Esko Kilpi on Interactive Value Creation

The art of interaction, the design of digital work and the science of social complexity

Tag: Lean

Lean interaction

In lean vocabulary, anything that does not create value experienced by the customer, anything that slows one down in serving the customer’s need, or does not contain potential for learning, is waste. Making something that does not solve the customer problem is waste. Waiting is waste. Any extra processing steps are waste.

The concept of lean has lately been transferred from manufacturing to other practices such as media services. People are used to lean thinking when it comes to technology and industrial processes, but it is still rare to understand what being lean means in communication-centric businesses. This is because many managers still trivialize the power of interaction.

We still don’t appreciate that work is communication: we live and work in a network of conversations. Being lean today means understanding that these conversations are never neutral. They always affect the quality and pace of the customer outcome. Communication either accelerates or slows down. Communication either creates value or creates waste. Communication can create energy and inspiration or can take energy away and reduce inspiration. Waste today means getting stuck or running in cognitive circles in the conversations we are having. Communication enables but also restricts

The sciences of uncertainty and complexity have helped us to understand that organizations can be seen as patterns of interaction between human beings. The interactions in the linear mass industries were very different from the interactions in the dynamic, unstable, Internet-based world. To cope with this, we need to learn to embrace unpredictability and complexity as inescapable constants.

Many managers still possess the skills that meet the challenges of static conditions. In a static, reductionist environment, you knew how each role fitted within the larger system. You knew how the repetitive process worked, and you didn’t want deviations. You knew what it took to make the products and you didn’t want people changing anything or inventing things . You wanted everyone to do their planned part and not get in each other’s way. When roles and organizational units are separated from other roles and units, communication is the task of the manager. You, as a manager, do the coordination and share the information necessary for each to make their planned contribution and nothing more.

In dynamic business conditions, the management practices described above are not only unhelpful, but cause damage and create waste rather than value. If you cannot predict you have to invest in real-time learning and iterations instead of predictions. Success is first and foremost based on the value of interaction, context awareness and responsiveness. What we still need to learn is that this responsiveness is not possible if we are many handshakes away from the customer context that we should respond to.

The agile manifesto points out that individuals in interaction are more important than processes and tools. Working prototypes are more important than documentation. Customer collaboration is more important than contracts and, most importantly, responding to change is more important than following a plan.

Knowledge is the act of interacting and new knowledge is created when ways of interaction, and therefore patterns of relationships, change. The creative assets of an organization are the patterns of interaction between its members. Assets are destroyed when relationships are missing or are dysfunctional.

Enabling new habits of communication and improving the quality of the conversation are today among the most important processes of lean development.



The Internet of Things

Industrial era enterprises viewed customers through the lens of a fairly uniform set of features, leading to customers being seen as having relatively uniform needs. But even commodity products are always a bundle of use contexts, buying patterns, complementary goods and delivery options. Just because a product is a commodity doesn’t mean that customers can’t be diverse in the ways they use the product.

All use cases are somewhat the same and somewhat different. This means that different customers and processes use products that are manufactured in the same way, with the same product features, differently. It is contextual. Customers and the way products are used, are today understood to be active contributors to value creation. The word “consumption” really means value creation, not value destruction. Companies don’t create value for customers, the way the products are used creates value, more value or less value.

The parties explicitly or implicitly “help each other to help each other”. Value creation is a process of interaction. As the goal is to create more value together, a critically important element would be to implant context aware intelligence and interaction capability to a product.

The Internet of Things refers to embedded computing power and networking capability of the physical objects through the use of sensors, microprocessors and software that can collect, actuate and transmit data about the products and their environment. The gathered data can then be analyzed to optimize, develop and design products, processes and customer services. IoT is often about two new digital “layers” for all products: (1) an algorithmic layer and (2) a network layer.

The algorithmic layer “teaches” the customer and the product itself to create more value in a context-aware way, and accordingly teaches the maker the product to develop. As a result, the customer’s need set is expanded beyond the pre-set physical features of the offering. This changes the conceptual definition of the product and it becomes more complex. The more complex the product, the more opportunities there are for the maker to learn something that will later make a difference.

From a marketing standpoint, when a customer teaches the firm behind the product how she uses the product, what she wants or how she wants it, the customer and the firm are also cooperating on the sale of a product, changing the industrial approach to sales and marketing. The marketing and sales departments used to be the customer’s proxy, with the exclusive role of interpreting changing customer needs. Internet-based business necessarily transforms the marketing function and sales specialists by formally integrating the customer use case into every part of the organization. Thus the customer of tomorrow interacts with, and should influence, every process of the maker through the connected, intelligent products.

In the age of the Internet of Things, all products are software products. The value of the code, computing power and connectivity, may determine the value potential of a product more than the physical product itself. The effectiveness of an offering is related to how well it packages the learning from past activities, other use cases and from other similar products and how it increases the users options for value creation through network connections in the present. The offering actuates data via algorithmic smartness and through live presence (in the Internet). Connectivity also enables some functions of the product to exist outside the physical product in the product system, the cloud.

A product or a service should today be pictured as a node in a network with links to supplementary services and complementary features surrounding the product. The task today is to visualize the product in the broadest sense possible.

Visualizing these connections changes the strategic opportunity space dramatically. The study of isolated parts offers little help in understanding how connected parts work in combination and what emerges as the result of network connections. Every link and relationship serves as a model for what might be possible in the future. What new relational technologies are making possible for manufacturing industries is a much, much richer repertoire of business opportunities than what we were used to in a traditional industrial firm.

The ability to create value in a remarkably more efficient and resource-wise way corresponds to possibilities for interaction with relevant actors, information and products. If interdependent links are few, poor, or constraining, the activity and value potential will be limited.

The Internet of Things and technological intelligence in general, create transformative opportunities for more efficient and more sustainable, resource-wise, practices and also higher margins!


Thank you Rafael Ramirez

More on the subject: Ford’s OpenXC. Bosch. Kari A. Hintikka (In Finnish)

Clubs may be the future of offices

Although work today is primarily digital, organizations still have a spatial dimension in one way or another. Even in the digital age we still think in terms of space. The key thing is that both the organizational structure and space greatly influence the patterns of work. A few years ago, the typical organizational design meant that work was divided into multiple parts that were simply added together to create the product. Individual workers did not need to know much more than what was specific to their individual tasks to complete their jobs. This created the offices we have today with separate meeting rooms for people to use when face-to-face communication with others was needed.

Today, the results of work are not brought together at the end but are communicated throughout the process. A growing number of people are involved in generating ideas and information and bringing those ideas together in collaborative sense making. Work is interaction and an ongoing meeting. Communication is not talking about work. Communication is work.

Three archetypes of communication can be seen in firms. The first type is communication for responsiveness and coordination. This creates the need for transparency. The right hand knows what the left is doing. The second type is asymmetric following. It is about a Twitter kind of information logistics to help people keep up with new developments that are contextually important for them. The third type is serendipitous inspiration from ad hoc encounters. It is spontaneous and helps people to come upon the unexpected. The third type of interaction often occurs between people who work on different things and draw on different disciplines. These people don’t often meet in traditional work arrangements. They don’t normally have a lot to do with each other on a daily basis.

Most managers will acknowledge the role played by the organizational structure and the process chart, but not all understand that physical space is equally important. Structure and space together influence how we work and how efficiently communication takes place when we meet.

There is an interesting benchmark available: private clubs. These clubs are places where typically only members and their guests are allowed in. The rooms are defined according to a function, such as socializing, eating and reading. These rooms are open to all, rather than being assigned to a single worker. You can book a more private room for a specific purpose, but in a clubhouse, you cannot put your name on the door.

Members of future organizations will use these new co-working spaces for projects, networking and for concentrated work, but they are not going to have spaces to fill with their personal belongings.

Many people bemoan the loss of a personal designated space, a little home away from home. However, I believe that they are going to learn to appreciate the value of freedom of choice and the escape from the control system of being seen in the same traditional office cubicle nine-to-five.

If you are in the middle of a conversation with someone, you seldom pause to talk about the conversation itself. But today, it is time to pause and consider, not only the new digital tools, but how we work physically together and where we meet to do that.

And yes, we are also going to continue to meet face-to-face in small groups in the future.


The inspiration for writing this came from meeting my friend @elsua face-to-face for the first time a few days ago. Thank you @villepeltola and @sakuidealist

Advice on how to manage off-site workers

Winning games

In most games who wins and who loses is the whole point of playing. It would be hard to imagine a more unpopular outcome in a reality TV series, than an announcement that all the players ended up as winners! It is, of course, beneficial that better-motivated and more enterprising players take the place of the lazy, the incompetent, and the unmotivated.

But zero-sum thinking and the winner-takes-all philosophy do not serve us any more. As there are more losers than winners in our games losers multiply as winning behaviours are replicated in the smaller winners’ circles and losing behaviours are replicated in the bigger losers’ circles.

The biggest problem is that as losers are excluded from the game, they are not allowed to learn. The divide between winners and losers grows constantly. This is why, in the end, the winners have to pay the price of winning in one way or another. The bigger the divide is, the bigger the price that has to be paid. The winners end up having to take care of the losers, or two totally different cultures start to form, as is happening today in many developed countries and cities.

Psychologically, competitive games create shadow games of losers competing at losing.

The games we play have been played under the assumption that the unit of survival is the individual, a team of people or a company. However, the reality is that the unit of survival is the players in the game being played. Following Darwinian rhetoric, the unit of survival is the species in its environment. Who wins and who loses is of minor importance compared to the decay of the (game) environment as a result of the competition.

We need a new concept of games in the creative economy. The players and their contributions in the real world are, and should be, too qualitatively different to be compared quantitatively. Unless all the players are comparable and want the very same thing, there cannot be a genuine contest.

Zero-sum games were the offspring of scarcity. In the era of creativity and abundance, new approaches are desperately needed.

As there simply cannot be pre-existing rules for every conceivable situation that might arise, we have to move beyond seeing the players and the rule-makers as separate parties. Real-life games are too complex to be governed totally from outside. We need participation based on values- and strong ethics  as a prerequisite for taking part.

The players have the responsibility not only for adhering to the existing rules, but also for developing the rules further – specifically when the game (environment) decays as a result of the actions of the players.

In creative games the winners would be all those whose participation, comments and contributions were incorporated into the development of the game.


High Performance Business

In our view of the world, we often think that competition creates and secures efficiency. But it may be that high performance is incorrectly attributed to competition and is more a result of diversity, self-organizing communication and non-competitive processes of cooperation. Competitive processes easily lead to a handicapping of the higher-level system that these processes are part of. This is because competitive selection leads to exclusion: somebody is left out. Leaving something out means a reduction of diversity. The resulting less diverse system can be efficient in the very short term, but always at the expense of longer-term agility and viability.

Our assumption has also been that by understanding the parts of a system in detail, we understand the whole. Classical physics took individual entities and their movement (trajectories) as the unit of analysis in the same way we have lately analyzed the competitiveness of individuals and firms. Henri Poincaré was the first scientist to find that there are two distinct kinds of energy. The first was the kinetic energy in the movement of the particle itself. The second was the energy arising from the interaction between particles. When this second energy is not there, the system is in a state of non-dynamism. When there is interactive energy, the system is dynamic and capable of novelty and renewal.

Interactive energy may be the single most important factor in (business) performance. Higher performance patterns may accordingly occur through the very simple combination of different experiences and enriching interaction. What happens in the interaction between the parts is thus much more important than the parts. The parts are born in the interaction and the whole is the emergent pattern of the interaction, not the sum of the parts.

The focus of the high performance organization should be on communicative interaction.

Interaction creates resonance between the particles. Resonance is the result of coupling the frequencies of particles leading to an increase in the amplitude of motion. Resonance makes it impossible to identify individual movement in interactive environments because the individual’s trajectory depends more on the resonance with others than on the kinetic energy contained by the individual itself. We are therefore the result of our interaction.

The lesson is that every interaction of all of the particles is thus potentially meaningful and can lead to the amplification of the slightest variation. Interactive systems with even the smallest variations take on a life of their own. The future form and direction of the system is not visible in the system at any given time. The future is not in the system and it cannot be chosen or planned by anyone.

The conclusions are important for us: Firstly, novelty always emerges in a radically unpredictable way. The smallest overlooked variable or the tiniest change can escalate by non-linear iterations into a major transformative change in the later life of the system.

Secondly, the patterns of healthy behaviour are not caused by reductionist, competitive selection or independent choices made by independent agents. Instead, what is happening happens in interaction, not by chance or by choice, but as a result of the competitive/collaborative interaction itself.


Thank you Pekka Himanen and Doug Griffin

Developing new habits of participation and new habits of communication

It is not uncommon to think that knowing is something that goes on in the brain. Yet the evidence that it is really so is not quite clear. Some scientists have expressed doubts. The mind, they have argued, is not a thing to which a place can be allocated. Intellectual life is essentially social and interactive, they say. Life is carried on through communication between people. These researchers claim that interactions are not secondary by-products of thinking. They are the primary sites of that activity.

Industrial manufacturing was a fairly straightforward transformation process from physical raw materials to physical goods. Economic growth today is still about value added. The difference is that the generic, homogeneous raw materials and mass products of the industrial era are today different ideas and contextual, co-created solutions. The transformation process is also very different. In creative work, it is an iterative, unpredictable, non-linear movement, rather than a linear, sequential chain of predictable acts. Knowledge-based value added is a movement of thought.

Individuals should take part in the onward movement of thinking. People should know what the live, future-creating ideas are and how to take part in the conversation in a value-adding way. This is independent of what people do, or the organizational unit they belong to.

The management task is to understand (1) what is being discussed, (2) the quality of that conversation, and (3) whether there is movement forward or (4) are people running in circles. Are people stuck? Thinking does not take place inside independent people but in continuous interaction between individuals. The richer the interaction, the more economic value added is created. The poorer the interaction, the more value is destroyed and waste created.

Knowledge used to be seen as the internal property of an individual. Today knowledge should be understood as networked communication. This requires us to learn new ways of talking about learning, education, competencies and work itself. What is also needed is to unlearn the reductionist organizing principles that are still the mainstream. Work is communication and the network is the amplifier. The age of the (lone) expert is over. The process of communication is the process of knowing.

If we want to influence the process of knowing we need to develop new habits of participation and new habits of communication. This is what the new interaction technologies allow us to do. This is also where agile practices impact on knowledge work in a similar way to that in which lean practices impacted on manufacturing.


Thank you Doug Griffin and Kenneth Gergen

The future under construction

The approaches of industrial management have given us remarkable material well-being over the last few centuries, but are increasingly being criticized for not being suited to handling the needs of today. Organizations need to excel in innovation. Companies also need to embrace rapid change and uncertainty. Some of the most creative ones have even gone so far as to take a “let’s just do cool things and see what happens” approach, trying to avoid traditional governance systems. Is this yet another sign that management is in crisis?

The industrial theory of management is based on top managers choosing the future of their organization and guiding its development in the right direction. The belief is that managers can make useful forecasts and set goals. Their daily responsibility is to monitor activities to identify gaps between the goals and actual outcomes so that the gaps can be closed. Uncertainty plays a minor role. Managers know what is going on.

Every business is a set of assumptions that are taken as given, thus reducing the perceived uncertainty. The whole plan–execute cycle is a process designed to prove those assumptions correct. But assumptions are never totally right most often not totally wrong, either. Accordingly, it is quite seldom that ideas are turned into a successful business in just the way described in the business plan. Things change.

In conditions of rapid change and uncertainty, there have to be systematic processes indicating progress and new opportunities as they emerge. This is much more important than forecasting or planning. It is about testing the assumptions continuously and signalling which assumptions are helpful and which are not. It is about finding out repeatedly which of the efforts are creating value and which are wasteful. Are we on the right track? Are we progressing? What new possibilities have become visible?

Lean thinking defines value as providing benefit to the customer. Anything else is waste. But what if we really don’t know?  Then the most important business process is to find out. We have to learn what creates value for different customers in different situations. “Anything that does not contribute to learning is waste”  as Eric Ries puts it. The business challenge for a creative company is to learn fast and cheaply!

Management theory needs to leave behind the industrial, mechanistic model of reality and the belief in linear if-then, causality. The sciences of complexity, non-linear dynamics, uncertainty and creative learning are the foundations of modern, human-centric management.

The task of managers is not the reduction of uncertainty but to develop the capacity to operate creatively within it. Ilya Prigogine wrote in his book “The End of Certainty” that the future is not given, but under perpetual construction:

“Life is about unpredictable novelty where the possible is always richer than the real.”


Thank you Eric Ries, Stu Kauffman and Ralph Stacey

Designing a life

Apple design was not about Steven Jobs alone, but about Steven Jobs and the lead designer Jonathan Ive. The way I see it, their collaboration in Apple followed a bit the story of another design icon, Braun. The key people then were the industrialist Erwin Braun, his brother and the designer Dieter Rams.

Jonathan Ive has described his first encounter with a Dieter Rams design: “No part appeared to be either hidden or celebrated, just perfectly considered and appropriate in the hierarchy of the product’s details. You knew exactly what it was and how to use it.”

“Good design is as little design as possible” is one of Dieter Rams’ most famous phrases. The meaning behind it was that a well-designed product should be so good that it is barely noticeable. By leaving the unnecessary out, the essential factors rise to the foreground. The challenge is that the design may be simple but the path taken to create it highly complex.

Dieter Rams was one of the first people who made the distinction between consumers and users when he talked about the people at whom his designs were aimed. The term “consumer” corresponds to someone who uses things up. Consumption is then a process of reducing the value that is built into the product. Rams preferred to use the German term “Gebraucher”, which translates as someone who uses something. The consumer is turned into the modern notion of a value-creating customer. If the design is useful, if the product facilitates value creation, it makes sense that it lasts as long as possible. For Rams, the term “Verbraucher”, the consumer, had a negative meaning, implying waste and short-term thinking.

Another concept that Dieter Rams suggested was “re-design”. What he meant was to turn away from an addiction to novelty towards iterations, to improving what we already have.

“Less, but better” was the ultimate motto of Dieter Rams. The motto follows the idea of “less is more” of Mies van der Rohe and Peter Behrens. The original idea of Behrens was improvement through reduction, reducing quantity, waste, and excess and at the same time increasing quality, value and the effort to create a better world in a human centric way.

Dieter Rams formulated his ideas about good design into a set of principles to explain what makes a good product:

The first principle was: good design is innovative. Technological developments always offer new opportunities. Innovative design develops in collaboration with innovative technology.

The second principle: good design is about usefulness. A product is bought to be used. Design is about emphasizing usefulness whilst disregarding everything that could be a detraction from it.

The third principle: good design is beautiful. The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to functionality.

The fourth principle: good design makes a product understandable. At best it is self-explanatory.

The fifth principle: a good design is honest and does not try to make a product more innovative or valuable than it is.

The sixth principle: good designs are neither decorative nor independent works of art. Their design should leave room for interaction and the user’s self-expression.

The seventh principle: a good design lasts many years rather than being short-term and fashionable.

The eighth principle: it is about attention to detail. Nothing should be left to chance.

The ninth principle: good design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It minimizes waste and it minimizes visual and physical pollution.

The tenth principle: good design is “as little as possible”: it is about less but paradoxically at the same time about better, more valuable.

The principles of a good design may be the principles of a good life.


Thank you Dieter Rams, Sophie Lovell, Marco Steinberg and his team at Sitra. Thank you also @moia

More: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The Museum of Modern Art New York. Helsinki Design Lab. Guy Kawasaki on Steve Jobs. Jonah Lehrer on Steve Jobs. John Sculley on Steve Jobs. Technology and social change. Fast Company: 50 Most Influential Designers in America.

Lean and social

Waste seems like a straightforward term, but lean thinking has given new meaning to the word. In lean vocabulary, anything that does not create value, slows one down, or does not contain potential for learning is waste. A thing or a document sitting around waiting to be used is waste. Making something that is not needed is waste. Unwanted movement is waste. Transportation is waste. Waiting is waste. Any extra processing steps are waste.

The concept of waste has lately been transferred from manufacturing to other practices such as product development. According to lean principles, when a development project is started, the goal is to complete it as rapidly as possible. In a sense, ongoing development projects are just like inventory sitting around in a factory. Design and prototypes are only valuable when (paying) customers are involved.

Eliminating waste is a fundamental lean principle. Thus three of the steps towards implementing lean development are learning to see waste, uncovering the sources and eliminating them. We recently studied the product development methodology of a large multinational company. They have been very successful in the past, leading in most of the markets they have entered. But lately, many people have voiced concern that there have been unnecessary delays in getting new products to market. To find out why, we gathered input from managers and ecosystem partners.

A division into two main areas of concern developed: technology/process and social interaction. We asked people what percentage of the barriers to faster time-to-market might relate to the technology/process side and what percentage would be on the social interaction side. The answers were almost unanimous: over 75 percent of the reasons for slow product development were on the social interaction side. The results were alarming because in this organization almost all approaches to being more agile and to taking waste out of the system were historically on the technology/process side.

People are used to lean thinking when it comes to technology and processes but it is still very rare to look at taking waste out of communication. Many managers still trivialize the power of conversation. They think that social interaction issues are soft compared to the hard issues of technology and process.

We still don’t understand that work is communication: we live and work in a network of conversations. Being lean means understanding that conversations are never neutral. They always affect the quality and pace of the outcome. Communication either accelerates or slows down. Communication either creates value or creates waste. Communication can create energy and inspiration or take energy away and reduce inspiration.

The world around us is changing. The interactions in mass manufacturing were very different from the interactions in complex, dynamic, knowledge-based work. Many managers possess the skills that meet the challenges of static conditions. Those conditions are based on predictability and systems thinking, meaning that the crucial variables are known in advance. The main risk factor is then the accuracy of the predictions.

In a static environment, you know how each role fits within the larger system. You know how the processes work, and you don’t want deviations. You know what it takes to make the products and you don’t want people experimenting and making things up. You want everyone to do their part and not get in each other’s way. Roles and organizational units are separated from other roles and other units. You, as a manager, do the coordination and share the information necessary for each to make their planned contribution and nothing more.

In dynamic business conditions the management practices described above are not only unhelpful but cause damage and create waste rather than value.

If you cannot predict you have to invest in real-time learning and iterations instead of more predictions. Success is based on speed of learning and responsiveness. Responsiveness is not possible if you are many handshakes away from the things that you should respond to. Learning is then based, not on teaching materials, but on conversations linking interdependent people. The question is what the design of a valuable conversation is? We spend countless hours attending meetings and sending/answering emails, but the nature of those hours goes unexamined. Many people think that a conversation is inherently valuable. That is not the case. The challenge we face is to deepen our awareness of how conversations create either value or waste. The goal is not just to be more social.

The agile manifesto points out that individuals in interaction are more important than processes and tools. Working prototypes are more important than documentation. Customer collaboration is more important than contracts and most importantly responding to change is more important than following a plan. Creating value or waste is a result of how we interact.

We need to embrace change, unpredictability and complexity as inescapable constants in all product development. It is about being lean and social!


Thank you Craig Larman, Petri Haapio, Ari Tikka, Mickey Connolly, Vasco Duarte and Ken Schwaber

Miltä liikkeenjohtaminen näyttäisi jos se keksittäisiin tänään

Liikkeenjohdon tematiikka, leadership/management, niin kuin me sen tunnemme tänään yritysten ja organisaatioiden maailmassa, syntyi 1800-luvun lopulla ja 1900-luvun alussa. Liikkeenjohto uutena tieteenä haki olemassa ololleen validiteetin tuon ajanjakson tieteellisestä paradigmasta. Erityisesti luonnontieteissä aika oli voimakkaasti kiinni valistuksen ajan ihanteissa ja Newtonilaisessa fysiikassa. Elettiin insinööritieteiden kulta-aikaa. Todellisuus ymmärrettiin objektiiviseksi, todeksi todennettavaksi maailmaksi havaitsijan ulkopuolella. Jos käytettiin oikeita havaitsemisvälineitä ja ajattelua, tuo, joskus hyvinkin monimutkainen maailma voitiin mallintaa ja siinä voitiin havaita rationaalisia syy- seuraussuhteita, jotka antoivat mahdollisuuden löytää oikeat tavat vaikuttaa.

Johtaja on tässä maailmassa rationaalinen toimija ja päätöksentekijä, jonka tehtävänä on tietää mitkä kausaliteettien ketjut tuovat organisaatiolle sen tavoitteleman menestyksen. Samalla tavalla kuin reduktionistinen tiede toimi,  organisaatiot voitiin parhaiten ymmärtää niiden osittamisen kautta. Erilliset osat muodostivat puolestaan mekanistisen, systeemisen aktiviteettien kokonaisuuden, joka toimi johdon suunnittelemalla tavalla. Huomio johtamisessa tuli tämän ajattelutavan mukaisesti kohdistaa niihin olemassa oleviin ja tarvittaviin syy – seuraussuhteisiin, jotka toteuttavat organisaation menestyksen parhaalla mahdollisella tavalla.

Yhtä tärkeää oli motivoida mukana olevat ihmiset yhteisiin, johdon luomiin tavoitteisiin, sekä prosessien säätelemään vuorovaikutukseen. Organisaatioihanne jäljitteli konetta vaihdettavine osineen. Koneen toiminta taasen perustui tehokkaisiin input – output suhteisiin, joissa resurssit muuttuivat suoritteiksi. Työtä tekevät yksilöt olivat tässä maailmassa yksi resurssi muiden resurssien joukossa.

Organisaation rakenne ja prosessit kuvattiin tässä lähestymistavassa tavallisimmin yleistyksinä. Yleistäminen tarkoittaa, että rakenteet ja (vuorovaikutus)prosessit eivät ole tilanteesta, kontekstista, riippuvaisia, vaan yleisesti päteviä aikariippumattomalla ja tilanneriippumattomalla tavalla. Kontekstilla ei ole merkitystä. Yleistävästä ajattelusta seuraa myös, että tavallisesti voidaan löytää, usein organisaation ulkopuolelta uusi, paras tapa tehdä joku asia. Tämä uusi tapa voidaan sitten siirtää tilanteesta toiseen ilman, että historiasta tai paikasta tarvitsee välittää.

Epävarmuuden maailma

Arkikokemuksissamme korostuvat yllätykset, muutokset ja kehityskulut, joita ei ole voitu ennustaa tai joita ei ole edes suunniteltu kenenkään toimesta. Epävarmuus on elimellinen osa yritystoimintaa ja osa elämää. Epävarmuus ei liity pelkästään siihen mitä tapahtuu seuraavaksi, vaan myös siihen mitä juuri nyt tapahtuu tai hyvinkin erilaisiin tulkintoihin siitä mitä on tapahtunut. Yhteisten, ”ylempää annettujen” tavoitteiden ohella yksilöiden omat tavoitteet, omat agendat, arvot, tulkinnat ja suunnitelmat ohjaavat ennakoimattomalla tavalla sitä mitä tapahtuu. Rationaalisuuden ohella tunteet ja poliittiset päämäärät ohjaavat toimintaa ja päätöksiä. Väärinymmärrykset ja väärät tulkinnat vaikuttavat yhtä paljon kuin oikeatkin. Suunnitelmat toteutuvat hyvin harvoin juuri niin kuin oli tarkoitus tai kuten oli suunniteltu.

Johtamisen taustalla olevan rationaalisen, lineaarisen kausaliteetin ihanne on hyvin kaukana siitä arkitodellisuudesta, jonka tunnistamme. Näyttäisikö liikkeenjohtaminen erilaiselta jos se ottaisi lähtökohdaksi toimimisen epävarmuudessa ja jos sen tieteellinen maailmankuva päivittyisi tämän päivän tasolle?

Johtaminen kompleksisessa ympäristössä

Yritystoiminta on aina toisiaan tarvitsevien ihmisten vuorovaikutusta. Miltä johtaminen näyttäisi, jos lähtökohta olisi, että ihmisten välisessä vuorovaikutuksessa kausaalisuhteet ovat  aina ei-lineaarisia: osittain tiedämme mitä tapahtuu seuraavaksi, osittain emme. Osittain voimme ennustaa, osittain emme. Toiminnassa on aina mukana epävarmuus, jota ei voida poistaa. Johtaja voi suunnitella mitä itse tekee seuraavaksi, mutta ei voi koskaan täysin tietää mitä muut tekevät seuraavaksi. Johtajan pyrkimykset kohtaavat kaikkien muiden, aina osittain samanlaiset, osittain erilaiset pyrkimykset. Mitä tapahtuu, on seurausta kaikista näistä toisiinsa vaikuttavista erilaisista pyrkimyksistä. Se, mikä on tulema kun erilaisten ihmisten erilaiset tulkinnat, pyrkimykset ja toiminta vaikuttavat toisiinsa on aina enemmän tai vähemmän piilossa ja epävarmaa. Kukaan yksittäinen toimija ei voi kontrolloida sitä, mitä lopulta tapahtuu, vaikka siihen voikin vaikuttaa.

Tästä seuraa että emme voi enää pitää erillään, eri vaiheina suunnittelua ja tekemistä, ajattelua ja ajattelun ”jalkautusta”.  Suunnittelu ja toteutus eivät ole käsitteellisesti kaksi erillistä vaihetta ajassa, vaan saman asian kaksi puolta samanaikaisesti. Suunnitelma on suunnitelma, vain siinä määrin kuin se toteutuu. Tämä johtaa tilanteeseen, jossa suunnittelu on ehdottoman tärkeää, mutta joustavuutta vähentävät suunnitelmat eivät. Paradoksaalisesti, mitä paremmin suunnittelemme, sen paremmin voimme tarvittaessa toimia ketterästi muuttuneissa tilanteissa. Mitä paremmin osaamme ja tiedämme sen paremmin voimme improvisoida.

Koska emme voi perustaa toimiamme ja päätöksiämme täydelliseen tietämiseen, pitäisikö meidän paremmin ymmärtää miten toimimme silloin kun emme tiedä? Vaikka emme voi poistaa epävarmuutta, voimme varmuudella tietää miten toimimme, kun pyrimme elämään epävarmuudessa.

Jatkuu postissa: digitaalinen työ, tietoverkot ja johtaminen