Building an enterprise around the expert

It is so easy to get excited about business processes. Reduce your company to a well oiled machine.

But unfortunately we’re starting to see the limits of this now. Feeling part of a machine is not great for people’s sense of self worth. People with a low sense of self worth find it harder to trust each other. It means one company is similar to another one. And there’s limits to how well oiled the machine can be. And it isn’t very exciting to invest in such a company, with competition driving all the returns (including the investor’s) right down.

Warren Buffett is a famous proponent of process driven companies, famously saying that he would like to invest in companies which an idiot could run, because someday, one will. But he is not a starter of companies, and his own expertise has proven something very different to a process – otherwise plenty of people would have copied it.

So let’s start thinking about an alternative. Can we have a company driven by its experts?

Start with a law firm. It has its business processes, yes, but its success comes down to whether its lawyers can win cases, a task requiring enormous expertise.

Then look at any company where expert decision making is required. Any small manufacturing company needs to decide which sales to chase, where the future market is likely to be, how to make the market work to its advantage, which products are likely to be most viable in future, and that’s just a small part of it.

Public managers – people who run public services, or administrate regions – need to make enormously complex decisions and could benefit from better information. What happened when we tried this last time?

Actually, anybody who runs anything, needs to continually weigh up how the organisation is moving – there are always problems, but the expert needs to figure out the difference between a problem which can be ignored, and a major crisis.

How do we build software to make all of this?


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