If you review the management system of a company you will find a set of documents describing ways of working. Examples of such documents are organization chart, role description, operating procedure, process map, policy, etc. Templates and guidelines are often available to explain how to use these documents. Most companies have good knowledge and support to create those documents that describes ways of working.

But what if you need to improve ways of working, what support is then available? Document templates are for sure not the tool to do the actual design; they are used to describe the design result! You need design knowledge and design methods.

Puzzeled

I have a problem to even find scientific papers that share knowledge on how to design management systems, and I am not the only one. It is even acknowledge by one of the, possible best, universities working with design of management system (organizational architecture). Aarhus University writes the following in one of their web pages, “Despite the increasing importance and relevance of organizational design, organizational theorists have tended to focus on descriptive and explanatory organization theories rather than theories of design and change which predict and prescribe.” [Ref: http://icoa.au.dk/organizational-architecture/; 2014-10-15]

At the same time I find lots of methods in the field of business/ organization management. Numerous books and papers are available on topics like management by objectives, process management, strategy deployment, organization management, balanced scorecard, business model canvas, etc. But there is also a problem with all of these methods in the context of design management system. Each method only cover a part of the design domain. Companies need knowledge and methods on how to design a management system as a whole. The management system contains internal interacting building blocks, and is an open system with interactions and dependencies towards external environment.

It is a complex task to design a management system for any organization or company. You have to fully understand what you need to achieve with the new or changed management system. You would like to conceptualize some alternative solutions based on design criteria and validate the design proposals to understand strengths and weaknesses. Then you would want to do a detailed design for structures of responsibilities, business processes, meeting structure, performance indicators, etc. All of this is to be done in running business, with no possibility to go back to previous solution if something does not work ok. This is not only complex, it will never happen like this unless, it is a totally new business.

Often managers follow latest business management trends or do what they always have done in similar situations. The researchers Liedtka & Parmar concluded in the Journal of Organization Design that the “Practitioner (average manager) frames (defines) a problem to fast and then use his repertoire (experience and patterned solution for typical problem) to identify what to do“. [Ref “Moving Design from Metaphor to Management Practice; Journal of Organization Design; JOD, 1(3): 51-57 (2012)] Similar problem is described in a research article written by Jan Steinmetz, HR manager at Shell. “These leaders tenders to have the ‘answers in their minds’ rather than basing solutions on a thorough diagnosis of the open systems step of externalization.” [Ref http://www.e-pages.dk/aarhusuniversitet/530/ ; Activity report 2011 – 2012]

Without good support, based on knowledge and methods, managers will continue to make changes of organization structures, business processes and operational control in a safe mode. They will re-use pattern of what they have done before, or do what everyone else is doing right now in the management communities. There is no knowledge to do thorough design neither is there time to test new solutions. It is too risky to make changes that no one has done before, and nobody will salute a manager for a good try that failed.

Consequences of above situation are missed opportunities of brake through effectiveness in an organization. Companies miss possibilities to do business smarter, to be customer oriented in a smarter way, to be environmental sustainable in a way nobody foreseen, etc. Furthermore with a good design work you can understand how your internal operation best fit external business environment for optimized efficiency instead of efficiency as in compliance to standards.

I strongly believe that most companies would gain competitive advances with the use of increased knowledge and methods on how to design management system. Doing this, huge possibilities will be revealed on how to make better business and earn more money.

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