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Change and Organization under Control

The role of control is changing in the face of market dynamics, employee cultural diversities, and innovation both expected and unexpected.

In the following, we walk through these related aspects of control:

  • Managing control itself
  • Controlling Management
  • Distribution of Control
  • “Organization”, defined
  • Risk versus Opportunity
  • Prioritization
  • Coordination
  • Technique
  • and finally, a logical model defining and distinguishing Control

The Who Cares Test

By definition, control is intentional manipulation.

That intentionality directs our attention and thinking to the matter of purpose, in order to hold any conversation about “value”.

Value itself is always by definition contextual, and the same set of conditions or impacts may not have the same value for all who experience it.

In that line of thought, we arrive at the first key consideration about controlling change: control will presume to be valuable for some explicit reason that is more important than not controlling.

The second key consideration is that there is an explicit reason why opportunity and responsibility for control is placed with one party instead of another.

The punchline here, however, is that control itself should be managed. Both of the explicit reasons just mentioned need to be acknowledged, and corrected if necessary, as the currently desired reasons — or control is inappropriate.

Managing Control

Things that could be undesirable and even flatly unacceptable about control are not hard to imagine.

Existing or imminent control could be of the wrong type, or the wrong placement, or the wrong strength.

Those mistakes could be a consequence of what control is facing, notably:

•complexity and scale

•tolerance and resistance

•competition and after-effects

Those issues are generally foreseen and proactively addressed in situations that are engineered for sustained presence.

To make control beneficial and prevent it from creating risk, management must think proactively about why to use it in given ways.

Controlling Management

Management is mostly influence, but control is clearly not the only type of influence utilized by management.

Decisions about when managers should use control among other alternatives are presently under intensive re-evaluation, and the precedents and norms of “good” management practice are facing challenges to their status as “best” advice.

The momentum of conventional management practice makes management itself something that can pose problems by being the wrong type, or the wrong placement, or the wrong strength.

In that way we can appreciate that while management may apply control, we also may need to control management.

Given that background, we also want to see clearly the current and emerging position of management relative to the organization that may or may not use it.

What is an Organization?

A strict but working definition of an organization is one that distinguishes it from other forms of groups.

An organization is a specified set of functions arranged and supported specifically to ensure the continual availability of the functions to each other for co-operation.

The specification can change, either to allow different operations or to allow different ways to do a given operation.

Either way the point is to design the organization for a given purpose.

Producing change calls for using a work approach conducted by an appropriately purposeful organization.

The support for the arrangement of functions may come from any mix of sources internal and external to the organization; generally the support is also intentionally arranged at any time.


Scenarios articulate strategically significant circumstances that associate with techniques.

Scenarios describe reasonably possible circumstances that make sense as the context for purpose-driven decisions.

All scenario-framed decisions should reflect intentionality towards purpose, while indicating a reasonable support of alignment in the form of co-operative organizational functions.

Scenarios can describe any mix of observable developing circumstances and circumstances plausibly produced. As part of what affects priorities, control should channel support both as diligent insight and as resourcing, making alignment more concerned about having options.

Coordination in Change

Sometimes Purpose provokes a need for modifying the current state of how the organization produces.

In that case, there are multiple dimensions to the impact that control may have on effecting the modification.

The way that the organization produces is a consequence of how the structure of the organization allows coordinated mobilization of its resources for action against prioritized requirements.

Control can channel the elements of that coordination within constraints of rules, capacities, and timing when they are not significantly negotiable.

Given that kind of benefit and value, our view is that the evolution of control for change should be away from authority and instead towards technique.

Technique versus Authority

The conceptual orientation of technique is towards (internal) capability maturity, instead of from (external) command.

Technique shapes events from within their dynamics.

The objective of technique is to exploit opportunity created by strategy.

In that way it is clear that technique is specifically about supporting purpose.

In preference for agility and sustainability regarding change, that trajectory of decision-making will invest control in technique rather than in predictive restraint.



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Malcolm Ryder

Malcolm Ryder


Malcolm is a strategist, solution developer and knowledge management professional in both profit and non-profit companies across business, IT and the arts.