Management By Tweaking

Most people understand linear relationships. If the input to something doubles and the output doubles too, and the output triples when the input triples, etc., that is linear. Business isn't linear. In the days when manufacturing reigned, it was close, but with the rise of knowledge work, nonlinearity now rules most organizations.

Nonlinearity means that a small change could have a large impact, and vice versa. That leads me to wonder, why are we so concerned with massive change if it might not be needed? When things aren't going right, companies often have reorganizations, layoffs, etc., and I'm not sure that is always necessary. Why don't they try to tweak the current system first? Perhaps a few small changes can set the stage for big gains.

The reason I think this is important is because too much big change bothers people. Tweaking allows slow change. Work can evolve over time. Plus it allows you to test the tweak. Everything else is the same and this one thing has been slightly adjusted, thus any changes in output are likely a result of that adjustment.

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Sometimes big change is necessary. Sometimes a system needs that kind of shock. But I've watched some companies continually restructure, reorganize, and reinvent, (how many times has Sun done that over the last few years?) when maybe all they needed was a few tweaks.