Blog
Monthly Research
& Market Commentary


Pioneers, Town Planners and those missing Settlers

Adaptive Execution / 14 Mar 2011 / By Simon Wardley

All business activities evolve – they share a fairly common lifecycle described in the following diagram. From innovation to custom built examples to productization (including the appearance of rental services), and finally to commodity (including utility services). I have also added some reference points for CRM to illustrate the change.

All business activities evolve – they share a fairly common lifecycle described in the following diagram. From innovation to custom built examples to productization (including the appearance of rental services), and finally to commodity (including utility services). I have also added some reference points for CRM to illustrate the change.

Figure. 1 - Lifecycle

As those activities evolve, their properties change from a chaotic to a linear extreme. In the chaotic stage, the activity:

  • Deviates from what has existed before and is a novel practice.
  • Is dynamic and constantly changing.
  • Is rare and poorly understood.
  • Has high levels of uncertainty and it is not possible to predict future outcomes.
  • Has no market data, competitor analysis or well understood trends.
  • Has characteristics which emerge as we learn about it.
  • Is strongly affected by serendipity, chance encounters and discovery.
  • Is a potential source of future worth, differential and hence competitive advantage.
  • Is a gamble.

By the linear stage, that same activity has evolved and:

  • Is mature and rarely changes.
  • Is standardized with a wealth of best practice.
  • Is commonplace and well understood.
  • Has a high degree of certainty and known impacts.
  • Has an abundance of market data, competitor analysis and trends are well known.
  • Has well defined characteristics.
  • Has well defined procedures and plans for implementation.
  • Is a cost of doing business with little or no differential advantage except through operational efficiencies.
  • Is a known quantity.

Now all businesses consist of a mass of activities, each of which may be at different stages of their lifecycle. By plotting the frequency of activities at different stages, a profile for an organization or an industry can be created. This is shown in the figure below, to which the chaotic, linear and in-between stage of transition has been added.

Figure. 2 - Profile

The techniques which you use to manage each of the phases of profile (chaotic, transition, linear) are entirely different because the fundamental characteristics are different. Which is why no 'one size fits all' approach to management exists. For example, agile development approaches are ideal for the innovation (chaotic) and early transition phases but are superseded by more structured approaches such as six sigma in the late transition and commodity (linear) stages. You can't apply 'one size fits all' without either hampering innovation or impacting efficiency. In many areas of management, this creates a constant yo-yo between one approach and another such as agile vs six sigma; networked vs hierarchical; push vs pull. The answer is invariably you need a balance of both. The trick is to learn when to use each.

Given all this, here are my questions:

  • Since lifecycle is constant and the properties of activities change as they evolve through their lifecycle, why do we organize ourselves around type of activities (for example, IT, Finance, Operations) especially as a "typed" approach leads to outsourcing of inappropriate activities, misapplied techniques and alignment issues between groups?
  • Why don't we organize ourselves instead by lifecycle with specialist groups managing each stage of lifecyle regardless of the type – that is, an organization based upon Pioneers, Settlers and Town Planners?
  • Most companies have Research & Development groups (equivalent to Pioneers) and common or shared service groups (equivalent to Town Planners) but Settlers seem to be invisible. Why is this? Who manages the transition from innovation to commodity in your organization?

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

*{{ error }}
*{{ error }}
*{{ error }}
captcha
*{{ error }}
*{{ error }}
*{{ error }}

CATEGORIES

21st Century
Adaptive Execution
Assets/Capabilities
Identity/Strategy
Proactive, Haptic Sensing
Reimagining the Portfolio
Value Centric Leadership

ALSO IN THIS CATEGORY

Have You Got the Digital Brownfield Blues?
14 Nov 2017 / By Dave Aron
WT* is a Platform?
25 Oct 2017 / By Dave Aron, Bill Murray
WT* is a Digital Transformation?
10 Oct 2017 / By Dave Aron
IoT is Turning the World into a Soft Machine
25 Aug 2017 / By Dave Aron
So Much is Becoming Possible with ‘Matrix’ Technologies – How Will Your Organization Take Advantage?
23 Aug 2017 / By Glen Robinson