Image: Courtesy of 3.media.tumblr
Most organizations refer to asset planning as resource planning. We don’t like the term, especially when it comes to humans. Human beings are assets, not resources. The essential difference between assets and resources is that resources have no value outside the business process they are used in, whereas assets have an intrinsic and potential value. Managed as resources people do what resources do: they become depleted or absent – they burn out or move to another company. Managed as assets they flourish, growing in value for themselves and from there – engaged in heart and soul – add value to the companies (and all other communities) they are part of.
What companies need more than anything in these challenging times are people who are for and are involved in their work with their hearts and souls. That level of involvement and caring is therefore the core issue and determiner of sustainable corporate success in today’s market environment. People engaged with their heart and soul are the most valuable asset any company can have.
Many companies are aware of this and try integrating “human-oriented thinking” into their corporate strategy; some even realize that appreciating people as the asset they are goes much further than being “nice” to them as a motivational incentive; it adheres to a scientific understanding of businesses as complex adaptive systems.
Types of Assets
In asset planning, these types of assets are usually involved:
- Capital Goods
- Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom
It’s clear that the required amount and the available amount of each type of asset will not be equal. Because the requirements and supply of any asset are seldom, if ever, in perfect balance, asset planning usually creates the requirement for continuous planning.
Making a profit was once thought to be the only legitimate objective of an enterprise. But times have changed. More and more enterprise consider profit now as a basic pillar, not the ultimate goal. For that reason, enterprises need to determine the financial conditions required to survive and implement the new plan. This requires financial modeling, measuring financial performance measures under a variety of assumed conditions and decisions to use assets.
Given its planned pursuit of an approximation to its pie in the sky design, what new facilities and equipment will a company need? Usually, the needs are treated individually and justification to deploy assets based on estimated returns on the investment. Enterprises need to consider the fact that some investments might look poorly on a plan when considered individually but contribute to the bottom line when integrated into the overall system.
People as assets
People are e the most valuable asset a company can have. Nevertheless, they are generally used less efficiently than any other type of asset. The waste of employees’ time and competence is huge. The quality and competence of employees had increased significantly during the last decades. However, the way people are being managed and the organization of human capital has not. More often than not, humans are seen as extensions or replacements of machines.
The trend of increasing the number of people as much as possible (no matter the output required) when times are good and downsizing (no matter the output) in bad times shows how unsophisticated our approach to human asset planning is. In later parts we will offer a solution to that problem by implementing a market economy within the enterprise.
Each organization consumes assets it uses: material, energy, services – just to name a few. These assets are supplied by either an internal or external source; most enterprises focus on supplying itself with any consumable asset to avoid interdependency. However, in this networked and globalized economy, it has become almost impossible for many companies to obtain and retain the competencies required to provide many of these assets in an economic manner, threatening their ability to compete.
Let’s just look at the media agency world: When enterprises bring advertising in-house, they often have problems attracting superior talent. As a talent, would you want to work for a huge media agency with good opportunities to advance, or would you work for an enterprise with no chances of real advancement since the rest of the enterprise is devoted to anything else but media? Specialized enterprises are able to provide specific assets at a lower cost and higher quality than most in-house divisions.
However, the relationship between suppliers and enterprises are often negotiated so as to guarantee behavior not supporting (or even fighting against) the interest of the enterprise. Let’s continue with the example of the media agency: If the enterprise reimburses the agency based on a percentage of company’s media spend, the agency will do anything to increase the media budget. No matter the effect, no matter the outcome. A whole industry of research institutes and consumer behavior studies survive because agencies need data to convince enterprises to spend more money on media. Has there ever been a real study that shows the effect of advertising on sales? In many cases, agencies are better selling to enterprises than to sell the product of the enterprise to customers. As a result, agencies become lobbyists for media, not for their customers they’re supposed to sell to. To break this vicious cycle, agencies should be compensated for increases in sales without increasing media spend and for decrease in media spend without loss of sales.
This would serve customers much better. Currently, media agencies increase their profit often at a cost to customers. (Time, Annoyance, etc.) Once enterprises preach the gospel of media spend cost reduction by sharing the benefits with all suppliers, a paradigm shift will occur.
There’s a frequent misconception that implementing a KMS (Knowledge Management System) can provide all the support decision makers require. Research has shown that most KMS’ miss; they fail to fulfill the promises that were used to justify their development. For that reason, we need new assumptions about information.
Managers need less irrelevant information
All of us experience it each and every day: Information overload. Email bankruptcy. Social Media fatigue. Once we have to deal with too much information, we tend to use less information to make decisions. And we have a natural drive to know more and more about less and less. This might be the perfect approach for boutique firms but large corporations need less specialists and more generalists – T-Shaped people. For them to be successful, enterprises need KMS’ to help them filter out irrelevant information and condense relevant information appropriately.
Managers shouldn’t be burdened with knowing what information they need
The complexity of systems requires executives to manage effectively without understanding the system well. A system that can be comprehended fully doesn’t need a good manager. In return, a manager that requires each and every detail is scared and will play it safe, not advancing the system appropriately. Executives earn their pay when they possess the skill to make a decision based on enough facts not on all facts.
The information that managers need is whatever information enables them to do better with it than without it.
A Knowledge Management System shouldn’t be static, it needs to be embedded within the organization and management system as an infinite learning loop, capable of constant improvement. This will enable executives to learn what they need or they will be stuck in the “always-asking-for-more-information-loop”.
Less communication between certain stakeholders is better
The Information Age has one gospel: More information is better. When all stakeholders are aware of what the other stakeholders are doing, this should enable stakeholders to coordinate their activities better and improve performance, correct?
Various stakeholders often have different measures of performance and those are often in conflict with the various divisions. Increased communication between stakeholders might actually hurt the overall performance of the enterprise. Before opening up the flood gates of communication, the enterprise, it structure and performance measures need to be aligned with all stakeholders. Once implemented, each stakeholder communication should be evaluated and communication levels adjusted accordingly.
Managers have to understand their KMS
A Knowledge Management System has one objective: to support the enterprise and improve performance. Executives need to control the system, they need to ensure not to be controlled by the system. This requires a deep understanding of the system, its capabilities and limitations.
In summary, asset planning’s objective is to deliver useful inputs to decision making and the ability to identify and learn from mistakes to ensure improvements of pie in the sky and gap planning. This will help implementing a system that improves decision making and allows for rapid learning and adaption.
Let’s talk about that in the next part.