The purpose of maturity management achieve the following major objectives:
- To define a strategy for creating revolutionary change by means of evolutionary steps.
- To free leaders from the limitations of corporate management systems by creating management systems that enable leadership rather than constraining it.
- To define a truly manageable management system capable of supporting fundamental, strategic change.
Surprisingly, these are not stated objectives of other management models such as the Software Engineering Institute’s well known Capability Maturity Model or the Project Management Institute’s standards. Nor are they made any easier to achieve by the approach those standards adopt, which is basically pragmatic, eclectic and bound by convention.
These objectives are described in more detail below.
Objective 1: Revolution by evolution
The primary objective of maturity management is to deliver radical, even revolutionary change. That means not merely re-invigorating moribund management systems and staunching the haemorrhages caused by poor management practice, but creating genuinely world-class organisations.
But how is that objective to be achieved? Most approaches to organisational change share at least one assumption: that radical results could be delivered in a single heroic step. Maturity management is based on a quite different assumption: that realistically, radical change can only take place in well-defined, incremental steps, quite probably extending over many years and certainly requiring many discrete developmental steps.
Hence its first objective: to define a sequence of discrete, manageable stages through which radical change can be brought about. Revolution by evolution, in fact.
Objective 2: Freeing leadership from management
One way of conceptualising how maturity management works is in terms of the distinction many authors have drawn between management and leadership. To quote Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:
Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.
Other commentators have expressed similar sentiments in different ways, but it is striking that they all insist on this difference and on the importance of leading organisations rather than merely managing them. Leaders bring vision, inspiration and direction, and without it an organisation loses its impetus, its cultural integrity and its ability to take decisive action.
Yet many organisations seem determined to encumber their leaders with unnecessary or subordinate management tasks, even actively disabling them by failing to provide the basic information and decisions real leadership demands.
Of course, no organisation could succeed by completely replacing management by leadership. Conversely, where leadership is not supported by robust management, the ‘leadership’ and ‘empowerment’ routinely degenerates into senior management abdicating responsibility for the actions, accomplishments and performance of their subordinates, backed up by the usual blame and recrimination when things go wrong.
So a balance must be struck – but only the right balance:
- The ability to manage is quite commonplace, whereas leadership is notoriously rare.
- The ability of leaders to delivery results depends on the presence of management systems (including competent and empowered managers) capable of implementing their vision.
- Unbridled, universal ‘leadership’, if not backed up with clear control of the whole, will soon degenerate into chaos, and the whole becomes a great deal less than the sum of its parts.
- Once they have been applied to a range of assignments, many leadership skills can be translated into reliable methods, tools and techniques that can be taught to less inspired individuals.
Hence another aspect of maturity management: by continually upgrading management systems, activities that previously required that rare combination of inspiration and perspiration that defines genius can be done almost as effectively by any modestly capable individual who has been trained to use the appropriate methods, tools and techniques and is supported by the necessary flow of information and decisions. Indeed, the whole history of management consists very largely of the creation of management systems to do things that were previously done only by great leaders. That is one of the main reasons why great organisations – nations, teams, businesses and so on – can exist at all.
On the other hand, where will future leaders acquire the vision on which leadership so crucially depends? Where will they get that spark of insight leavened by sound practical experience? Surely the answer is, yet again, from the management systems in and through which they work. If these systems are bad, then any manager’s experience will be less than illuminating. If, on the other hand, the management systems they use are well designed, effective and properly directed and maintained, their experience of their work, the organisation and its goals will be clear, well-structured and informative. Its purposes, methods and underlying philosophy will be clear and reinforced throughout. Conversely, the better structured the system, the easier it will be to spot any residual problems. But most importantly of all from the point of view of inculcating leadership, the values, purpose and opportunities it faces will be clear.
Hence the maturity management approach: wherever possible it replaces leadership by management. This is not because we should prefer management to leadership after all, but because we should reserve the special talents involved in leadership for tasks where they are really needed. If some leadership skills can be made so straightforward that they happen as a matter of course and the same results can be reliably achieved by the routine use of a management system, this can only strengthen an organisation, and release its true leaders to focus on areas that demand real leadership.
To summarise the whole above argument in terms of a contemporary management buzz phrase, the trick is not to rely on those who can ‘think outside the box’, but to learn from them, and so make the box the rest of us work in bigger. Much, much bigger.
Objective 3: A manageable management structure
If the purpose of maturity management is to achieve radical change by incremental steps, and its principle instrument is the conversion of leadership into management, it is clear that its next objective must be to define a management system that drives change. More precisely, maturity management must tell us:
- To define why the assignment exists, and so ensure that the assignment contributes to strategic goals.
- To define what the assignment will do, and so keep the assignment is kept on track to its goals.
- To define how the assignment will do this, and so ensure that an effective technical solution is delivered.
- To handle all the data and decisions needed to reach the above goals.
To achieve this, a maturity management methodology defines a complete, generic management system consisting of three core components:
- A generic management task model.
- A generic management system model.
- A generic management maturity programme model.
Defining generic management components makes it much easier to define management in terms of discrete units of management activity that are easily understood, easy to implement and use, and easy to revise or replace in the face of new problems and changing circumstances. It also provides the bedrock of the principles of recursion and iteration. Furthermore, by breaking the implementation process into short-, medium- and long-term changes and by embedding the components in a well defined hierarchy of maturity levels, systems and tasks, it is easy to adapt the generic components to local needs and the most appropriate methods, tools and techniques.