One year ago, the first edition of BPM Conference Portugal was up and running. Today we are now one month of the completion of the second edition. I was remembering and revisiting some of the key facts of the conference and if something dramatically changed since 2013. Cybernetics and Adaptation were two key themes them.
Last year during a side discussion, there were some arguments against and supportive of the motion about Adaptive Case Management and how knowledge workers would made the difference is achieving goals and competitive advantage, more based on guidelines rather prescriptive way of working. In fact in theory, I agree with the approach if the nature of operations are dynamic, rather than highly structured (as pointed before in earlier blog posts). At that time, the supporters against the motion argued that human nature can disrupt the guidelines (because they tend to think by themselves) and instead of knowledge workers companies, would have a company of heroes.
In the beginning of this year, Patrick Lujan after reading BPM a year in Review 2013 interacted in Twitter arguing with the very same argument, that if you have the bad knowledge workers (and most of them are really bad), decentralized, goal orientated management, smart advanced technology will not make any difference.
During my today’s reflection, I remembered a part of Beer’s book The Heart of The Enterprise about the loss of human autonomy and how it hurts organizations. Beer wrote brilliantly, about interviewing fictional managers that wanted to change management style (towards Adaptive Case Management orientation):
We hope that we are a modern and progressive management team. We have put ourselves through business schools. We have studied, and tried to understand, behavioral theories of management. We had much discussion of Theory X and Theory Y, and we have used consultants in personality testing, managerial grids, ans so on.
As a result, we have abandoned autocratic methods. We have made it clear that we expect our operational elements to work autonomously. We just hope that they can do it … However, we have embarked on a very elaborate management developed program for our people, and spent a lot on sophisticated recruitment techniques, so we have some confidence that will be well.
As far as we board members are concerned, however, and to be perfectly blunt, there is something of an “identity crisis”. What we are ourselves supposed to do? If we are were to give rulings about things, that would be autocratic. So we have reduced ourselves to the role of advisors – benevolent, avuncular holders-of-hands.
That would be all right if anyone took the advice. They don’t seem to do that. They ask: is that an instruction? We say: no, of course not. So they promptly do something different.