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Richard Reisman

Very interesting questions, John.

I suggest my work addresses some parallel issues in a way that might be suggestive, and may bear on accelerating performance improvement and learning on the front-line.

Drucker said that "The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday's logic." I suggest that much of current business practice (and so our processes) is based on obsolete logic, especially in B2C digital commerce. I propose a new logic, FairPay, that is driven to create value-based commercial relationships in a way that is cooperative, dynamic, and adaptive. The logic works as a repeated game that builds cooperation to achieve "value discrimination." It puts dialogs about value into the core of transactions and price-setting, and makes it clear that the job of the front-line is the "customer-value-first" task of ensuring that the customer gets, sees, and agrees to pay for the value desired. That aligns the operational teams with maximizing customer lifetime value.

The result is constant learning about what each customer values, and how to maximize that both in terms of current products/services and in creating new products/services. With this simple shift, we constantly test our practices and modify our processes to optimize the co-creation of real value. Our processes become emergent because our pricing is emergent -- our practices lead us to see where value is and is not created, so we are constantly re-engineering to adapt to that. This may have narrow application at first, but I believe success in selected contexts will be the thin end of the wedge of a broader change to more customer-value-first, cooperative approaches to business (as is already happening with B2B value-based pricing practices).

I must admit I am not clear on the line between process and practice -- to me the issue is to make both adaptive and responsive to what the customer values, as that evolves, so that the business relies on this emergence to "to accelerate performance improvement and learning on the front-line." If we are stuck optimizing obsolete metrics for value, our learning will stay stuck no matter how hard we try to push learning to the edge. We need to find a scalable way back to the traditional practice of setting prices at the edge (between the seller and the buyer, not in some pricing department).

Finite and Infinite Games: I happened on this post because I picked up my old copy of that book, then went online to see what impact it had had, and found your nice post on it. FairPay shifts commerce from the finite games of transaction pricing to the repeated game of relationship -- and that makes it an infinite game. As you said there, "the rules of an infinite game can and must evolve to ensure the continuation and expansion of the game." FairPay makes commerce a continuing and expanding exploraton of value with each customer.

For more:
--FairPay as a (pseudo-infinite) repeated game that drives ongoing learning about value and builds cooperation: http://bit.ly/2fRy3I8
--How FairPay replaces the obsolete invisible hand with an invisible handshake: http://bit.ly/1PqFiT6
--How customer journeys can operationalize adaptive value loops that reinforce loyalty loops: http://bit.ly/2ca0MFG
--An overview of FairPay: http://bit.ly/FPOvvw

I am pursuing FairPay as a pro-bono project and will be interested to see how it fits with your ongoing research.

Kitty Wooley

John, it would be worthwhile for you to look into the Peak Academy work that the City & County of Denver have been doing for the past few years and talk to director Brian Elms and team. Here's a good place to start:

Cornel Vintila

Reading more and more yours posts I regret the delay for reading but I'm so enthusiastic because I feel that we built something we'd like to name Business as a Platform. For the moment is built on the top of IBM Hybrid Cloud (BPM on Cloud PaaS), it is a complex Low Code BPM Platform and will be evolved faster.
Will be nice to talk private.



Old Problem - It's why we had the Goldwater Nichols act.. Why DOD Special Operations command has it's own budget, and is effectively it's own branch of the military.

Because a highly flexible, constantly adapting and innovating team of teams (to borrow from Stan McChrystal) - is a different animal with different skills sets and a decentralized structure where decision making is pushed down to the lowest level possible.

A bureaucracy built on processes and trained monkeys that eliminates variables (Six Sigma) also eliminates decision making. Yeah, BPE made us efficient, predictable and heavily structured. For better and for worse.

And then a bunch of kids wrote the Agile manifesto, and built a software driven world changing so fast that half the businesses out there need to change instead of optimize. Part of why "change management" is the new consulting meme. And people hate change.

If the organization has a tribal knowledge of 30 years of BPE and optimizing the same processes - you are talking a cultural problem. Sure you have intelligent individuals and resourceful teams. But the tribal knowledge of those large optimized organizations is to do a few things in an optimal way. They get fired when they go outside the box. I've worked there. Not adaptable social structures.

You are mirroring a BPE version of the agile strategy trend I've seen growing in ASP, which is a blatant steal from the Agile project management; which is again a nascent and easily misunderstood innovation for software development that recognized that software and construction are different animals that benefit from different project management methods.

This goes back to Cambrai, Herman Balck, John Boyd, minnie ball rifles in the civil war... The military has been dealing with fast cycling performance improvement at the speed of death in the face of disruptive technologies for a few centuries really. Evolve or die is a literal statement for the military.

If you want to study real time performance improvement during a quickly escalating arms race - this is a very familiar and old problem in military science - where the mavericks and innovators are always at the edge of cultural change while fighting the old guard.

Getting better faster over time. I think the US Marines have the trademark on that. Yeah, most of the innovation happens as needed during war. But I'd seriously look at USMC and US SOCOM at how quickly they have changed many times in the last 30 years. I have books that are 12 years old that are gross anachronisms now.

Overall it's a cultural thing, a tribal knowledge thing, a different animal thing.

And I would not call the military "good" at it - it's a niche there. But improvise, adapt, overcome - is not what they teach in Business school, last I checked.

I've been told "Team of Teams" talks about this sort of thing, but haven't read it yet and can't comment.

Unique in big business sure, but the startups I've played with enjoy fast cycling front line performance improvement as a do or die kind of thing; not terribly different from the military realities.

As far as methods; it's decentralized decision making, trusting your front line people, trusting tactical OODA loops over institutional OODA loops. Train skills, judgment, adaptability, values, schwerpunkt - minimize rigid policies, procedures, compliance. What SOCOM and to a lesser extent the USMC doctrine try to do.

The devil is in the details of the specific organization - but if you want you be adaptive and innovative study World of Warcraft Guilds and how they teach their teams of players to constantly change and challenge their skills sets to beat the next level.

So I guess I'm saying I see solutions to you problem existing in Military History, Military Science, Start Up businesses, and MMO Games that require collaboration and teamwork like World of War Craft, and to a lesser extent Dice and paper RPG's and wargames would be instructive - but hard to find useful documentation on.

The theme you are going to find is Sun Tzu 101. The habit of constantly studying and adapting to the current challenges, looking for patterns, and be empowered to takes calculated risks to develop new tactics on the move. Let each team innovate onto it self, and share lessons learned, see what is individual specific talent, and what lessons can be replicated. Lather rinse, repeat. You have to teach your front people as teams to think like scientists, analysts, engineers, to think critically to solve new problems to achieve understood strategic goals with operational and tactical discretion.

Communication, trust, decision making pushed down to the lowest possible levels.

Which depending on the organization and it's culture - could be completely impossible. Look at the organizations that are good at that - Special Operations command, Marine Corps, WOW guilds, and I'd add certain sport teams that let the QB call the plays - you are talking a minority of the more competitive subcultures within their respective organizations. So while yeah, It can and has been done; it's no magic bullet and even the organizations that are good at constant performance improvement have the normal change management problems, and the occasional Leeroy Jenkins. You have to right size and calibrate it to the organization and problems in question. Start as small as you need and build out, hope it goes viral.

Thanks for a fun one. I owe you 2 now. Let me know if you'd like to chat more. Thanks for getting my attention.

Susan Unrau Stucky

Hi John,

Great research topic. Will be curious to see if the notion notion of business practices is related to the notion of work practice. If so, then there are some things to draw on. Because practice is sticky, it is tricky, as you know. Have been developing a practice :-) of practice prototyping as a step in technology adoption and other kinds of change. A little agile thinking thrown in. The trick is to get it from the people's point of view who are doing the work. Practice metrics, practice metphors can help open things up.

Also -- I can put you in touch with someone who -- if there is a fit does have an an approach (WAAS - Work as a Service) that to me looks like a way to get at a middle level of practice.

Will follow this with some interest.


If stakeholders does not understand what is the process and associated KPIs - then no process can do magic. It can only create bottleneck.

One of our customer wanted to reduce the waste of raw materials.They found out that the plant floor workers are wasting when they mix two substances.
they are not following process measures, standards etc.

They created a lego bricks like game where they designed all their plant into a Lego. Such that the plant workers will play this physical game before each shift. Say at Shift 1 they will be given total freedom to follow their as-is way of working. In shift 2 they will asked to adhere to measures and there is an incentive associated, in shift 3 they will be asked to adhere to standards and dynamic incentive they can unlock.

This way the management cultivated tiny behaviors/habits in the minds of the workers which resulted in reduce waste and improved quality ~performance.

This was a great success for one plant and they want to scale this globally for which an iPad based game was created which has integration with real time data from ERP/Inventory and an game layer to enable PBL.

IMHO - if edge infrastructures can expose end points for other systems to consume then one can facilitate people-people interactions, people-systems interactions and system-system interactions. so instead of we handling the exception intelligent AI can help us in exception handling. And the experience can be simulated in virtual game like environment to improve performance.


Excellent research topic, John. Seems largely untapped, as the focus is fragmented around various practices (lean, Kata, TOC, agile, scrum, ....) and the cultures of the organizations (or groups of them) are in little to no interaction with others which would foster scalable learning across boundaries.

Having practiced lean thinking (or just process improvement) in SME and OEM context in various circumstances. Small group effectiveness was best when processes were scaling and boldly set goals were on the horizon. This was the case at going from prototyping with fast feedback loops of learning across early users and scaling production at a new automobile plant.

The ingredients of success:
- no hierarchy intervening
- bold goal understandable for involved people and pulling passion, and a mindset of "we can do it together"
- processes were not stabilized yet, and still at a vast growth of learning
- given the appropriate tools and digital means to achieve success (beyond expectations or known knowledge of managers and leaders)

The question of your research is with me since starting my work career some 20 years ago with the question,

"How can organizations sustainably over time create more value for its customers with given resources and stable workforce, enabling #ScalableLearning across boundaries?"

Looking forward to hearing about next steps towards your research.

PS.: "Creative Social Change - Leadership for a Healthy World" by Kathryn Goldman Schuyler gives interesting insights (especially around scaling) and "Whiplash" by Joi Ito on the rising gap between workers'/people's life and accelerating technology which has definitely a huge impact on the success of collaborative working and your research area from my point of view and experience over the years.

Neil Hinrichsen

Are processes not converging into AI - so business bifurcates into automation and exploration?


Groups that have the ability to change themselves while still focusing on an end goal are more likely to do a good job at this.

The Boydian thinking of OODA loops, analysis and synthesis try to allow for this type of adaptation of the team to circumstances.

Another great starting point are the principals put out for Agile. There are many many ways to do agile, but the core tenants are great.

Rashmir Balasubramaniam

Schaeffer Consulting and the Rapid Results Institute (RRI) have done a lot of work in this area. I have worked with them on some social sector projects in the UK and Kenya. The challenge I keep running into in this work and similar work I've done elsewhere is when/how to ensure that the changes in behaviours, practices and outcomes sustain, i.e. get embedded and last, so that continual improvement by frontline teams becomes the norm. In theory the answer is relatively simple, but in practice - especially in large, bureaucratic contexts with multiple stakeholders and financial flows, it is not.

Eng Seng Loh

It doesn't seem to me that business process redesign and business practice redesign are comparable creatures.

The former is tightly focused on achieving a particular outcome. The latter is much more open ended and speaks ultimately to the longevity of the company itself.

In my company, we've created small cross-silo, cross-functional innovation teams that are charged with finding new products/business models in response to exponent change. (These teams themselves are the result of a new process, a business process redesign if you will!)

But they've had varying success because their learnings quickly run up against questions of who's going to fund the new product, who's going to own the new business within the existing company org structure, who's on the hook for achieving the target forecasts, how it fits into the current company channels to market, etc, etc.

Undoubtedly all companies will have to think about how to redesign their business practices and business models to stay competitive in face of exponent change in their markets.

Exponent change create new customer needs and expectations. Companies need to meet these new customer requirements. These new value propositions may not fit well or at all with their current business model. Or they require resources that compete with funding existing cash cows.

Resolving these fundamental questions require significantly more debate at higher levels of the company than a mere business process redesign.

Consequently, I don't see framing the need for business practice redesign as a way to unbind the constraints of business process redesign is a natural one.

Charles O'Reilly has written many articles on organizational ambidexterity. Seems that area of research is pertinent to your questions posed above.


What are the specific practices that can help small, front-line workgroups to learn faster to generate accelerating performance improvement? http://edgeperspectives.typepad.com/edge_perspectives/2017/01/business-practice-redesign.html

Rob Henderson

Hi, John. Excellent question,and I agree that the approach is unique. Look forward to reading the results over time. One caveat:Usually the opportunities for short term improvements are significant,and longer term improvements will not necessarily "accelerate" over the short to medium term.The obvious starting literature for a "Meta - Practice" - and with many cases documented on line - is Mike Rother's "Toyota Kata"

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