Over the years, I realized with some hesitation for the fear of falling out with one’s peers, that conventional notions of management have made widespread and deep distinctions between various functional disciplines. There is an all pervasive thought that treats each discipline as inherently divided, disconnected from the rest and of late to further brake up it up into yet smaller constituent parts.
All for good reason, given the specialisation and skills required in different areas of management. However, when each part starts thinking and behaving as essentially independent and self-existent , they work in isolation. This sets of a series of unintended consequences which plagues most organisations especially as they chase scale and size. These symptoms become all too common to be even questioned in the right context leaving firms paralysed to act on emerging customer priorities, added value opportunities and innovation.
Having interacted with prescient leaders and debated these issues, they have confided that there is an urgent need for a deeper and more unifying framework which fights back entropy, complexity and lost potential .What came out of that 12 year process of listening is the need for singularity and developing a line of sight from leadership assumptions to value creation. Through years of testing and development we believe there is an elusive Singularity of Purpose which exists in every company. It originates from implicit leadership assumptions, then goes on to impact the working of intangibles resulting in non-linearity of value (fat tails of risk/potential). I have tried to describe the Singularity of Purpose from three contexts below:
1. ‘Singularity of Purpose’ as Collective Consciousness – It is the extent to which the Leadership Hinge Assumptions (LHA) converge or diverge from a common purpose. Often these assumptions are based on dogmas, past success beliefs, personal or emotional biases. Such assumptions play out in the business as a whole over time. They tend to influence values and culture stealthily. The resulting condition is often ‘Wilful Blindness’ which prevents leadership from acting on stakeholder value priorities and innovation opportunities.
2. ‘Singularity of Purpose’ as an Orchestrator of Intangibles – depending on the nature of hinge assumptions at play, intangibles are either in a state of entropy or integrity. The greater the integrity, the more lateral coherence (silos demolished) and more value delivered to customers & stakeholders. Without this axis of purpose intangibles like brand, stakeholder relations, culture and innovation tend to work haphazardly taking away from trust, customer lifetime value and sustainable future cash flows.
3. ‘Singularity of Purpose (SOP)’ as Non-linearity of Long-term Value – When conventional business plans and valuation models are made there are no scenarios which visualize the impact of being Purpose free or being Purposeful in terms of delivering a Unified Business Architecture. When one passes SOP value drivers from 1,2 through a DCF model to see their effects on sustenance of cash flows, the mythical straight line projections vanish quickly. Instead they take us into a cognitive and behavioural time machine showing us the significant non-linear risks/upside associated with assumptions and the state of intangibles. In almost every piece of work we have undertaken, there was a stony silence in the boardroom for 15 minutes after these fat tail scenarios of risk/potential were revealed.
Unless we embrace the Singularity of Purpose model of management, the deeper nature of problems can never be faced up to. We will continue to chase symptomatic cures while the organisation lurches from under performance to a full blown crisis. Short-term pressures and quarterly numbers keep management attention overbalanced towards the immediate. Such a litmus test of Singularity of Purpose can reveal the real extent of Long-term value at stake.
Perhaps it can help us fight back against the growing strength of entropic forces, helping us stay small, beautiful and nimble on the inside even we grow in size and scale.
© M Unni Krishnan, 2015