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Long Range Planning

41/6 December 2008

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Charles Baden-Fuller Editorial

All our readers should appreciate the opening piece on David Allen's ‘Getting Things Done’ by Francis Heylighen and Clément Vidal. They explore how we work best (as individuals) and why being muddled is not necessarily a bad thing. They use clear logic with a solid grasp of past academic work to show why so many expensive IT tool kits and HR courses are a waste of money, suggesting that Allen is right: with a little guidance, intuition may be both the most efficient and the most effective way to work. This is fun, challenging stuff.
Susan Miller, David Hickson and David Wilson move the agenda to the organisation, and examine who really influences decisions, and who makes sure that things get done. It is good to know that when making a strategic decision, almost all functions do get involved, providing insights and advice. But implementation is typically the responsibility of the heavy-weights. CEOs are not hands-off, they do not just take decisions; they also get deeply involved in the execution.
Open source software is often cheaper and better, but developing it and using it is challenging. Linus Dahlander and Mats Magnusson examine how firms (as both users and designers) adjust the business models to make use of Open Source Communities and improve their capabilities. They note that these communities are free, and suggest that if well managed they can do the creative development work saving money and time.
Firms in the fashion industry often struggle to rejuvenate their portfolios as they and their markets mature. Getting the style right is key, as everything else hangs from this. Using examples from two Italian fashion firms, Paola Cillo and Gianmario Verona look at two different ways in which firms can search for style creation and selection, and compare their relative efficacy. A must read for those in creative industries.

In this issue, I welcome our new editorial board members. Drawn from across the world, almost all have contributed pieces to the journal. Most of the papers we print report substantial research programmes (costing perhaps as much as $100,000 each) and each paper goes through many drafts. Board members play a critical role in this process, they help solicit pieces, undertake reviews that select and shape pieces to make them suitable for publication. Their support will be essential to maintain our momentum.

 

Francis Heylighen and Clément Vidal Getting Things Done: The Science behind Stress-Free Productivity clement.vidal@philosophons.com

This article evaluates and reinterprets David Allen's best-selling ‘Getting Things Done’ method for enhancing personal productivity and reducing stress from information overload in light of how the brain actually processes information and plans actions in the real world. Examining GTD from the perspective of situated, embodied and distributed cognition theories, they note that people's actions are based on intuition, which is rooted in subjective experience, rather than on logic and rationality. They follow the notion of the mind as extending into the physical environment, to include all the diaries, calendars and to-do lists that support its day-to-day functioning, noting how the real world environment contributes affordances (to assist), disturbances (to frustrate) and feedback (to help monitor) activity. They recommend acting firstly in line with the situation – do you have time for this action? – is there a phone to make your calls? – is your head actually full of something else? – and only after that with (your own or others') priorities.
Knowledge workers should use the brain for what it is good at – recognising patterns and associating them with actions – and entrust factual information (which it is poor at recalling) to more reliable external memories (written notes or computer files). This will allow them to achieve a sense of flow and thus ‘constantly advance towards their goals at the most efficient speed, without needing artificially imposed deadlines to ensure they attain their objectives.’ Asserting the primacy of adapting over planning, the authors argue that true productivity should be measured not by the number of planned objectives achieved, but by the number of intrinsically worthwhile results, and examine how the concept of stigmergy might be employed to extend GTD to enhance collaborative work.

 

Susan Miller, David Hickson & David Wilson From Strategy to Action: Involvement and Influence in Top Level Decisions  s.miller@hull.ac.uk

Given that over half of all strategic initiatives fail, the authors want to know who among the management cadre bears the main responsibility. Using an established database of 55 initiatives in 14 varied UK organisations, which are tracked from decision-making through to implementation phases, they give detailed attention to which of 14 functional interests are most often involved, and are most influential, at each phase. This leads to a categorisation of interests as core or peripheral in terms of their involvement, and as heavyweights or lightweights in terms of their influence.
Perhaps not surprisingly, some interests – the CEO, Production or Service Delivery and Marketing – are core, strongly involved and strongly influential at both stages. Others – Finance, Suppliers – are often involved, but their influence declines as decision-making gives way to implementation. Among the peripherally involved group, R&D remains weighty, while the influence of Shareholders and Purchasing wanes as the initiative progresses from decision to implementation, but that of Liaison and Competitor interests waxes.
The authors note how success depends on there being adequate relevant experience and good receptivity in the organisation, and how the core heavyweights have the major responsibility in ensuring the right experience is available to make the decision, and that the vision behind the decision is successfully translated and communicated among the workforce to ease its implementation.

 

Linus Dahlander and Mats G. Magnusson How Do Firms Make Use of Open Source Communities?  l.dahlander@imperial.ac.uk

How do software firms, operating in a for-profit context, manage their relationships with the external knowledge developed in the very different framework of the Free Open Source Software movement and its communities? The authors describe the rapprochements involved via four case studies (MySQL, Cendio, Roxen and SOT) and trace how the firms had to adapt the structure of their business plans. Three themes for such relationships are developed – accessing, aligning and assimilating – together with an examination of the tactics involved and their positive and negative consequences. The authors note the advantages and difficulties firms experience in working with OS communities (many of which they themselves started), and discuss copyright problems, whether communities are marketing devices or much more, and the challenge of keeping communities vital. They also note the de facto division of labour that can result, with communities doing the creative development work, leaving firms with the more prosaic tasks of validating and checking software for robustness and searching for possible market applications.

 

Paola Cillo and Gianmario Verona Search Styles in Style Searching: Exploring Innovation Strategies in Fashion Firms gianmario.verona@unibocconi.it

Style is becoming increasingly important to companies as they recognise its influence in shaping their products as well as the means by which they can rejuvenate their product portfolios as markets approach maturity. Yet change is an innate characteristic of style and the management of style is in effect the management of change. This paper examines the way that companies engage in search processes for style creation and selection. In order to do this, the authors study the fashion industry, the quintessential context in the creation of style, developing a semi-grounded, multiple-case analysis. Their findings show that while searching for new styles, fashion companies tend to adopt one of two approaches. For some, the search process is predominantly internal and led by an individual – the lead designer – that tends to generate incremental changes. Other companies are more sensitive towards changes in the market and their search process is led by a team or a department. These two models affect the scope and outcome of the search process. While companies driven by a lead designer tend to search more locally and specifically within the designer's expertise, they strengthen their stylistic identity at the expense of their ability to match the trends in the market. Meanwhile, the team-led companies tend to look beyond their horizons, enabling them to produce more radical changes, but in the long run it may cause a loss of stylistic identity. With reference to two case studies, Escada and Diesel, as well as data from a wider range of fashion companies, the paper discusses the mechanisms behind these two search styles and the opportunities and limitations they present. It concludes by drawing academic and managerial implications for companies that want to pursue a process of change driven by style.

 

This issue is available in full on-line at www.sciencedirect.com

 
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