‘Smarting-Up’ the Organization

ACM is about “smarting up” the organization.   When two businesses go into battle, the winner will be the one that can put the “most active brains on the front line”.
It is no secret that Industrialization is about “dumbing down” the organization: define precise, repeatable, actions that can be done repeatedly, so that you can mass produce interchangeable parts very cheaply. People were constrained to act like machines.

Here is the cool thing about the 21st century: we now have machines to act like machines. We don’t really need people to do that.

Some would argue that this means there will be millions of workers on the street, and yes I think that the high unemployment rates are due in part to the success in automation. But I see that there is an opportunity as well: freeing up intelligent people from mind numbing jobs means there is more intelligence available as a resource. We have more brains because we need less brawn.

A visionary leader will grab this opportunity to “smarten up” their organization. The typical office is going to become more like a graduate school, and less like a factory. Today a graduate school is considered “elitist” but this will get much less exclusive over time.

A smart visionary leader will realize that there is more to it than just hiring brains. You need to make sure that people are not locked into room, but have the ability to interact flexibly and quickly. And, you need to assure that what is learned is captured in a form that can be reused. While history of a factory line is pretty dull and predicable, history of a graduate school is quite interesting and valuable.

The model to look for might be that of the Manhattan Project where great pains were taken to get the smartest people together to work on a project which had no known solution, and to do it in record time. Nobody sat down and wrote out the process flows of how the ideas were going to be “processed”. The opposite of a factory was designed -including the idea that “its natural beauty and views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which, it was hoped, would inspire those who would work on the project” (Oppenheimer). Not every business will have the urgency of a national project on this scale, but there is a case to be made that businesses will become more like scaled down Manhattan Projects.

This is sort of the opposite of the “evil genius with a hoard of minions” stereotype. The head of an organization who believes that they are the only one that really needs to think, and everyone just follow orders, will not be interested in ACM.

The stakeholder benefits are results, not efficiency. It is about “out-thinking” your competition, advancing at a faster pace, finding a better fit with more customers, winning by doing more faster and smarter.

That is the purpose of ACM: “smarting up” the organization. Those who believe their organization is smart enough, need not apply.

(Many thanks to Max Pucher, Dave Duggal, and others for discussions on the Adaptive Case Management Linked-In Group refining these ideas.)

3 thoughts on “‘Smarting-Up’ the Organization

  1. Great post Keith! I think ‘Smarting Up’ is a great encapsulation of the ACM value proposition. A smarter organization is more effective at meeting organizational goals, and ultimately more efficient at satisfying the needs of individual stakeholders (less structural impediments to delivering unique value).

    Thanks for the mention. This is a constructive path.

  2. ‘Smarting-up’ will put more people on the front lines, especially as both managers and the managed break down the traditional work model that has been in place since the first cave man hired two cave men to drive the game toward his waiting spear. More people on the front lines means everyone has a spear, not just the boss.

    • Chris, yes that is exactly it.

      Another analogy I have used is: what if everyone in your army could talk instantly all the right other people in the army whenever needed. Much of the need for detailed plans comes from knowing that in the thick of the situation, people will not be able to communicate, so you have to compensate for this by rigid plans. But if, in fact, when one person started getting into trouble, they could find and talk to all the right people to solve the problem, it would change the nature of how battles are won. Generals would still drive the strategy, but tactics would become very flexible. The fighting force might be very resilient, and very hard to defeat.

      Of course, we are many decades from something like this in the battle field, but some businesses are doing this today, and it is changing the nature of competition.

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