal boss. People interact disregarding departmental boundaries, picking brains and sharing information, and most decisions are taken—or rather, emerge—at middle and lower levels of management. Thus, a fluid, boundaryless, highly interactive, expertise-based management is more suitable for managing technological innovations than a mechanistic, bureaucratic, semi-feudal form.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Project Management


A project is any group of activities with a common goal, for which we try to control costs, resource usage, completion time, and quality of the output. However, large (one-time or multiple) projects in the range of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars are more common and undoubtedly have a larger total economic impact. Examples include new plants, schools, office buildings, research programs, some types of electronic research and development, bridges, and highways. Projects in the thousands to one million dollar range are even more numerous and include building houses, remodeling offices, modernizing wiring and plumbing, establishing a small PC cluster, and so on. Small and very small projects are too numerous to try to catalog. For example, getting to work in the morning can be considered a project, with such activities as shower, brush teeth, put on shoes, dry hair, and so on.

 Project management is a broad multi-level activity which involves strategic planning, middle- and short-term planning, scheduling, and control. We will first give a broad introduction to project management at all levels from strategic planning to control. Next we present the foundation of project scheduling without considering resource constraints. Then we consider the case of project scheduling with resource constraints from several points of view. Finally we discuss broader issues surrounding scheduling such as project design and strategic project control.

 Most of the formal work in project management has focused on large one-time projects. Project management tends to be a very involved process, requiring the careful coordination of experts in a number of areas. It is important that the individual parts of the process be carefully organized. It requires developing and manipulating a great deal of data and reports. The scheduling and control portion of project management have benefited greatly from the PC revolution.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Antiquated Strategic Planning


At one time, the view from the top of most corporations was strongly influenced by their leaders planning doctrine. Executives were taught that the best way to plan for a complex company into discrete components, called strategic business units. For a time this practice provided a helpful way to unbundle the corporation and to select strategies most appropriate to each unit’s individual situation.

Companies were best thought of as a portfolio of individual businesses: some brand-new and unproven, some growing rapidly and consuming great amounts of cash, some growing rapidly and generating the cash needed by the up-and-comers, and some out and out losers.

Strategic planners eventually carried the idea one step further. They developed formulas that appeared to identify the contribution each business unit was making to the company’s overall stock price. Called value-based planning (as in shareholder value), its application, along with techniques such as junk-bond-driven leveraged buyouts, helped de-conglomerate many corporate dinosaurs in the financial go-go years.

These planning techniques are logical and quantifiable, descriptive as well as perspective. They provide a seemingly attractive way for the head of an enterprise to put arms around what might have become an increasingly diverse array of businesses. But thinking of a corporation as if it were similar to a portfolio of stocks or other investments can also be very limiting and one dimensional.

This kind of thinking tends to overemphasize the uniqueness of each business and often assumes that all the competition in which the corporation is engaged occurs when its business units do battle with their counterparts in other companies. It suggests that the role of top corporate management is either secondary or passive with regard to competition. It also implies that top management’s role is primarily that of a banker to the individual strategic business unit, concerned chiefly with financial resource allocation, and that it adds value mainly through “balancing the portfolio” by buying or selling the strategic business units that make up the company.

This approach encourages a “trader’s mentality” on the part of top management. Traders like to buy and sell, conglomerate and de-conglomerate. But they do not know how very much about how to grow the company from within.

Decentralization, sometimes extreme decentralization, is also encouraged, because each business is expected to stand on its own, containing most of the resources it needs for its operations. This simplifies the job of top management. It has only to focus on each strategic business unit’s bottom line and consider the details of its operations on an exception-only basis.

But this simplification comes to a great cost. Stressing stand-alone uniqueness and managing through the blinders of short-term earnings results in living, growing business entities treated almost as if they were fragments of the company’s stock certificate. The disease of the stock markets—perspective that seldom extends beyond next quarter’s financials—is passed along to the company.

There is another danger when strategic business unit framework dominates corporate decision-making. This is the tendency to grow redundant resources in the company as each strategic business unit, over time, builds up all the functions and staffing it feels it needs to operate as autonomously as possible. At times headquarters management tries to check the emergence of this costly duplication by mandating resource sharing across strategic business units, by using central service groups, or both. But these well-meaning attempts at cost containment send mixed signals to the strategic business units and they also can impose heavy coordination costs in terms of time and loss of flexibility.

Many intelligently managed companies led down the paths and took a seemingly attractive shortcut in their thinking. They confused a framework for planning with a basis for organizing power and resources. They used a perspective that directs to management’s attention to the financial scorekeeping aspects of the business at the cost of neglecting the underlying mechanisms that create value for their customers.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Behavior of Committees


Committees are formally constituted bodies characterized by periodic, intermittent, or temporary rather than continuous functioning. Purposes for conducting a committee meeting almost always include an objective of gaining or maintaining inter-group coordination and/or cooperation. Staff or subgroup meetings have analogous purposes on the group level of analysis.

 

Committees integrate organizational behavior vertically in the authority hierarchy and/or horizontally across group boundaries. Committees may function primarily as a formal communications medium for one-way dissemination of information from above at one extreme all the way to omni-directional informational sharing (e.g., new projects, problems, etc.) at the other. Two other common committee functions are problem solving (e.g., performing a technical design, cost and schedule feasibility assessment) or decision making (e.g., adjusting and approving departmental overhead budgets for the upcoming three months).

 

There are both advantages and disadvantages to employing committees for any, or any combination, of these functions. The net effectiveness is emergent and is no doubt influenced by the nature of the tasks to be performed, the time available, the people involved, and primary task groups represented as well as other situational factors.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

 

Knowing about Matrix Organization


A matrix organization, also known as matrix management, is an organization in which one or more forms of departmentalization are super-imposed on an existing one. In one example, product departments are superimposed on a functional departmentalization. This company’s product division is functionally organized, with departments for functions like production, engineering, and personnel. Superimposed over this functional departmentalization are three product groups. Each of these product groups has its own product manager, or project leader. One or more employees from each functional department (like production and engineering) is temporarily assigned to each project.

Combining customer and geographic organizations is another common matrix approach. For example, a bank may be organized geographically, with separate officers in charge of operations in each of several countries. At the same time, the bank has a customer structure superimposed over this geographic organization. Project heads for major bank customers lead teams comprised of bank employees from each country who concentrate on the local and worldwide financial interests of that customer. Bank employees in each country may report to both their country managers and their project managers. Some matrix organizations are more formal than others. Sometimes temporary project managers are assigned to provide coordination across functional departments for some project or customer. Other firms sometimes add a semi-permanent administrative structure (including, for instance, project employee appraisal forms) to help build the project teams’ authority). Matrix organizations have proved successful in a wide range of companies.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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