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Ask SCORE: An Introduction to the Four Cs of Effective Management in Challenging Times

An Introduction to the Four Cs of Effective Management in Challenging Times:
Complexity, Change, Collaboration, and Competence
By Richard Walton, MBA and Marty Mattare, Ph. D

Every banker knows the four Cs of successful lending; character, capacity, collateral, and credit. Similarly, marketers make use of the four Ps of successful practice: product, price, place, and promotion. Managers follow the four essentials of successful practice: planning, organizing, leading and controlling.
In the past few years, the landscape of business practice has changed. It is more complicated, less hospitable, and much more difficult to successfully navigate. And, the old, tired theories of stable environments and predictable outcomes are no longer valid.
As a result of this turmoil, we have developed a new theory of successful practice based on a sound theoretical foundation: the four Cs of successful managerial practice. The four Cs will lead the way to enduring success if managed properly. They are: 1) Complexity, 2) Change, 3) Collaboration, and 4) Competence.
Organizations are dynamic, complex systems capable of adapting over time - often in unpredictable ways. In order to manage complex systems, it is necessary to work from a 'systems view,' rather than from the more traditional 'tunnel view' and over rationalized approach which management has practiced. There are several, initial areas of focus with potentially profound impact that managers can undertake to begin this process of transition:
Focus Area 1: Diversity and Variation
Tasks and Tools: Use creative cost analyses to pinpoint the tipping point between the build up of product and service lines versus the profitability impact.
Focus Area 2: Interaction
Tasks and Tools: Use creative techniques to locate trustworthy sources and profitable destination targets for organizational communications.
Focus Area 3: Adaptation
Tasks and Tools: Use the processes of differentiation (departmentalization, specialization) and integration (leadership practice, transformation) to recognize the need to change and successfully handle it.
People in organizations resist change because it's safer to stay the same. Inertia rules which results in frequent, failed change management initiatives (remember TQM?). Engaging everyone in an initiative can begin to encourage people to welcome change:
Focus Area 1: Strategizing (What's the Next Big Thing?)
Tasks and Tools: Recognize the importance of building an organization with a future focus by using continuous planning (strategizing) about where the firm's next products and markets will be and how to reach them.
Focus Area 2: Creating Value
Tasks and Tools: Value is defined by the client/customer, not by the firm. Use creative intelligence gathering systems that focus on problem issues and solutions that meet both existing and future needs.
Focus Area 3: Design of Organizational Systems
Tasks and Tools: Organizational design must be flexible in order to change and adapt to new environmental realities. Use both system and human resource policies that emphasize multiple capabilities and capacities.
In an organization that traditionally resists change, creating a culture of collaboration can be a daunting task. Because resisting change often has to do with protecting territory, encouraging collaboration can be a real challenge. Some starting points:
Focus Area 1: Shared Decision Making, Employee Participation
Tasks and Tools: To encourage motivation and coordinated effort in problem solving, involve employees through shared information and distributed decision-making (empowerment).
Focus Area 2: Teamwork and Team Building
Tasks and Tools: Since almost all major work in organizations involves teams, build a team friendly culture through training and team building efforts in order to enhance outcomes from coordinated effort.
Focus Area 3: Innovation
Tasks and Tools: Since everyone in the organization should be involved in the process of innovation, both in terms of processes and outputs, actively seek and reward creative ideas that address real needs and opportunities.
Focus Area 1: Organization and Personal Learning
Tasks and Tools: Building a Learning Organization is key to surviving and prospering now and in the future. Encourage learning from both mistakes and successes, and constantly grow personal capacity through challenging jobs.
Focus Area 2: Continuous Improvement
Tasks and Tools: No matter how good you are, there is always room for improvement, both in terms of organizational processes and human performance, so we need to constantly strive for and reward the actions that enhance productivity and quality.
Focus Area 3: Execution, the Process of Translating Plans into Action
Tasks and Tools: Plans that are either never executed or executed poorly are a drain on organization and human assets, and outstanding execution (which can be learned as an organizational practice) brings substantial rewards.
In this new era of tumultuous change, organizations need to take on new roles and change long established behavior. A good start can be made from the ideas above. Further information on each topic area can be obtained by contacting ERMACORP, 301-462-9850

Richard Walton, Assistant District Director for SCORE, Western Maryland. Cell phone: 301-462-9850, email:

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