The mad sculptor ….

April 30, 2007

Both Matt and Johnnie Moore (are they related one asks?) pick up on Bain’s 2007 Management Tools Survey. The front page is really scary – you see a row of chisels (reproduced here) which adds a whole new dimension to the idea of does your face fit (see the title to this blog entry). I also share Johnnie’s concern that the word tool is being misused here, when many are methods. A pet hate here by the way; people keep saying methodology when they mean method. Methodology is a systems of methods, or the study of methods. Either way pedantry aside, to the survey, some observations:

  1. Matt makes the point that KM is rising in adoption, despite poor satisfaction and is working better in smaller organisations. He argues that there are issues on scalability of KM and I was reminded of my own earlier post on natural numbers.
  2. Balanced score card and benchmarking seem to be undergoing a decline in satisfaction but its very slight and I may just be seeing what I would like to see! The same is true for mission statements – all products of systems dynamics
  3. BPR and Six Stigma are increasing in adoption but declining in satisfaction, definitely a message to take on board there about the usefulness of linear engineering approaches to organic systems after the initial Hawthorn Effect is over.
  4. Customer ethnography is starting to take off along with corporate anthropology. I find this encouraging by worrying. In my experience most of the people selling themselves as Corporate Ethnographers or Corporate Anthropologists have just read a text book or two and are jumping on a bandwagon without proper training. There are some honorable exceptions but its a real worry for me. I use ethnographers and anthropologists and am fairly well read in those fields, but I would never claim the title or purport to offer those services other than in partnership with the genuine article.
  5. Blogs have also entered the field and are showing high satisfaction in early days. There are of course issues (read last weeks Dilbert series on corporate blogging for one of them, they start here) and I am not sure a lot of executives are yet giving blogs the freedom, or the personalisation that they need to operate properly. The first Bain recommendation is classic by the way: Establish the blog’s focus and mission. I do love the big consultancy firms, they provide so many examples of pattern entrainment. The rest of the advice is not bad however.
  6. Scenario planning is increasing in adoption while declining in satisfaction. That’s good news for those of us developing alternatives! I think the reason for this is that uncertainty is on the increase and the only tools around at the moment are scenarios. That encourages me to get our offerings out on this earlier rather than later.

Of course you have to be very careful about these surveys. I used to fill them in from time to time when I was in IBM and I wouldn’t trust the output. They are designed as a cheap form of marketing by the large firms, but provided you realise that and get out the salt cellar before reading them they can be useful conversation points.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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