Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Right Tension

A couple of issues ago (December 2006), the Harvard Business Review published a very interesting article (Managing the Right Tension) by Dominic Dodd and Ken Favaro, who argue that many of the trade-offs and decisions of usual managerial practice fail to take into account that a company does often need to balance opposed concepts. So it is not that much about making a trade-off between short-term and long-term as it is about finding the right tension between short-term and long-term perspectives by integrating those seemingly opposed imperatives by asking a "simple" question: "how do we achieve sustainable revenues and earnings?" Although the approach may seem simplistic and I bet some people will even go as far as to say that it encourages managers not to make hard decisions, I do believe there is considerable value in shifting the perspective of managers from an "either / or" mindset to one of integration that takes several dimensions into account in an attempt to find the right balance for a company. It's a much more holistic way of managing a business and I think it's really worth considering. In fact, the article of Dodd and Favaro gave me a couple of interesting inspirations for one of my customers who is facing explosive growth and is required to seriously manage growth and profitability, another of those strange pairs of business concepts.


  1. Hi Alex,
    I have not read the article but I am wondering how much of agile principles could be applied to business management?
    I reckon that it must be possible to pilot a company in an iterative and incremental way: while keeping focused on the long term goal that will be reached by increments, take day to day decisions to apply required heading corrections based on available & actual facts.
    Thanks for this thought inducing post!

  2. Hi David,
    Indeed, you are right and I believe agile principles provide good inspiration for managers who make a commitment to adaptive management (as opposed to over-planning).
    I guess there is a right tension between the implementation of building blocks required for the achievement of a long term vision and the responsiveness that is so vital in today's business environment. In that respect it's a bit like when you guys build an architecture with all of its components and do all the day-to-day iterations and corrections that are necessary to actually achieve the overarching goals of projects. In a way, there is a lot of science in creating something structured but the actual craft is in making all those crucial judgment calls on an continuous basis to bring something to life. And that's much more challenging than simply applying procedures as we both know. It's part of the art that is inherent in any craft in this world and I guess that's why people from very different horizons can reach a point through their field that is common to all fields and perhaps well beyond our human reality...
    Thanks for your thought inducing comment ;-)