Theory and practice of Contextual Delivery vs current outdated organisational paradigms
Updated: Jul 15
The future "value-delivery-in-context" organisation. Breaking the mould of current outdated organisational traditions.
During Medieval times your position in the hierarchy determined your status, your power, your level of control, as well as your wealth. Position was inherited or attained through conquer and submission of others. The church in the middle ages also swayed this absolute power of control.
Your position determined what you were allowed to decide and do.
The lower your position, the less your level of control and the less your wealth.
The context was all about power and control that was attained by birth right or conquer. This did not necessarily imply that the best person with the best competence was the power in control. History has told the story of the rulers that did not leave a great legacy as they cannot be consider good leaders, even at the time, nor in view of present day qualifiers.
With the arrival of the first of the 4 industrial revolutions organisations super-imposed the social structure that everybody was familiar with at the time. This structure, which was a continuation from the medieval times, was implemented without any challenge or questioning. While the context has shifted to a world of work and industry, the structural context of position, power, control and wealth remained. Power, control and wealth were still determined by your position in the hierarchy. This positional power, even in early days of industrialisation, was often still passed down family lines (birth right). This has not always been the best decision as it was not always the right person for the job.
The dynamic of context however started shifting since the start of industrialisation. We were no longer dealing with kingships and even the church’s absolute power. The focus started moving towards work and what needs to be done. Irrespective of the shift, the perception still remained that people needed to be controlled – initially maybe justified due to the level of skills or competence at the time. The vertical hierarchy of power and control remained and with that also the hierarchy of wealth. The higher the position in the hierarchy, the more your power, control and the bigger your reward, still remained intact. This continued to entrench the “boss’-servant paradigm irrespective of everybody, in most companies and in governments, being in service of shareholders or the communities they serve. The “boss” may only still be relevant to full owners of companies. This “boss”-servant paradigm, however, has become largely irrelevant in the world of work today, but still gets practiced through the vertical hierarchical power, control and wealth structures. Hence the culture issues that we still have today, e.g. autocratic management and other.
As a result of the need for more work and/or load adjustments during the earlier years of the industrial organisations, Adams brought to light the whole principle of work division that lead to the practice of work study. This resulted in a breaking up of work into activities. Since this focus on activities, the world has grown multiple vertical layers of power, control, status and wealth based on work differentiation based on activity. The focus was and still is on what you do. Performance management, job evaluation and other practices subscribed to and entrenched the practices of focusing on activities. Some companies tried to convert these activities to outputs, but most of these were just a secondary layer of activity, that again kept the focus on activity and activity differentiation in work.
The context therefore was all about activities, what you do, and how these activity differentiation slots into the medieval hierarchies of position, power, control and wealth. Certain activities/words (e.g. strategy/strategic-operational) and titles (e.g. CEO, President, Vice-president) started being reserved for certain layers in the organisation. This perpetuated the medieval paradigm in organisations that are still well and alive in organisations today. Strategy in a delivery based environment is dependent on the context. Strategy can in fact be at any layer of the organisation depending on the intent and context which will also determine the nature of delivery outcomes.
Subsequently, following the industrial revolution, an additional 3 “revolutions” hit the world, i.e. the knowledge revolution, technology revolution and currently the digital (4IR) revolution. Despite these changes, organisations continued to develop even more layers to cater for the additional activity. Job design is based on activity (that includes the reference to outputs), job designers even still use work study approaches to differentiate work and work loading. All job evaluation systems currently in the market supports an activity based vertical hierarchical power, control and wealth paradigm.
This has resulted in a proliferation of vertical layering with deputies, assistants, seniors and other being added to the equation.
Ever since the middle ages, no-one has challenged the relevance of the medieval form of vertical hierarchical structuring, i.e. the structure based on activity, word, title differentiation and the differentiation of power, control and wealth. The only things that were continuously challenged and enhanced had to do with the internal efficiency and effectiveness of the way organisations operate and focus.
Enter the Theory of Contextual Delivery
The critical question is: “Why does organisations, institutions or for that matter work exist?
The short answer is that they all exist to deliver something. If nothing is delivered, there is no purpose and not reason for existence.
Research over an extended period of time covering on 5 continents, in various industries and organisations, formal, informal, government, semi-state, private, non-profit, etc. has been done. This resulted in the emergence of the theory, principles and practices of contextual delivery.
This is the first time that the difficult questions around context, delivery and structure have been asked. We still have organisational issues, dating back decades, that are unresolved due to traditional structures not being challenged. Some of these challenges include:
We have inflexible structures (medieval-like in nature) that have not and still do not adapt to change.
We still have structures that defines and controls what people do (their activities) instead of defining what they must deliver.
We still have structures that continue to differentiate work based on activity, power, status and wealth and not based on value delivered – hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy and not for delivering value.
We have support processes and systems that maintain the focus on what people do (activities), their resultant status/position and wealth rather than the value they deliver, i.e. Job Design processes, Job Evaluation Systems, Performance Management, etc.
We have strategic plans that very often a list of decontextualized activities not addressing real and imperative strategic contextual challenges.
People are, as a result often extremely busy performing activities with no actual measurable delivery.
Some people often see their only role as that of controlling, managing, supervising, coordinating.
People still gets managed/controlled/dictated to (treated like uneducated subjects) thereby not enabling their unique, innovative, enhanced and aligned value contributions. Then we wonder why engagement workshops are required.
We still have remuneration and reward practices that focus and reward in a vertical hierarchical manner.
We still assume that e.g. all CEO’s dealing with strategy are equal. We conclusively know, based on contextual design, that strategy delivery value may differ significantly based on the nature of requisite contextual appropriateness.
We still believe that doing more of the same (being busy) equates a higher vertical layering (grading).
These are just some of the many challenges that continue as a result of inappropriate historical designs.
The most obvious answer has to deal with the de-contextualisation of delivery value. The questions have never been asked about what organisations need to deliver and how delivery then gets used to design contextually appropriate organisation. This implies the contextual understanding of the given/prospective organisation reality, the development of contextually appropriate delivery-based strategy, contextually appropriate delivery-based organisation setup and structure, contextually appropriate delivery-based job design. This also speaks to the implementation of contextually appropriate delivery-based job evaluation, performance management, training and development.
Theory of Contextual Delivery
The Theory of Contextual Delivery speaks to the Contextual layering of society and very specifically also the appropriate contextual layering of organisations.
This resulted in the Contextual Delivery Framework. This framework defines the different contexts of delivery that forms the basis and platform for:
Designing contextually appropriate delivery-based strategy;
Setting up appropriate contextually pitched organisations;
Designing contextually appropriate delivery-based jobs;
Designing contextually appropriate delivery-based structures
The focus in everything that happened in this Theory and Practice is focused on contextually appropriate value delivery. This is the basis for everything - focus, design, development. Hierarchy is all about a hierarchy of increasingly complex contextual value delivery – end-state, completed, and measurable. It is critical to to note that delivery is not what is referred to as output. Delivery is end-state contextually appropriate value.
Supportive contextual delivery technologies
Supportive contextually appropriate delivery-based systems and technologies have already been developed, i.e.
The mathematical conversion tables that objectively measures all work delivery and activity – a world first.
Kontextit’s Dual Axis Job Evaluation (KDAX); This approach recognises that reward of value delivery is no longer a vertical process; For this reason the evaluation takes place on 2 axis to determine value delivery irrespective of its vertical position in the organisation. There is a complete write-up on this ground-breaking contextually appropriate delivery-based job evaluation approach.
Delivery based performance management;
Contextual delivery-based training and development principles and framework.
The Mathematical conversion tables are a world first. This enables the measurement of context, contextual delivery, relevant contextually delivery-based activities. This has been a major breakthrough that enables the objective measurement of the appropriateness and strength of:
People contextual insight strength.
The mathematical principles enables the optimal modelling of all the above to ensure the maximum appropriate value delivery in context.
The Theory of Contextual Delivery breaks ranks with all current approaches that still practices medieval-like hierarchical approaches that is not focused on contextually appropriate delivery of value. This is a first in challenging non-value delivery hierarchical approaches that more often than not destroy value in organisations.
© Pieter Marais – July 2021
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