Reducing enterprise dissonance

Have you thought about the degree of dissonance that exists within your enterprise?

Have you considered what the cost of this dissonance might be to the performance of your enterprise and its future success?

Have you identified where the greatest points of dissonance exist in your enterprise?

Have you considered what you might do to reduce dissonance in your enterprise?

Exploring enterprise dissonance

You may not have considered the concept of “enterprise dissonance” before now. It was prompted by thinking about enterprise integration, wholeness and harmony, and contemplating potential antonyms. Here are several definitions for dissonance that you might use to reflect on the dissonance within enterprises with whom you are engaged.

Dissonance: lack of agreement or harmony between people and things

Dissonance: conflict or incongruity

Dissonance: uncomfortable sense experienced by people in the midst of change

Assuming you do recognise the existence of dissonance in your enterprise. What are the causes of this dissonance? What might you do to reduce the degree of dissonance (assuming that it is an unnecessary overhead and impediment to enhanced enterprise performance)?

Diagnosing enterprise dissonance

One of the key causes of dissonance, in my experience, is that people hold different models of the enterprise, the environment in which it operates, or the parts of which it is composed. This prompts engaging with enterprises to explore:

  1. the explicit models that the enterprise is using to describe itself or its intended self
  2. any gaps or inconsistencies that might be evident in these models
  3. any gaps or inconsistencies between current capability and intended capability represented by these models
  4. any gaps or inconsistencies that might be evident between the implicit models that are evident in how leaders think, communicate, decide and act and the explicit

Any of these gaps or inconsistencies can be the cause for enterprise dissonance as people:

  • unknowingly act in differing and conflicting ways
  • respond to demands which expose gaps requiring immediate response without the opportunity to agree the manner in which the issue should be addressed
  • intentionally take actions to further personal or group goals and aspirations which may not be consistent with enterprise goals and aspirations

Dealing with enterprise dissonance

Having identified critical gaps, the enterprises are more readily able to develop a more integrated set of models on which to base an assessment of capability gap and a transformation plan to address the priority gaps.

Many enterprises have well established approaches to business transformation planning and capability development. The more critical issues seem to be:

  • identifying the critical gaps
  • addressing these gaps in a more holistic manner

This is where architecting enterprises, in enhancing enterprise awareness, enables enterprises to take a more effective approach to achieving enterprise integration, wholeness and harmony, thereby reducing enterprise dissonance, and enhancing enterprise performance and enterprise viability and sustainability.

These themes are explored further in the linked articles and more fully in the following series of articles (see series index).

  • Architecting enterprises – plain and simple
  • Architecting enterprises – digging deeper
  • Architecting enterprises – principles
  • Architecting enterprises – for Directors
  • Architecting smaller enterprises
  • Architecting disability sector enterprises
  • Architecting enterprises – reflections

Enterprise pertinence

pertinence

In thinking about the problems that enterprises encounter, the following questions came to mind:

  • What problems is your enterprise experiencing?
  • What problems is your enterprise trying to resolve?
  • How do you decide that these are the most important problems to solve?
  • What questions do you ask in this process?
  • Are you asking the right questions?

The answers to some of the questions will provide some insight into the measure of your enterprise pertinence.

Enterprise problems

All enterprises encounter problems. Yet, I wonder how well enterprises deal with the problems they encounter, and more particularly, how well enterprises deal with determining which problems to resolve, what priority to give to resolving them and how much to invest in resolving them.

The constant references to failed enterprises, failed business strategies, failed change initiatives, failed IT projects, … suggests that there are no shortage of problems to address and no shortage of opportunities to get better at solving problems!

Given how many problems might be encountered and the investment in effort to analyse the problem, design and assess potential solution options, develop and integrate these solutions into our enterprises, there is a need to:

  • assess and prioritise the problems, their solutions and the value they will deliver in terms of enhanced enterprise performance and outcomes
  • assess the cost and value of assessing and prioritising any prospective problem

This is what leads to considering whether we are asking the right questions about:

  • the problems we are experiencing or might experience
  • the extent to which these problems might prevail given changes in the ecosystems in which they operate or in the directions we might pursue (whereby some problems might not arise)
  • the root causes of the problems we are experiencing
  • how we perceive the problems that might or might not arise

Attention economy

What is the attention economy? How is it relevant to enterprise pertinence?

The attention economy reflects a view of our lives as being awash with information commanding our attention. Think of all the information coming to you via:

  • television, radio and print media
  • emails commanding your attention and action
  • social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter feeds

There are only so many “waking hours” in a day, so there are only so many “signals” to which you can give your attention. Here we have a supply and demand problem – one where “economics” comes into play. There is more demand for your attention than there is supply of attention that you can give. How do you decide which to ignore and which to consider? We make choices as to the allocation of our time and attention. We deem one signal to be more pertinent to our life and the various enterprises in which we engage. This is the “stuff” of work / life balance, of strategic versus tactical, of relevant versus irrelevant, of attention versus distraction.

It is as much about how we spend our “personal” time as it is about how we spend our “work” or “enterprise” time. Our awareness of problems and attention to problems is part of enterprise pertinence.

Power of questions

How do we identify problems? How do we assess problems? How do we assure ourselves that we are assessing problems well (right) and assessing the right problems?

This is the business of quality, assurance and governance, asking questions and asking the right questions. In governance roles, one learns to ask questions and one learns to recognise powerful questions. An example is the question all Boards must ask themselves and should be able to answer:

  • What constitutes success? How would we recognise success?

This is also the field of learning, single, double and triple loop learning:

  • Single loop learning – are we doing things right?
  • Double loop learning – are we doing the right things?
  • Triple loop learning – how do we decide what is right?

In understanding and exploring any area of activity, it becomes evident when asking a leader in the field a particular question, and they respond “That’s a good question” or “I have thought of asking that question”. Such situations of evidence of high individual and (potentially) enterprise pertinence.

Enterprise development

With the increasing complexity of the environments in which enterprises operate, we appreciate that enterprises must adopt an adaptive approach, where they need to learn about their situation and the associated problem space before being able to consider potential solutions. This will engage us in asking a range of questions, often around the five interrogatives:

  • Why?
  • What?
  • How?
  • Where?
  • When?

Deloitte University recognises this growing dynamic, and advises clients that we are transitioning:

  • from the industrial age where successful enterprises successfully scale efficiency
  • to the knowledge age where successful enterprises successfully scale learning

That entails developing the capability of asking and answering the right questions – the capability of developing enterprise pertinence.

Are you asking good questions in your enterprise?

Enterprise awareness

This article extends the thinking outlined in Enterprise Development which encompasses those capabilities required by an enterprise to support its adaptation, development, or transformation towards its intended future state. It explores enterprise awareness as a key capability within the enterprise development domain, and considers enterprise awareness in terms similar to those of individual self-awareness.

This is the first real expression and articulation of the thinking around enterprise awareness. I expect that further discussion and exploration will lead to progressive refinement and expansion of the thinking around this concept and its application to enterprises and their development. I would like to acknowledge Doug McDavid who prompted this thinking through his long-standing advocacy for the value of establishing and maintaining a repository of the architecture of enterprises.

Concept

When we are more self-aware as an individual, we are able to act in more effective ways in challenging situations. In this regard, I am suggesting that when enterprises are more self-aware, they are more able to recognise and respond appropriately to situations they encounter, whether these be threats or opportunities. In effect, an enterprise is more able to sense, respond, adapt, transform or develop:

  • than it would with lesser awareness
  • then other enterprises in the environment in which it is operating.

Application

What is required to be more enterprise-self-aware? In its most simplest form, it is to be aware of its existing and potential capability.

How often do we encounter:

  • The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.
  • The divisions are silos with no collaboration between them.
  • Duplicated capabilities in different parts of the organisation

These and other similar situations are symptoms of an insufficiently self-aware enterprise.

What does it take to redress this situation?

  • Some minimal diligence in maintaining models and views which reflect the way in which the enterprise is organised and operates
  • A place where these models are visible across the enterprise and able to be explained and shared as part of the enterprise narrative
  • An assurance mechanism which monitors the maintenance of the models and views and the quality, integrity and usability of their representation
  • Appropriate skills and experience to provide support for this activity to occur in a sustained manner

Implementation

If this makes sense to you, you might be asking how you might explore and apply this concept to your enterprise? There are a number of minimum essential elements to consider and pursue:

  • Leadership
  • Learning and development
  • Scalability

Leadership

Developing enterprise awareness requires leadership to effect a cultural change which creates an environment in which enterprise awareness can develop and thrive.

An effective starting point is simply for the Executive team to test their own shared awareness and consistency in understanding and expressing:

  • the business model(s) underpinning their enterprise
  • the operating model for their enterprise
  • the desired culture and values for their enterprise
  • the means by which the performance of the enterprise should be assessed

Failure to be able to do this in a consistent and coherent fashion prompts serious questions as to how well others in the enterprise understand these fundamentals about the enterprise.

Exploration of the differences and development of a consistent expression with a shared narrative will then enable the Executive team to undertake this process with their direct reports. There will need to be, in conjunction with this activity, an organised way of recording the shared expression of the business model, operating model, values and principles, which can be used in common by all who engage in the progressive development of greater enterprise awareness.

Learning and Development

As the enterprise leadership engages in establishing greater enterprise awareness and greater enterprise alignment, the recognition of differences in understanding and practice are part of learning about the reality of the enterprise, and about deficiencies in its current organisation to achieve its desired goals and aspirations.

This is part of a self-discovery and learning journey. It should be treated as an open enquiry process where no participant is “wrong” and where no “blame” is attached to the existence of differences. These value arises in appreciating the differences and being able to attend to them, as they are, in part, one of the fundamental reasons that the enterprise is unable to realise its aspirations and its full potential.

Deficiencies in the current business model(s) and operating model will prompt revisiting of business strategy, which in turn will require the development and transformation of the enterprise to realise revised business strategies, business model(s) and the associated operating model.

Scalability

The approach which have been outlined can be applied to any “enterprise”. This means that it can be applied to:

  • an entire organisation
  • a division within an organisation
  • a team
  • a cross divisional function (eg. people management system)
  • a cross organisational system (eg. criminal justice system)

For each, it is entirely appropriate to consider:

  • business model (customers, services, channels, value proposition, capabilities)
  • operating model (operations, development, resources and governance)
  • culture, value and principles

For enterprises that are part of an organisation, there will be a need to determine the manner in which the enterprise integrates with other parts of the organisation. This may prompt a broader approach being taken, having determined that value has been derived in considering a smaller part of the organisation.

Facilitation

How might you facilitate the exploration of your enterprise and its self-awareness?

There are often a range of people within enterprises who are well placed to support such an activity. These include staff in the following functions:

  • Business strategy
  • Organisation development
  • Quality management
  • Business architecture

If your enterprise is not of sufficient size to have these positions, then a consultant with appropriate understanding of the architecture of enterprises could facilitate such an activity.

Enterprise guidance

In reflecting on various approaches to expressing the design of our enterprises, I have discovered an interesting common pattern as to how we provide guidance to the ongoing evolution of the design and its realisation. This article describes the background to learning about each approach and the common pattern between them.

Knowledge Ecology Workgroup

In the late 90’s, I was a member of a global, online community exploring how to articulate and engage others in understanding the generation and sharing of knowledge through the lens of knowledge ecology.

As part of the group, Mike McMasters introduced an approach to “defining an organisation” based around articulating its essence through four themes:

  • Core idea
  • Principles and values
  • Models
  • Rules

The core idea conveys the essence of what the organisation is about and around which the organisation revolves, so to speak.

Principles and values are those held dear to the organisation and which reflect and guide the manner in which the organisation thinks, make decisions and behaves.

Models reflect the manner in which the organisation will operate.

Rules are key policies that act as guidance to the manner in which the organisation will operate.

These were seen as the minimalist set of guidance that would adequately describe an enterprise and give it the freedom to innovate and leverage the resources, particularly its people and their knowledge, to the greatest benefit to the organisation.

Economic Development Advisor

In that same period, I worked with Tim Waterhouse in the South Australian Development Council, which was established to provide advice to the Government on economic development strategies. Our role was to further develop strategies for building a strong and vibrant IT industry, expanding on the IT 2000 strategies that the government has established in the mid 90’s.

Tim operated on the basis that if we shared the same vision and values, then he was confident I would make similar decisions to him in whatever circumstances I might find myself, enabling us to be involved in more activities individually, and achieving broader coverage and engagement.

I would add to this that we also shared a number of common models which underpinned our thinking and understanding of the South Australian economy and of approaches to developing a stronger and broader economy, the IT industry as an enabling industry, and government as an anchor customer.

Latest articulation of approach

In a recent article, I have explored (a little) around the vision and purpose of enterprises, and have been reflecting on the need for such statements. I have wondered whether a vision or statement of purpose is required or whether it can be derived from the business model and business strategy? I am aware that there are significant challenges in crafting a useful vision or statement of purpose (but that does not mean it should not be done). I am also aware that there are benefits in expressing the core motivation for the enterprise.

Several comments were made about the “positioning” of vision at the commencement of the approach. In a subsequent revision, I left the vision element out. Yet, there does seem to be a need for expressing the motivation for the enterprise, perhaps as that element which provides the energy, life and inspiration for pursuing the enterprise.

In reflecting on the “core idea” from my Knowledge Ecology Workgroup experience, I can see that this is essentially the expression of vision and purpose in that particular approach.

Common pattern

From these different experiences, it is probably pretty evident that the common pattern looks quite like the model outlined by Mike McMasters in the following visual.

This seems to align closely with the core elements of expressing the intended architecture of an enterprise, providing guidance to the ongoing design of a self-organising, self-designing, self-realising enterprise.