There are major enterprise advancements underway. New approaches to enterprise leadership are propelling fundamental advances in productivity and innovation. Among the most important enterprise leadership is taking a whole systems view of enterprise ecologies.
The exact problem is that current methods only offer a fraction of the enterprise picture. The picture is incomplete because the enterprise is a complex adaptive system. The enterprise must be seen and diagnosed using principles from complexity. Most managers are unaware of complexity science.
As an enterprise leader, probably with an MBA or other advanced degree, you are likely trained and skilled in the Newtonian tradition and methods of analytic reductionism. This has been the foundation of modern science and business for two centuries. The problem, the major pain point, is that it does not work for complex systems or networks. Human organization, like the enterprise, is a complex system. It must be seen as a whole system, not as a collection of parts.
For example, if you take a horse, a complex system, and cut it in half, you don’t get two smaller horses, you get a mess. Same for the enterprise.
Until now the troika of enterprise leadership has been organization, assets and processes. Social networks, media, and applications are the latest addition. Still, the four planks of enterprise leadership platform, taken alone, are incapable and insufficient to even begin to describe the whole system.
Then how do enterprise leaders abstract the enterprise as a complex system? Most often this description is done tacitly by senior executives. It is usually based on narrative and conversation. It is the so-called ‘Big Picture.’ Sadly it is often insular, parochial or just plain wrong. It leads to very painful operational, tactical and strategic blunders.
Enterprise pain is caused by inadequate methods, tools and technologies for complex systems. Enterprise decision makers need visualization and empirical methods that achieve mastery of complex systems.
- In The Social Enterprise enterprise the number variables (process, finance, customer, employee) is so large that conventional methods are useless. They cease to assist in understanding the system.
- Enterprise elements interact. The interaction are dynamic and rich – any element in the system is affected by and affects several other systems.
- The interactions are non-linear. Small causes may have large effects.
- Interactions are mostly with immediate neighbors. The nature of the influence is modulated.
- Any interaction can feed back onto itself directly or after a number of intervening stages.
- Enterprise systems are open to markets, societies, environment, etc. It is often impossible to define system boundaries.
- Enterprise systems operate far from equilibrium. There must be a constant flow of energy to maintain the organization of the system.
- The enterprise has history. It co-evolves. The past is co-responsible for their present and future behavior.
As enterprise leaders it is important to be practical. Fortunately, enterprise visualization has prima facie validity. The language of complexity is simple. Conversation, stories and narrative aid sense making. That is very important for enterprise leadership. It all creates the actionable solutions business needs.
For example, at Colabria Action Research Networks our starting point is the whole system. Leading with visual mental models sharply advances comprehension and customer satisfaction. Wish to learn more? Just rip the Action Research blog. More pressing needs? Contact Colabria.