Approach for the treatment of entrepreneurial challenges

The used approach bases on a proprietary adaptation of the systems oriented Approach of St. Gallen. The Logo of social systems engineering reflects in a condensed form how organizations, or «social systems», respectively, are understood. The approach aims for «entrepreneurial challenges» in the very sense of the word. It is therefore not limited to for-profit businesses, but suits any type of «organization dedicated to a specific enterprise». Besides classic businesses this includes NGO/NPO, (public) administrations, supporting domains, territorial authorities, science organizations etc.

As soon as the fulfilling of a purpose and the viability of an organization come into focus (as opposed to equally important, but subsidiary conditions, such as profitability), there is more common ground than differences when it comes to organizational management. Managers who succeed to open themselves towards these similarities (as opposed to cultivate the differences) can develop innovative solutions with little effort for their own specific organizational challenges.

A critical success factor for dealing with complex entrepreneurial challenges is to distinguish and to interrelate

  • the temporal proceeding and the
  • factual relation of the relevant topics.

The classic, step-wise approach tends to mix these two dimensions up. This is why it comes quickly to its limits. A proceeding that is better able to cope with complexity consists of several temporal «rounds» through the set of relevant factual topics. In each round all the relevant topics are on the radar. Earlier rounds are characterized by fewer details, later rounds by more details.

This agile approach reflects the fact that in practice it is rarely useful to define objectives once and forever. Objectives can, first, become obsolete through internal effects. Each treatment of a topic causes learning about this topic. Through learning one may realize that there are even better objectives to be aimed at. Secondly, the external context changes inevitably during the treatment of a topic, which also may lead to the obsolescence of objectives. The spiral approach of  social systems engineering allows for a well-controlled, disciplined proceeding, while it is avoided at the same time to dogmatically run after obsolete objectives. The purpose of an objective is not to be reached, but to establish controllability.

Most often, external support for entrepreneurial challenges has to position itself clearly as either consulting or training. social systems engineering explicitly refuses this categorization. A typical proceeding with direct value for the customer organization rather consists of:

  • Sequences in which theory is provided and discussed.
  • Sequences in which the theory is applied to the specific business of the customer.
  • Sequences in which the consultant gives feedback from his external perspective.

A program that balances these three components out is tailor measured for each specific customer. The over-all objective is always to enable the customer. After an intervention he should be able to cope by himself with similar challenges, without being dependent from further external support.

Content-wise, the approach of the social systems engineering is represented by the following key questions:

  • Vision: «What is our organization supposed to aim at, as an organ of the civil society? What competences do we have that others don’t? Which values are relevant for us?»
  • Corporate Mission: «Which businesses or domains do we want to run? Which ones do we not want? How does the customer of one business benefit from the fact that we also run the other businesses? How do we balance out our portfolio in a sustainable manner?»
  • Business Mission: «Who are our customers and what do they get from us? Which alternatives to us do they have? Why should they choose us?»
  • Functional Domain Mission: «Who are our primary beneficiaries? What do they get from us and what costs are allowed to incur for this? Why are we the most suitable domain to provide these services? »
  • Strategy: «How do we judge the “large-scale weather-constellation”? Which strategic objectives and which specific measures do we define in order to become able to fulfill our mission also tomorrow?»
  • Customer oriented organization: «How do we segment our organization and our over-all control structures into manageable sub-systems? How do we connect individuals, resources and their control? How do we assure that each employee – including those who work in supporting functions – knows how he contributes to the the effect that customers pay an invoice at ours and not at the competitions?»
  • Management by Objectives: «Which support and which objectives do our domains, employees and partners need in order to provide their contribution to the strategy and the mission? How do we assure that everybody knows what they have to do, and that they are indeed able to do it?»
  • Customer oriented cost structures: «How can we keep up in the cost competition? How do we assure that all our cost drivers are also value drivers, i.e. that they have a positive effect on customer value?»
  • Corporate development: «How do we continuously develop our vision, mission, strategy, organization and our practice of management?»
  • People Management: «How do we assure that the individuals needed by our organization are glad to invest their time and their knowledge for us, and not for our competition or for other activities?»

social systems engineering works with a well-defined and well-aligned suite of management models. In strategy development, the strategy radar, the customer value analysis and an optimized version of the scenario technique are deployed. The strategy radar and the customer value analysis are also the anchoring point for challenges in the domain of organization and people management. In order to establish customer oriented organizations and management systems, a set of further models are deployed. Examples are the BCG-Portfolio, the RACI-Matrix, the Org-Chart, the Job Specification, Situational Leadership, the internal Service Level Agreement, Management by Objectives and Self-Control or the cost driver analysis. Most of these models and instruments are quite well-known. However, they are often deployed in a rather isolated and not interlinked manner. In the suite of management models of social systems engineering, the individual models have been adjusted and interlinked in order to allow for an organic view on the whole: the viable organization.

Any sub-model is designed to quickly allow for a holistic overview. At the same time, any model can be detailed on several levels. This allows for a simultaneous consideration of the parts – e.g. individual performance indicators – and the whole – the viable organization.

The simultaneous consideration of the whole and its parts is a basic characteristic
of the systems oriented approach
social systems engineering stands for.