RG Business

Managing intelligence: an update on business vs robot

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by Jonathan Kent

The rapid and accelerating pace of technological advance means that, for many businesses, change has become a constant rather than occasional survival requirement, with disruption ever looming.

The flip-side is that technology also provides more powerful tools than ever for the drill-down analysis necessary to enable informed and timely decisions that can keep an organisation moving in the right direction.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), for example, has huge potential to help managers make better decisions. But the power of AI has to be handled with care so it can empower rather than threaten people, and to ensure that rich new data do not lead managers to leap to faulty conclusions based on perceived correlations and causalities that might not exist.

Unease is clearly widespread among the working population, as AI becomes more pervasive. However, a report by PwC in July this year suggested that the robots are not going to take all of our jobs, after all. AI will create as many jobs as it displaces, PwC’s analysts concluded, because of the economic growth it will stimulate.

People will indeed continue to matter in organisations. As Professor Tomo Noda of Shizenkan University, remarked at a conference on the future of management in Barcelona in April this year: “Planning, budgeting, and organising can be done by AI. But establishing vision, aligning people, and motivating people requires people”.

This fluid environment may prompt many managers to seek a fresh approach. The concept of “intelligent management”, although based on a set of ideas that have been around for decades, may appeal to some as being potentially well-suited to today’s complex and challenging conditions.

The Intelligent Management (IM) website, www.intelligentmanagement.ws, describes a systemic approach as to how organisations are understood and managed. Under the concept’s paradigm shift, the hierarchies and artificially created silos of prevailing management convention are transformed into a singular focus on system optimisation.

IM’s founder, Domenico Lepore, believes that the management of an organisation as a system, as proposed by W. Edwards Deming as far back as the 1950s, could be optimised by the identification of its “constraint”, as proposed by Eliyahu Goldratt. The constraint is the element that, more than any other, determines the pace at which an organisation achieves units of its goal, such as products, ideas or money. A constraint could be anything from production capacity to employee behaviours or company policies. The theory is that an overarching focus on managing this constraint can generate serious improvements in output.

During the 1990s, Dr Leopore, working with Oded Cohen, merged Deming’s and Goldratt’s ideas into “The Decalogue”, a series of ten steps designed to help organisations apply these philosophies and manage systemically.

IM’s website explains: “At Intelligent Management, we guide organisations to understand operationally that they are not made up of disconnected pieces. Rather, they are a network of interdependent components with one shared goal.”

Essential to making this work would clearly be ensuring that employees are engaged and think like managers. Such a corporate culture is difficult to achieve, but once in place, it would make the process of constant change management a whole lot easier.

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