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2016 April

Time Span Range in Requisite Organization Theory

“I just received the following note from one of our Inner Circle members.  Below the note is my response.”


Every once in a while I revisit Jacques conceptualization of the stratums of role and capability and I keep hiccupping on his idea of time-span ranges.  I recall we discussed this a while ago but it really didn’t resolve in my own mind anyway.  I’d appreciate thoughts from the RO experts on this list and others as you see fit.  I’d either like to put a firm nail in its coffin or get a sense for how I am not quite seeing the forest so to speak.

—-

Here is my perspective…time-span range is mostly bunk.   As best as I can tell it is a remnant of the strategic planning paradigm that remains in the core of many MBA programs.    There are a set of tasks that do stretch into mulit-year spans of time of course.   For example,  I can think of lots of big infrastructure projects with multi-year requirements like the modernization of the Panama Canal.

Other than a set of tasks that have a high degree of certainty and high degree of agreement, the vast majority of tasks on a CEO/leader’s plate land in the realm of high uncertainty and low agreement.  (see Ralph Stacey’s matrix below which I like a lot).  Or use the overused VUCA construct.

In these environments, I can’t think of a problem that is helped much by engaging it from a time span frame other than to construct wide ranging scenarios of potential futures.  Ratchet up or down 100s of assumptions and you can construct ANY future you want to imagine.   Or dozens or hundreds of varying futures.

So a CEO’s capability is about what?  That they projected accurately and engage in problems about infinite and unknown distant futures where the likelihood that their organization will be in existence is close to 0%.   What am I not seeing?

My sense… this is not how the most competent higher end stratum thinkers think, in my humble opinion of course.  Like a GE CEO thinking about 50 year problems?  Huh?  Can anyone give me a concrete example of one other than simple things like a timber resource company projecting supply 30-50 years from now based on current inventory.  That’s stratum 2 or 3 calculation.

Most organizations are being slammed this way and that in wickedly complex environments in real time.  It is a fairly common occurance to face issues in the environment that can put a company out of business on a fairly frequent basis, or require a radical reframing of the organization’s strategy.  (see the failure rate of organizations for data on this).

The notion of engaging problems with a longer time span frame violates the inherent dynamics of complex adaptive systems….that being no one can see around the next corner.  The work is to engage the present and understand what is possible now with the deepest sense of opportunity and context for the problems an organization, community, state, country, etc. is facing.    Sensing into what is actually possible and the capacity to align resources to that possibility is the true mark of higher end stratum work.  Ratchet up the complexity and you’ll need higher stratum of capability to actually hold enough context in real time to shape effective action now.

From wikipedia’s write up on VUCU:

“In general, the premises of VUCA tend to shape an organization’s capacity to:

  1. Anticipate the Issues that Shape Conditions
  2. Understand the Consequences of Issues and Actions
  3. Appreciate the Interdependence of Variables
  4. Prepare for Alternative Realities and Challenges
  5. Interpret and Address Relevant Opportunities”

I could see these aspects being part of a system to understand stratum of role or capability of a leader to hold/address these aspects of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.  How time span fits into this is tertiary at best.


“Mike’s response…”

For me, time span brings about two trains of thought not necessarily on the same tracks:

1) time span is very valuable to us as a linear concept because people do process their experience in terms of time–habitually–it seems.

This linear time is important in identifying routine and recurring tasks especially in the first four stratus where there seems to be a systematic world working.

[Although Common, et al, have made the old 11, the new 12, by adding a level of hierarchical complexity near the bottom of the scale.]

There is also another time span which confounds linear time which I’ll refer to as “nom-linear” and you describe that pretty well as not fitting per Se in the time span formula, at least one that’s not cloudy.;)

For me, like God, my thinking has been round the horn on time span, referring to the idea that conception to car took 5 years and now it takes 18 months in a worst case….

However, when I work with CEOs, I can, after some time, see their capability to deal with time span as the number of lower order actions that they can coordinate and its this idea that as “working time span” lengthens, the number of variables increases and the number of coordinating issues that have to emerge in order to improve risk avoidance…and yes the idea of wild cards are becoming much more prevalent to thwart anyone’s actions anywhere, but nonetheless, time span is still running there and you can see it running.

You can tell if a L4 is working beyond a budget/planning year and you can sure see the difference in what an L4 is organizing and coordinating different from an L5 or an L3…who often grows uncomfortable when no budget planning cycle is in place to guide them.

In your case Jim, you see the world through your time span and thus you realize that any stakes in the ground are merely arbitrary snapshots of fleeting reality and thus the ire of time span irking you, but in the bounded reality of work, which there can’t be any other, we assume this arbitrary reality and superimpose working time span to help us identify order of sort.

Over here, in never, never land, you see the lack of time span coupled with the confounding nature of low complexity: high complexity as a crapshoot on any given day of disorder and yet floating over that disorder is an order and it’s clearly time-related.

It’s almost as if, you are not allowed any more time to manage than the variables which are bounded by that time span can hold, or hold you.

It’s as if…time span chooses you because you can’t handle anymore variables than what are present in that boundary or span.

Over and over, the recurring nightmare of…if they would just consider tomorrow, but they can’t because if they did, their current capability couldn’t organize and coordinate anymore variables and that is our story lived daily.

So STRUCTURE of time, or time span is in fact a central organizing principle which can be used to structure strategy to get work done.

Now if you go back to Senge, et al, and THE DANCE OF CHANGE, you realize their research showed that fully 80% of all change efforts FAILED to achieve their intended goals, and the remaining 20% that did, had no valid explanation!

So, if we put together the concept of time span and the ability to achieve success…that seems another matter, almost luck is a better chance or monkeys throwing darts!

Yet, since everything seems to be in flux anyway with reasoning rationalized after the fact, I’ll include time span in my toolkit along with vertical, oblique and lateral capability as a way to dimensionalize my thinking about KSEs;)

mike

 

28 replies on “Time Span Range in Requisite Organization Theory”

This is an interesting thread. In the context of this group, I am no expert, so that’s not the intent of my contribution. I too struggle with seeing timespan as clearly as some must see it. I tend to rely on other indicators of level of role requirements more heavily than timespan.

I do want to share a story to illustrate one time that the intended timespan of my role came into sharp relief. J spent several years establishing people systems and processes that were lean, focused, and agile under the load of growth and rapid strategic pivots. Then my role was moved under a stratum IV COO. He kept wanting me to change processes to “best practices” that optimize the business’ ability to achieve 1 year goals. I was pretty upset because doing that would sacrifice longer term good for the illusion of shorter term alignment. It became apparent that my role, according to my new boss, had a timespan no longer than a 12-18 month timespan.

My experience is that looking at timespan in terms of how long a task takes is confusing and deceptive. I don’t remember the exact phrasing, but I remember hearing an alternative way of thinking about it that makes a lot more sense to me. The timespan of a role has to do with the responsibility of a time-bounded outcome. Individual tasks can be short in duration but have purposely long-range impacts. One could argue that responsibility in itself is a task with a timespan(establish necessary people practices that scaffold a healthy business performance ecosystem for the go-go and adolescent stages).

Just a few thoughts.

Alicia

Your example makes a great case for the reasons why time span has to remain important in organizational work.

mike

Thanks for your thoughts on this Mike and Alicia!

Just for clarification, I don’t have any issue that there are some problems that require multi-year (e.g. 2 – 10 years) thinking and approaches. And that choreographing and weaving together these multi-year strategies is a good indication of higher stratum capability. Alicia’s example is a good look at this dynamic and when it gets out of kilter. So stratums 1 – 4 make some sense as part of assessing capability and role.

My comment is more about two things, the longer timespans (10, 20, 50 years) and the nature of complex problems.

There are, of course, plenty of business decisions/problems where you make a bet on the future that far in advance. For example, deciding if you are going to build a coal plant would require you to make a bet on where energy will be 5/10/20/30 years from now. And in theory you are working on building the portfolio of assets for your energy company of 30 years from now.

Or if you are in a retail franchise business and build stores you need to amortize those investments over very long horizons to make them profitable.

Or there are problems that do require decades to actually solve / resolve. E.g. drug development is a 7 – 15 year process, etc or building out the deep tunnel project in Chicago took over 4 decades to complete.

But other than orchestrating organizational capacity toward tasks that require many years of dedicated resources, timespan does not inherently make these tasks more complex. You do as a decision maker need to make assumptions about the future far off (which you are likely no better able to predict how dozen key variables effecting your problem will break than flipping a coin for each), and you will be long gone before those decisions come home to roost.

Can anyone give me a 50 year problem that is amenable to actually approaching it NOW as a 50 year problem other than the resource / amortization problems I mentioned above?

My much bigger issue with timespan is the nature of the problems most organizational leaders are actually faced with. Timespan does not reflect an understanding of the inherent nature of working on problems in complex adaptive space, which is where almost all complex problems land. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be complex. Complicated is building the Hoover Dam, it is mind bogglingly complicated. But it is amenable to being cracked cleanly with good engineering and project/construction management. It is not complex.

Complex problems are generally not amenable to forecasting because the variables are vast, the agents are in the thousands/millions/trillions etc. The best way to engage them is with safe to fail experiments, protoyping, etc. AND the problem morphs continuously, relentlessly. A simple example, I can’t tell you how often I’ve run across orgs that have developed a three year strategic plan and 6 months in it is utterly irrelevant because of changed conditions yet they plow forward in executing it. Problems/opportunities are anything but static.

So timespan to me feels like an attempt to “pin the tail on the donkey” for what higher stratums are suppose to be capable of doing. It is a throw away. Like “oh, yes, that’s how a CEO of a global company thinks – they sit in their office and think about problems in such profoundly deeper ways, like 50 years from now, and are shaping our 3 year plan to be relevant to the that 50 year problem framing.” It’s hallow. Complex problems are not amenable to this framing.

Just think global climate change. One of dozens of battles is in whether the current data is real and what models you use to extrapolate into the future. The entire domain of the issue is a fantastically complex adaptive space. Potentially millions/billions of possible actions/agents. Countless ways to engage the problem…e.g. build a business that aligns to the policy direction, or solves a sub-problem, or exploits an opportunity, or gets a policy initiative passed a legislative body, or work to shift your family’s resource pattern, and on and on.

I recall Winston Churchill being ranked at stratum 8 or 9? I guarantee his strategic capacity was not engaged a moment in thinking even beyond the day/week/month/year during the war.

BTW – There are countless complex problems that we all are embedded in…just try losing weight and keeping it off as a good example of engaging a complex adaptive system. Most problems we all individually face are complex adaptive problems. So it’s not like they are anything special or rare.

If I had my mark on the most salient capability of the higher stratums is greater and greater capacity to hold more and more perspective in real time and over time (moment to moment) and effectively create/orchestrate better strategic action because of it. Higher stratums can see into the emergent future better because they can create meaning from significantly more variables, data, perspectives, energy patterns. Etc.

Can anyone give me a 50 year problem that is amenable to actually approaching it NOW as a 50 year problem other than the resource / amortization problems I mentioned above?

Infrastructure
Energy
Climate
Demographics
Mega city planning
Water
Defense
Resources
Space exploration
Food planning is already out 50
Epidemics

GE is the only 100 yr old company

I’m working with a financial institution getting close to looking at 5 decades, now out past 20 because of branch development, national expansion, new headquarters serving that infrastructure…

We are out to 30 yrs with succession planning and considering how an 80 year old (Buffett) could still be CEO

ACTUARIAL planning, retirement and bonds are all part of the issues extending past 30

Every year you go out, the bigger the bets get because even planning a tropical retreat you have to understand how 50 years from now the trees will look good…

We are building a sea wall to protect an investment that may not be needed (ever) but we have a lot of rock to move, but yes I agree with you on most and have most of ur arguments but I’ve also retrenched around time span also as I realize that variables make things knarly…and wicked…

But think of world 2.0 (club of Rome) and also tax models and government financing which I started exploring in one of my thesis issues in grad school and Witt the exception of the REAL REASON interest rates are kept low, as MOST OF OUR ~20 trillion in debt will
Show…

However it’s not high stratum working in CBO;)

I’m familiar with MVC and I find it interesting that he’s using Jaques symbols, except the final symbol and NOT BEING A MATH GUY, I wonder about the complexity of the last symbol which to “me” shows a lateral complexity rather than vertical because it’s merely a cube drawn around a triangal, which is not as complex (I think) as what’s Jaques used?

Jaques symbols which he and a math guy did (mostly the math guy I think) this

image1.GIF

I think coordinating a cube and a triangle are at a lower level that even a tetrahedron although at face it appears complex, I don’t believe it is;)

Here’s the point:

Most people are fascinated by complexity above level 4, however a tiny portion of the population will function there…or WANT TO!

This is my argument for fractionalization and why it is the “disintegrating” elements which are the ones where conflict with flow…

In other words, it not the naturally occurring complexity that integrates all but the elements that serve to disrupt and disintegrate these naturally occurring processes that are key to grok.

The nature of complexity is integration and coordination–the capability to organize–lower order (less complex subtasks).

Yet it is not this integrative capability but the disintegrative capability that is disruptive and harmful to the nature of things.

mike

But one thing:

Who ever indicated that time span was the best explainer of executive capability?

Did I miss something?

mike

Sorry to have a conversation with myself, but I’ve been one of the few who actually has primary research in multiple cultures on the subject of capability and even Jaques model doesn’t use time span, so I’m not sure how we got here?

I do use a dimensional model of Dev-Space-Time, but I think I’m the only one, barring an extension of Graves which could be but was not extended in SGD.

I’ve posted a drawing graves made before, can’t find it at the moment except in my mind, hehe.

Mike

Jim –

I can tell you how I find time span useful.

But it’s important to be clear about what time span is, what it is the claims are being made about. Time span is the longest period the manager intends to allow the subordinate in a role to work to their own judgment that they are working fully to the manager’s standard. As I understand things, any other definition is derivative of this. But that’s just my take on it.

Time span of a role exists in the intentions of the manager of the person in the role, so w interview the manager, not the incumbent, to get the time span of a role. This typically manifests in one of three ways:

· Individual tasks. You, my manager, assign me the task of conducting a study on some topic and writing a report on it for some audience. You’ll likely coach me along the way, so you’ll know if I’m seriously off course. If I’m not taking the approach you want or if it’s getting late for me to start the research on chapter 4. But it’s not until I put the report on your desk that you can determine whether it has enough detail on this topic or is convincing enough about that point.

· Rolling targets. These are typically thought of as “always working on” tasks. The manager should always be working on their team’s capability. Or the Head of Technology should always be working on improving our technology. But managers always have an answer when I ask, “This managerial role we are discussing, should the manager be working towards where the team’s capabilities will be in a week? A month? A year? 5 year? Generally, the more complex the task of bringing the team towards a desired future state, the earlier the manager has to start working on it. And it’s only when that future time has arrived that the manager’s manager can tell whether the team has the capabilities the manager’s manager wanted. Again, it’s a rolling target, so the manager is always working towards a future state of the team’s capability.

· Monitoring time. This is not what would typically be thought of as a task and it gives the most insight regarding the science underlying the engineering. There are roles where the manager collects performance data (formally or informally) and reviews them (formally or informally) to assess whether the employee was working fully to standard. Typically, this is for Stratum-I roles. The bank branch manager keeps an eye on customers’ faces, on how quickly the lines are moving, and will know, typically within three days, whether the teller is moving things too quickly (not providing the desired friendly service) or not quickly enough (too friendly, getting intrusive). The task isn’t “take this deposit” or “cash this cheque” but “Do the work of a teller and I’ll monitor you closely enough to know within 3 days if you’re fully meeting my standard”. This shows up in some higher roles. At one point (I don’t know how old this is or if it’s still true) the control tower manager examined the control tower operator’s work over the previous 6 months to determine whether there was too cautious a tendency (resulting in planes’ landing late) or too rushed a tendency (causing too many too-close calls).

So time span is the longest period the manager intends to allow the subordinate to work to their own judgment that they are working fully to the manager’s standard. Implications for comments posted in this chain:

· Alicia says “My experience is that looking at timespan in terms of how long a task takes is confusing and deceptive”. You, Jim, say “, timespan does not inherently make these tasks more complex.” Time span is a property of a role, not of a task. The context is a managerial hierarchy and the subject is the role, not a task per se. And it is not about how long a task takes but about how long the manager intends the longest task in a role to take.

· Mike says “ACTUARIAL planning, retirement and bonds are all part of the issues extending past 30”. The time span issue is not about planning but accomplishing. If the task is to plan issues extending over 30 years, the relevant question is, “How long is the person given to come up with the plan”. So 30 years only comes into it if the employee is accountable for working today so that these issues are all in order on 30 years.

· Jim, you say “I can’t think of a problem that is helped much by engaging it from a time span frame”. The only problem time span is intended to solve is structural – where does this role fit in the organization. And staffing – what CIP (capability for information processing) does this role require in an incumbent?

· You say “I recall Winston Churchill being ranked at stratum 8 or 9? I guarantee his strategic capacity was not engaged a moment in thinking even beyond the day/week/month/year during the war” I expect he was working on the post-war world, but that it was a tiny part of his concern. And the issue is not the typical task but the length of the very longest. But that’s in a role in a managerial hierarchy. Churchill had no manager holding him to account.

· You refer to “ a GE CEO thinking about 50 year problems”. Time span is not about how far ahead you need the employee to think but how far ahead you need them to work, how long a task they can accomplish.

· You say “The notion of engaging problems with a longer time span frame violates the inherent dynamics of complex adaptive systems….that being no one can see around the next corner”. There is no assumption or implication that the world stays static, that the desired outcome will stay the same, even that the project won’t be cancelled. There is an assumption that there are conditions or states of affairs that we may well need to get prepared for and which, if we don’t start working on them now, we will not be prepared for when we need to be prepared for them. And by and large, the further into the future that is, the less specific detail there can be about the desired outcome.

· In a time-span interview (always conducted with the manager of the person in the role in question), if a manager gives as the longest task in a subordinate’s role that they have to “project supply 30-50 years from now based on current inventory in a timber resource company,” I would ask how long that employee has to ake the projection. Time here relates to how long the person is given to do the work, not how long the impact of the work is intended to be. The guy who laid the first stone in the first pyramid – I don’t know how much time he was given to get that first block in place, it wasn’t 4500 years.

· In a time span interview, if the manager says the subordinate’s longest task is to double their business in 4 years, I have to probe whether it is a 4-year task of revamping manufacturing, getting their marketing to where they need to be in social media, bringing their product lines up to date, etc. etc., all of which will take 4 years to come together to double the business or a matter of increasing their business by 19% each year, a sequence of 4 1-year tasks.

So what is the organizational value of time span:

· It measures the complexity of work in a role. I believe there is an intuitive sense that the higher up in the organization one works, one would generally be working on longer tasks. What is not intuitive is that this one datum is all you need to know. But I consistently find if a manager gives 3 years as the time span, they will say that systems (parallel) processing is required in the work. If the longest task is 18 months, the manager will say serial processing will suffice. Etc. (These are from my descriptions of the information processes. The managers are typically unfamiliar with the terms.)

· Ron Capelle has significant studies showing improved financial performance and customer and employee satisfaction when manager’s roles are place one stratum above subordinates’ roles – the stratum being determined by time span. And he shows numbers improving when roes are appropriately aligned via time span.

· There are at least three studies showing that what an employee considers fair total compensation for their work correlates tightly with the time span of their role as a measure of complexity of the work required. (These were all done in Western economies. I would expect there are cultural issues at play here.)

· The time span interview itself is of value. It’s as much an intervention as a measurement as it requires the manager to think about things they’ve not thought about before. In most cases, the manager thanks me at the end of the interview for what they learned in it and what it made them aware of.

· Human Capability shows a tight relationship between the highest information process an employee demonstrates and the stratum of the role, as measured by time span, that the employee is judged by their manager to be capable of working in.

So whether or not it makes sense to you, it does seem to have practical value.

I do have my own concerns about it.

· I worry that I might probe and interpret in a way that rescues my paradigm. If I know or strongly suspect that the manager I’m interviewing is capable at Stratum IV and their description of the work of a role they manage makes it look like serial processing is required and the longest task they mention is 9 months, I do push harder to find a task in the 12- to 24-month range of Stratum-III time spans.

· I worry about the validity of time spans coming from interviews with incompetent managers – not just that the longest task they give for a subordinate role is inappropriate for that role or that the length of time they give for that task is unreasonable for that task but that they really haven’t the capability themselves to manage the subordinate to the time span they declare.

· As with all statistics regarding strata V or VI and above, I am cautious because there just is not the quantity of data given the relative rareness of people at that level. (Jaques’s estimate was 1% of the adult population at Str V and higher.)

· As well, task assignment at higher levels tends to be less formal. I am aware of longer tasks.

o A client of a colleague had the task of opening the Indian business of the insurance company he worked for so that it would be profitable in 12 years. He clearly understood this not as “first I’ll get it going, then I’ll see about sustainability” but as working on day 1 towards profitability in 12 years.

o I have interviewed someone who had worked for a large multinational who was accountable for positioning the company for where it wanted to be in a developing continent in 50 years.

o 15-20 years ago, Elliott mentioned a colleague of his that the Australian government wanted to hire to prepare the country to get its energy from brown coal which the country has vast reserves of. The project would entail building mines, building entire cities with complete infrastructure and transportation to the rest of the company, developing the technology so that the use of the coal and the mining itself had acceptable levels of environmental impact.

But I am wary of the longer time spans. A client, likely at Str VI, of Brian’s said that he engaged in his longer tasks not because he was assigned them or was assessed for or managed to them but because he felt responsible for them. In the RO crowd we’ll often refer to a company as being at Str VII or VIII not because we know specific time spans of senior roles but because of our judgment of the complexity of work at the top. And once you get into Stratum IV, there is a good chance that before you can complete your longest task either you will have moved out of your role or that your manager might move on. (These should not be problems. The task is assigned to the role, not to the incumbent. But not every manager thinks things through this way.) So I do see real 10+-year tasks which, in a managerial hierarchy, would translate to 10+-year time spans. But I’m not aware that we have sufficient experience and data to claim anything beyond 5 or 10 years as a reasonable extrapolation from the Strata I-IV data and experience we do have. If you want, Jim, I can ask colleagues who have done more of this work at higher strata for their experience.

· Elliott used the continuous rise in temperature, discontinuous change of state of ice-liquid water-steam analogy to explain the relation of continuous increase in time span to discontinuous stratum. I asked him if there was another variable at play with time span as the melting and boiling of water depends not only on temperature but also on pressure. He said the other variable in stratification is pressure. He mentioned war in particular, where a Stratum-II captain might have no task longer than to take a position in a week. I never saw a method to measure this kind of pressure nor even in what units to quantify it. (Perhaps “maximum duration to be allotted to this task ideally/time allotted it now” as a measure of compression.) I expect there are roles (McKinsey consultants?) that have short, complex tasks but no long tasks Does that burn people out? I expect it burns some people out and that others thrive on it. We could also observe that in some up-or-out consulting groups people are given 3 – 4 years to demonstrate their potential as partners. Or am I saving my paradigm there?

· I don’t know if there is any empirical evidence at all for time span ranges for Strata VIII on up. I expect it’s just projection from lower strata. This issue does arise in measurement. Sticks of a standard length could be laid end to end to measure the length of a log and fractions of a stick could be used for smaller measurements. But that won’t work to measure the distance to the next lake or smaller than a pebble. Lengths that are many multiples or small fractions of the standard stick require other measuring methods. New methods need to be devised to measure the same property as the property gets too small or too large. Perhaps there is something like that in time span.

Herb

Time horizon (the longest time span a given person can work to) seems to be tied closely to CIP (capability for information processing) an aspect of executive capability that tends to be ignored outside of RO. It’s amazing how much management literature you can read without this factor entering (nothing in Good to Great, for example) and how many puzzling problems are written about that aren’t puzzling if you add that factor.

As far as I know, Elliott brought that factor in and, as far as I know, always put it with skills& knowledge and values.

In the context of puzzles previously examined without attention to time horizon, time horizon typically is the best explainer. And then, as people often do, we ignore context. It explains so much when you first learn about it that it seems to be the heart of the total explanation. Seems to be.

I’ve worked in RO for 25, years always teaching that CIP is a necessary but not sufficient aspect of capability, and still catch myself thinking about situations as though CIP were the key to capability.

Herb

Did u rename CIP?

I can see that I need to define my idea of time span, because when I see, hear and feel it in clients and others it’s NOT the amount of time that elapses before as subordinate intervention…

It has to be centered in the working span of time shown in the behavior of a person.

People work in a time frame comfortable to them which to me is siamezed with hierarchical complexity in that time is relevant to the number of variables one can coordinate, organize and integrate.

But I want to think about it some more…

Just want to comment on how amazing this thread is. I pulled the notes from Jim, Herb, and Mike into a document and added it to my time-span assessment guidelines folder.

Alicia

Did u rename CIP?

It’s often referred to as “complexity of information processing” but that’s not descriptive. “Complex” means

· composed of many interconnected parts; compound; composite:

· characterized by a very complicated or involved arrangement of parts,units, etc.

· so complicated or intricate as to be hard to understand or deal with

Its etymology is “braided”. CIP relates to how complex a problem one can solve, not how complex ones information processing is. One could make an argeument that more powerful processing has more interconnections. But adding interconnections doesn’t necessarily make processing more powerful. That’s why I see the “C” in “CIP” as “capability”

I can see that I need to define my idea of time span, because when I see, hear and feel it in clients and others it’s NOT the amount of time that elapses before as subordinate intervention…

In my experience, managers don’t think about this stuff consciously unless they’ve had some RO training (and even then …). But when you hire a new receptionist, you keep a close eye on things and maybe even ask colleagues about their experience with him until you see how well they’re handling the work. And you might check all the work of a new hire before it goes out the door and then check less and less stuff until it feels like you’re giving the right amount of attention to it.

It has to be centered in the working span of time shown in the behavior of a person.

You’re referring here to the time horizon of the person – the longest time span the person could work towards (if that had the needed skills & knowledge and valued the work in the role) rather than the time span of the role. And so by definition, the longer a person’s time horizon, the greater the time span of a role they can succeed in. And a good manager is always watching how well subordinate’s work. Not just did they get the job done but how well did they work so that the job does get done.

People work in a time frame comfortable to them which to me is siamezed with hierarchical complexity in that time is relevant to the number of variables one can coordinate, organize and integrate.

and the complexity of the coordination and integration of those variables one is able to construct

So you did rename it?

I thought CIP was an assessed measure of how one processed information using Jaques model of CIP: declarative, cumulative, serial and parallel x order?

The problem with allowing the manager to judge time span is individual bias which is particularly noted through the iWAM/NLP pattern of “Tolerance”…”how long a person naturally allows things to go on before they intervene.”

I have seen many managers unaware of their own bias who both intervened too early and not soon enough, as a bias.

Relevant Time refers to the time required to organize, select and coordinate complex variables but as I’ve noted before, this is where time span has limitations because the same amount of time can elapse while a teller processes a transaction as it does for a manager to create a new marketing campaign, each doing work taking the same time but the teller selects, organizes, and coordinates (SOCs) lower order actions in a formal or 2nd order way and the director of marketing selects, SOCs lower order actions in a systematic or 3rd order manner, both took the same amount of “time” to perform their functions.

I realize this is oversimplified but this gets to point.

We rent the teller for 2x and we rent the marketing person for 8x because of their “capability?”

Yes the time it takes to process a teller transaction is shorter than the time it takes to create, design, test, and execute the entire marketing program but that is usually shared by a number of people across the task completion.

The essential point about time span remains…are we paying/renting the capability or the span of the role?

I realized I am a little off track but some will confuse the level of the role and its dimensions with the level of the person and their capability.

Just thinking out loud

Mike

So you did rename it?I just looked for “CIP” in the Jaques books I have but couldn’t find it. Maybe I missed it. I may have missed it or it may be someone else’s term.

I thought CIP was an assessed measure of how one processed information using Jaques model of CIP: declarative, cumulative, serial and parallel x order?

That’s the property I’ve been writing about here. But understood as a property of a person whether or not it’s been assessed.

The problem with allowing the manager to judge time span is individual bias which is particularly noted through the iWAM/NLP pattern of “Tolerance”…”how long a person naturally allows things to go on before they intervene.”

I have seen many managers unaware of their own bias who both intervened too early and not soon enough, as a bias. And that’s just the beginning of ways a manager could come up with inappropriate time spans.

Relevant Time refers to the time required to organize, select and coordinate complex variables but as I’ve noted before, this is where time span has limitations because the same amount of time can elapse while a teller processes a transaction as it does for a manager to create a new marketing campaign, each doing work taking the same time but the teller selects, organizes, and coordinates (SOCs) lower order actions in a formal or 2nd order way and the director of marketing selects, SOCs lower order actions in a systematic or 3rd order manner, both took the same amount of “time” to perform their functions. What’s problematic about that?

I realize this is oversimplified but this gets to point.

We rent the teller for 2x and we rent the marketing person for 8x because of their “capability?”

Yes the time it takes to process a teller transaction is shorter than the time it takes to create, design, test, and execute the entire marketing program but that is usually shared by a number of people across the task completion. What’s problematic about that?

The essential point about time span remains…are we paying/renting the capability or the span of the role? Ideally, that’s the same. If there’s a difference, I could see it go either way.

I realized I am a little off track but some will confuse the level of the role and its dimensions with the level of the person and their capability. It happens all the time.

Herb

Just thinking out loud

Mike

I saw it mentioned as CMP and Peoplefit maybe CIP, but never as capability because you take a “property” of someone’s languaging and extend their from an observed property to Capability and therein lies the rub.

This guy mentions it also at around 30 min in as capability also
https://vimeo.com/76660223

and I think one has to be VERY careful and wise about extending a property to capability as I’ve argued since 2000 when I had personal experience with observing assessed properties and “pretending” capability.

Mike –

This has the feel of one of those issues (like KS”E”s) where our ships pass in the night. I’ll take one crack at it.

RO posits the ability to process information as a property of a person. It is one sense of how big a person is – how tall, how heavy, how able y to process information.

That ability sits in a more general capability model that includes values and skills & knowledge.

Consistent with Elliott’s notion that science starts with the senses, we do have a sense of how big a person is, and that sense is at the core of the first method used for assessing that ability in employees. Stratify the roles in the organization so managers know what roles are at low Str III, mid III, high III etc. Ask an employee’s manager, their manager’s manager and the other subordinates of the manager’s manager at what level they judge the employee to be capable of working – if the person had the needed skills and valued the work in the role. In those first discussions managers are sometimes surprised to find they do have a sense of that ability in someone they have worked with. But there is rarely any challenge to come to close agreement about how big the employee is in this dimension.

So, if a person has an ability to solve problems at a higher or lower level, how would we assess that, e.g. with new candidates, when no one in the company has worked with the person? That’s where the “listening at right angles method” comes in. It correlates tightly with managers’ judgments and so is useful as a method to measure capability to process information.

The mercury thermometer did not examine, calculate and report on molecular activity. It just had a column of mercury whose length could pretty well predict when you’d want to put a sweater on and when you’d want to turn on the AC. That’s often the nature of measurement.

Jaques’s method and Glenn’s version of it do not go inside a person and observe the processing of information. But it does a good job of predicting whether someone has the information capability to succeed in a role at a given level. CIP is the capability. That methodology measures it.

Herb

“-at some point he will tire of repeating himself and just laugh and go fishing I suspect”

I think not. (said Descartes who then disappeared). People assimilate to their own paradigms. There’s likely a more productive response to “misperception” (someone making a different sense of what I say than I intended them to, like he elders in Shakespeare in the Bush) than repetition but I haven’t found it.

This group broadens my perspective. I get frustrated, but I know there’s something for me to learn from the standpoint Jim’s coming from. And that there are things I’ll need to let go of to fully get Jim’s point. That’s one of the things I value about this group. A relatively high density of perspectives just beyond my reach but close enough to smell. Perspectives that I can only make use of if I loosen up some of my reflexes.

Herb

If I were assessing these paragraphs of Herb’s, and I’m not, I saw indicators with density and frequency that herb is poised for a shift…and the interesting thing (to me) is that as more complex shifts are made, the amount of density and frequency shifts from “fake it ’til you make it” to laying a foundation for a complex change which then continues to cue, support and scaffold the change when it occurs.

In weightlifting which I have very little experience with, but because it is one of herb’s favorite contextual props–that, and rocks–your can’t just throw a discontinuous amount of weight onto the bar without expecting a lot of injury in the process, so it seems you have to “stage” the performance–get your friends around you–and prep for that moment when you let go of the notions that will hold you back.

Along with some failures in the process which humble you and give you resolve metaphorically, you bounce yourself against your beliefs until they will hold you under duress.

My sense is that when more complex shifts are emerging, the self-examination process allowed by ego flexibility, allows us to try on things that sit opposite our beliefs, without resorting us to HAL-2000 baritones.

Yet I suspect we make these changes once the existential fear subsides and a calmness/acceptance that I felt in Herb’s tone conjoins with the tipping point in perspective.

“I think Herb’s definition of time span with manager discretion is too tight for time span, but no one (unless I missed it) raised the issue that Jaques hierarchical work is limited–on purpose–to work, not politics, humanity per Se, but germane to managerial hierarchies. If we took time span out of MH then we need to loosen up the definition some for non MH”

I agree.

One more idea…

What I believe;) is in example here is individuation:

“…Perspectives that I can only make use of if I loosen up some of my reflexes.”

Those reflexes being the scripted nature of the LT’s contracting mode shortening the period of time spent in allowing the experience of multiple perspectives to emerge in the subjective nature of that which is unindividuated (the dominant general which is subjective in the introvert but is expanding inwardly and maybe unindividuated outwardly because of an efficient, blocking LT.

Yes, thanks for these great clarifications / perspectives. Mike and Alicia too!

Maybe we will need to adjourn the conversation unresolved. I continue to see nothing in timespan that inherently adds to complexity (at least in the longer timespans).

I’d actually make the case that compression of time spans is what is creating far more complexity.

E.g. Design/build/put into full production a new model of a car in 18 months vs 5 years. A dramatic leap in complexity. Or drop 6 months off a 24 month construction project and you have easily doubled the complexity. The requirement to hold/manage/coordinate variables simultaneously vs. sequentially is much of what creates the complexity. Also, the pace and volume of decision making increases dramatically, while capacity to fully explore options reduces dramatically at the same time. Less and less room for error.

I still have no greater clarity on what a 50 year task is, unless we are talking about, for example, classic multi-decade infrastructure projects. But even these kinds of projects have many go/no go points along the way. No one is working or expected to be working 4 decades out other than to effectively engineer the project for later stages. But there are VERY FEW problems like this, relative to the global set of problems most executives/leaders face. Designing such a project is a straightforward task compared to orchestrating the initial political support and funding for such a project. 10x more complex to do this part of a project (say 3-5 years) than actual construction of a 40 year build.

Herb, you state: “Time span is not about how far ahead you need the employee to think but how far ahead you need them to work, how long a task they can accomplish.” Do you have tangible example of such a task and what it looks like to “accomplish” it? (Mike, your list to me are not actual problems but areas of concern, interest). Can you also help me understand what you mean by “how far ahead they need to work?”

I’d conjecture that any stratum 5 plus (maybe 6 plus) problem is something that no one can “accomplish.” These problems are generally embedded in society, community, multi-organizational, multi-departmental, etc. For me, it fundamentally misdiagnoses the underlying structure of complex problems to think this way. If it is a problem you can “accomplish” I’d say it is a stratum 4 and below problem (give or take a stratum). To make it a problem you can accomplish, you need to have the problem defined so that you know if you have accomplished it. Because the more complex the problem the more it mutates, any notion that you can go into a problem space and stick with your initial sense of problem definition and defined outcomes simply does not hold to what occurs. (my experience anyway).

Complexity is also being held/handled by systems more than humans at this point as well. The old adage: “give me a good mechanism over 100 plans any day” often applies. No one is smart enough to hold the complexity inherent in these problem spaces other than being more capable of engaging and absorbing how other blind men experience their part of the elephant. Creating “hive minds” is almost always necessary.

Yes, thanks for these great clarifications / perspectives. Mike and Alicia too!

Maybe we will need to adjourn the conversation unresolved. I continue to see nothing in timespan that inherently adds to complexity (at least in the longer timespans).

I’d actually make the case that compression of time spans is what is creating far more complexity. What roles are having their time spans shortened?

E.g. Design/build/put into full production a new model of a car in 18 months vs 5 years. A dramatic leap in complexity. Or drop 6 months off a 24 month construction project and you have easily doubled the complexity. The requirement to hold/manage/coordinate variables simultaneously vs. sequentially is much of what creates the complexity. Also, the pace and volume of decision making increases dramatically, while capacity to fully explore options reduces dramatically at the same time. Less and less room for error. Usually/often expecting someone to produce the same output with the same resources but in less time does make the task more complex. This is only relevant to time span if the longest task in the role is a compressed task. I don’t have data that show this to be happening on any scale. Do you? And if the longest task in a role is a compressed task, then we would have to figure in compression as well as time span to determine the complexity of work in that role. I’m not aware that anyone knows how to do that.

I still have no greater clarity on what a 50 year task is, unless we are talking about, for example, classic multi-decade infrastructure projects. But even these kinds of projects have many go/no go points along the way. And that has no impact on the task per se. It takes as much capability to do the first five years’ work adequately on a 50-year task that ends at 5 years as one that goes on to completion. No one is working or expected to be working 4 decades out other than to effectively engineer the project for later stages and that’s true of the lathe operator setting the cutting bits so that the result of lathing will meet specs . But there are VERY FEW problems like this, relative to the global set of problems most executives/leaders face. Time span is about the longest task, not the typical task. While building our talent pool to where it will need to be in 15 years I still have to make sure we’re ready for when Sandy retires in one year. Designing such a project is anyone given 50 years to design a project? is a straightforward task compared to orchestrating the initial political support and funding for such a project. 10x more complex to do this part of a project (say 3-5 years) than actual construction of a 40 year build. The build is likely a series of stages, each its own task, later stages not started until earlier ones are completed. I’m not clear that this would come out as a 40-year task in a time span interview

Herb, you state: “Time span is not about how far ahead you need the employee to think but how far ahead you need them to work, how long a task they can accomplish.” Do you have tangible example of such a task and what it looks like to “accomplish” it? (Mike, your list to me are not actual problems but areas of concern, interest). Can you also help me understand what you mean by “how far ahead they need to work?” If I’m given “She has to develop a 5-year plan” as her longest task, I want to know how long she’s given to develop the plan. Developing the plan requires her to think 5 years ahead. “Reach that 5-year target in 5 years” is a requirement to work to develop a condition 5 years out

I’d conjecture that any stratum 5 plus (maybe 6 plus) problem is something that no one can “accomplish.” And what would the lathe operator accomplish if they didn’t have tools and materials and power and a work space and, and and?These problems are generally embedded in society, community, multi-organizational, multi-departmental, etc. For me, it fundamentally misdiagnoses the underlying structure of complex problems to think this way. If it is a problem you can “accomplish” I’d say it is a stratum 4 and below problem (give or take a stratum). To make it a problem you can accomplish, you need to have the problem defined so that you know if you have accomplished it. Because the more complex the problem the more it mutates, any notion that you can go into a problem space and stick with your initial sense of problem definition as I said in my earlier post, the problem definition will change. But if you want to get in 50 years to where you now believe you want to get to in 50 years, you’d better start now and be prepared to course correct. and defined outcomes simply does not hold to what occurs. (my experience anyway). Why is this not just a matter of degrees? And how is it that a major multinational is working today so that it will be in the position it wants to be in in 50 years in a particular developing continent

Complexity is also being held/handled by systems more than humans at this point as well. The old adage: “give me a good mechanism over 100 plans any day” often applies. No one is smart enough to hold the complexity inherent in these problem spaces other than being more capable of engaging and absorbing how other blind men experience their part of the elephant. Creating “hive minds” is almost always necessary. And therefore what?

Herb

Well, maybe we should agree that I just don’t get it then. 🙂

—–

For what it’s worth, my sense is cohesive strategy does not flow from the future toward the present and that a vision (or problem/task definition) of a distant future (e.g. 50 years off) does little to guide / direct strategy & action today. It is generally a disaster in the making, or a wicked waste of resources. And fundamentally misplaces the focus of attention. Working on a task as if it were a 50 year task is general folly to me. A thought experiment at best or a vague aspirational energy (e.g where our multinational corporation should be on xyz continent in 50 years). But again that likely stems from a different understanding of how good strategy and action flows most effectively. Inherent in the notion of timespans is the idea that you need to define a task in a terms of where you want to be. That is the paradigmatic mistake that is embedded in current strategy frameworks. But I seem to not be getting this point across.

You can work on behalf of a distant future now but that is a different can of worms. (e.g. city planners and politicians that preserved the lake front from development in cities like Chicago over 100 years ago)

I’d even argue the more complex (vs. complicated) the task the tighter the timespan. The notion that time span means: “the longest period the manager intends to allow the subordinate to work to their own judgment that they are working fully to the manager’s standard” makes no sense. This would imply that a CEO of a large multinational corporation gives his/her subordinates 50 years before they provide their own input to their subordinate? Perhaps I’m missing something??? My experience the greater the complexity / time spans the more check in is required at all levels of the organization, above AND below the manager tasked with the problem, including the board of directors. Certainly no more than 3 – 6 months at maximum before the ratifying managers are brought into the loop. The danger always is getting too far ahead of more senior managers. The notion that stratum 5 plus problems can be isolated into a role is another oddity of RO. It all feels damn “engineer-y.”

Again, I have no issue with tighter timespans which are necessary to engage complex problems/tasks (1, 3, 5, 10 years). I am looking for examples in the 20 -50 year range, vs. 5 year range. That was my fundamental issue with the concept of timespans. Ran across Elliot’s examples as building the pyramids (10-20 years) and one of the great cathedrals of Europe (182 years). To your point these were a series of tasks vs one task. And a smaller pyramid (e.g. one taking 5 years to build) is not inherently more complex than one taking 20 years to build. This is no different than building a 10 story building vs. a 25 story building. Not that much more complicated, just takes a lot more time and resources.

BTW, this conceptualization of complexity below makes sense to me (by Christophe Lambert) https://vimeo.com/76660223. And that conceptual abstraction of work increases with complexity. Yes to that! Dialing in effective timespans is more a factor of design than anything else. The more abstract the conceptualization the more you have to work to define tangible on the ground action now. Timespan is determined by the feedback loops you want to create. Using a wide range of timespans is usually helpful. I’d argue that higher stratum capacity has greater and greater fluidity with defining the task in a wide range of timespans and can move between them.

There may be things in what you’re saying that I don’t get.

I see you criticizing time span for not doing what it’s not intended to do. And for being what it isn’t.. When I’ve made the points already. I doubt making them again will help. It seems to me you’re evaluating it from inside a different paradigm. And of course, I’m coming from a different paradigm from what you’re coming from. Maybe this is a longer discussion off line.

Herb

I know you’re not talking to me but LIFO email is helpful and confusing at times;)

I see what the Chinese are doing in the South China Sea as a 50 year task which started about 15 years ago…the longest task being the harvesting under full ownership the undersea resources of the South China Sea.

I believe the “party” set/gave this task to itself, rather than one person, as you would expect a multigenerational task to be interdependent and involve a host of other resources in CPQQRT, I don’t believe it’s anything other than that.

I also believe that the baltics are part of a task that long by Russia, and that Putin intends his own 50ish year task of revival and repatriation of the Soviet risk points, Black Sea, baltics, Arctic and pacific while using Arabs to thwart and burn through “resistance.” He’s 1/2 way in.

Of course talking about this by Jim is a point of contention that Herb and I have gone through about time span earlier and like ships passing in the KSE night, time span will never be a problem for any of us here regarding 50 year tasks, my guess is some of us here are not even balancing our checkbooks;)

But it does create intellectual discourse which causes us to be rooted out sometimes of those primitive beliefs that keep us stuck in our thinking perhaps.

It’s also a way of learning about RO as Herb graciously and unbudgingly shares the axioms as straight as possible from the main man himself, a man which most of us never met, so that’s a true gift to have Herb here as a surrogate to bounce things off of–at some point he will tire of repeating himself and just laugh and go fishing I suspect;)

I know from my own experience that my own sense of skills and knowledge about time span have taken another leap into my own soup and thus when I discuss this mentally with others I’m going to keep looking at my own relationship with:

Time horizon
Time span
Relevant time

And as usual: BRLSCVS

SO thanks for the memories.

I wish the USA had a 50 year plan to stake out and use the pacific.

As I wrote that…the thought occurred to me that the USA is still under BS and would expect “private enterprise” to do that….

Then I wondered is our paradigm of action as robust as the Chinese or Russian, or European, where individual and collective interests are interwoven through our paradigmatic philosophies…?

Because if we are thinking 50-100 years, who has the glue to keep that together long enough and can resource it, which is a demonstration of order 5 at least because of the general principles of freedom, the role of the state, private enterprise and profit…etc.

Perhaps the answer to that would lie in the next order, or not, because universals are going to come into play with transhumanism, robots and machine culture, morality and ethics I suspect, so the complexity is going to emerge whether we like it or not.

After poking around a little with Cruz, I suspect this guy is smarter than he acts and has his own 30 year plan almost in fruition, he would have been 16, and it seems clear that everything he has done and is orchestrating flows out of his plan to be president.

Since Bush and Kerry and Obama are all 6/7 talk, I wonder about Cruz lately.

People will say Trump is not complex but it’s pretty hard to deny what he’s already put on the ground, although being president–like Cruz–wasn’t a long term task.

I think Herb’s definition of time span with manager discretion is too tight for time span, but no one (unless I missed it) raised the issue that Jaques hierarchical work is limited–on purpose–to work, not politics, humanity per Se, but germane to managerial hierarchies.

If we took time span out of MH then we need to loosen up the definition some for non MH.

mike

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