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? rbrenjevYRgNAjjrtMskpner@ChacXKXNYZocZTgZzgFwoCanyon.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:
- Team-Building Travails
- Team-building is one of the most common forms of team "training." If only it were the most
effective, we'd be in a lot better shape than we are. How can we get more out of the effort we spend
- Sixteen Overload Haiku
- Most of us have some experience of being overloaded and overworked. Many of us have forgotten what it
is not to be overloaded. Here's a contemplation of the state of overload.
- Holding Back: I
- When members of teams or groups hold back their efforts toward achieving group goals, schedule and budget
problems can arise, along with frustration and destructive intra-group conflict. What causes this behavior?
- Ego Depletion and Priority Setting
- Setting priorities for tasks is tricky when we find the tasks unappealing, because we have limited energy
for self-control. Here are some strategies for limiting these effects on priority setting.
- Paradoxical Policies: II
- Because projects are inherently unique, constructing general organizational policies affecting projects
is difficult. The urge to treat projects as if they were operations compounds the difficulty. Here's
a collection of policies for projects that would be funny if they weren't real.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 29: Newtonian Blind Alleys: II
- Some of our decisions don't turn out well. The nature of our errors does vary, but a common class of errors is due to applying concepts from physics originated by Isaac Newton. One of these is the concept of spectrum. Available here and by RSS on May 29.
- And on June 5: I Could Be Wrong About That
- Before we make joint decisions at work, we usually debate the options. We come together to share views, and then a debate ensues. Some of these debates turn out well, but too many do not. Allowing for the fact that "I could be wrong" improves outcomes. Available here and by RSS on June 5.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenNkUcJVmEFOLrvjtWner@ChacovYFNWjEGVxxvaCBoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, 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
- 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.