As discussed two weeks ago, an anti-pattern is a commonly occurring pattern for a problem solution that produces counter-effective results. One might at first consider anti-patterns paradoxical — certainly such "solutions" aren't solutions at all. But if we consider solutions that do solve the problem as stated, but which also produce negative results when we consider all consequences, the paradox resolves.
For example, consider the CFO who, to control costs, lowers the ceiling for petty cash expenditures to a level that happens to be 80% of the cost of processing purchase requisitions. Such a policy will certainly increase control of petty cash. But the overall cost to the enterprise rises, because of the cost of processing requisitions.
Last time, we began examining the indicators and causes of the anti-pattern of excessively complex process architectures, which I call the Utility Pole anti-pattern. Let's continue.
- Senior managers sometimes complicate the problem when they execute reorganizations. They usually do reduce process complexity, but they usually don't eliminate the causes of regrowth of process complexity. Although each organizational adjustment cleans up some utility poles, those same poles are soon festooned again.
- Causes of process complexity probably reside beyond the reach of reorganization processes, because complexity always returns after reorgs. For example, when multiple functions are responsible for a given outcome, all involved feel obliged to define processes that ensure that outcome. Process redesigns that ignore this tendency cannot stem the regrowth of process complexity.
- Defenses and workarounds
- Causes of process complexity
probably reside beyond the
reach of reorganization
processes, because complexity
always returns after reorgs
- Complicated control processes can be obstacles to accomplishing objectives in complex bureaucracies. One common solution is the entrepreneurial approach, which aims at evasion and circumvention of controls, using networking, situational awareness, and clever deceptions. Another, the exploitative approach, turns the processes of the bureaucracy into tools to accomplish the advocates' objectives. Both require sophisticated understanding of the control processes.
- Confound expectations. If you're known as a "rule-bender," the entrepreneurial approach is risky. If you're known for cleverly exploiting the rules, the entrepreneurial approach might be the better choice.
- People with risk management responsibility for projects can help limit process complexity by making its costs explicit in risk plans. Common risks that are rarely identified explicitly include: risk of delays due to confusion about compliance with requisition requirements; risk of schedule disruption due to conflicting claims for resources; risk of budget overruns due to technically ambiguous wording of contracts with suppliers arising from restrictions forbidding direct participation by technical people in contract negotiations.
- Risk managers can identify and budget for these and similar risks. Be selective. Focus on risks that have materialized in the past, and use data from those past incidents to justify projections.
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenfgquBUukHMlBnmWuner@ChaciCDyYIzVCfJVgDckoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Organizational Firefighting
- Sometimes companies or projects get into trouble, and "fires" erupt one after another. When
this happens, we say we're in "firefighting" mode. But it's more than a metaphor — we
have a lot to learn from wildland firefighters.
- Most of us get too much email. Some is spam, but even if we figured out how to eliminate spam, most
would still agree that we get too much email. What's happening? And what can we do about it?
- Recovering Time: I
- Where do the days go? How can it be that we spend eight, ten, or twelve hours at work each day and get
so little done? To recover time, limit the fragmentation of your day. Here are some tips for structuring
your working day in larger chunks.
- The Ups and Downs of American Handshakes: I
- In much of the world, the handshake is a customary business greeting. It seems so simple, but its nuances
can send signals we don't intend. Here are some of the details of handshakes in the USA.
- Decisions: How Looping Back Helps
- Group decision-making often proceeds through a series of steps including forming a list of options,
researching them, ranking them, reducing them, and finally selecting one. Often, this linear approach
yields disappointing results. Why?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 26: Strategic Waiting
- Time can be a tool. Letting time pass can be a strategy for resolving problems or getting out of tight places. Waiting is an often-overlooked strategic option. Available here and by RSS on July 26.
- And on August 2: Linear Thinking Bias
- When assessing the validity of problem solutions, we regard them as more valid if their discovery stories are logical, than we would if they're less than logical. This can lead to erroneous assessments, because the discovery story is not the solution. Available here and by RSS on August 2.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenhqpzdYOVoDRIOnqjner@ChacNAZVwXKqcybjUBVsoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
- Many people experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes
frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all
speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises
is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage,
and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located
teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and
supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance.
Read more about this program. Here's a date for this
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin
Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19,
Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19, Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
- On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald
Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen
had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished.
As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business
analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read
more about this program. Here's a date for this program:
- CTCPA, 716 Brook Street,
Rocky Hill, CT 06067: September 20,
Full-day Workshop, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- CTCPA, 716 Brook Street, Rocky Hill, CT 06067: September 20, Full-day Workshop, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.