Elaborative Creativity


Elaborative creativity is the innovative amplification of a core idea or principle. The difference is between say, staff empowerment as a core belief and its amplification into personnel policies, participative management structures, training programs, and so forth. Elaboration can become innovative when it is creatively contextualized, that is, creatively fitted to the organization’s situation rather than simply borrowed from elsewhere. It can become innovative when it is done participatively, involving various viewpoints and much brainstorming, and the ideas are creatively synthesized. It can become innovative when not just one but several powerful, possibly partially conflicting ideas are fused together to form its basis, such as the ideas of centralization and decentralization, control and authority, or internal entrepreneurship and efficiency. Elaboration can also become innovative when it is periodically reviewed and creatively modified to suit changing circumstances. And it can become innovative when it is benchmarked, not with practices of the leading competitor, but the world’s best practitioners. And not necessarily in the organization’s industry, but in any sector of activity, for then it may reveal gaps that can be bridged only innovatively. When elaboration is made innovative in these ways, it is difficult for others to copy it, and therefore such elaboration confers a competitive advantage on the organization.

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, and my Lectures.

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Organization Structure and Innovations


Organizational structure fulfils many functions—everyone in the organization knows who he or she reports to; how various repetitive/routine activities are to be discharged; who has what authority and responsibility; how personnel are grouped together (e.g., by departments or divisions); which individuals/groups have decision-making authority and which have primarily advisory functions (line versus staff functions); and what mechanisms are deployed primarily for reducing decision-making uncertainty, for ensuring differentiated or specialized responses to the operating environment, and for coordinating and integrating these differentiated or specialized responses. A well-designed structure that is compatible with strategy or is internally coherent and compatible with the organization’s operating environment tends to contribute to superior organizational performance.

Can organizational structure facilitate innovations? Possibly. Relatively flat managerial hierarchy and extensive decentralization or delegation of authority, including extensive use of profit centers and SBUs.

Certain kinds of structural changes, notably creating many self-contained, substantially autonomous units with stretch targets, extensive delegation of authority to lower level decision-makers, and delayering (removal of some of the managerial levels to reduce the number of approving authorities for innovation)  may increase the potential innovations of the organization.

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, and my Lectures.

Decentralization


Decentralization means helping lower organizational units set goals and then giving them the responsibility and authority to meet these goals. Decentralizing can mean giving each of your managers profit goals for their own departments and then allowing them to make the necessary decisions to reach these goals.

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, and my Lectures.

Intra-Company Pricing


In order to achieve the benefits of decentralization, many companies have split their operations into divisions that act as more or less autonomous “profit centers.” These profit centers typically are allowed, within certain limits, to make their own price and output decisions. Their executives, furthermore, are judged on the basis of the divisional profits achieved.

Suppose a commodity or service is to be exchanged between two profit centers of a single company. The firm may produce copper metal in one profit center and fabricate it into copper wire in a separate profit center. Or production may take place within one profit center and marketing of the company’s product within another. The question then arises of how to price the internal transaction of, for example, supplying copper metal to the coppoer wire division. The supplying division will of course be interested in having the intermediate product valued at a high price, the receiving division at a low price.

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