The Dark Age
A long, long time ago, in a place far, far away, “Harry” served within the NCMO (Navaids/Communications Management Office), where he manned the desk as an operator. The NCMO was a room (20 x 20 feet square) adjacent to the Commander’s office; the Commander of a USAF communications squadron. This squadron supported operations of tactical and strategic units on an air force base; and, as such was overhead; but, nonetheless, essential to those tactical and strategic units accomplishing their missions.
The NCMO featured normal overhead lighting, which was always turned off; the ambient lighting in the room came from the lights behind the plexiglass status boards which covered all the walls. These status boards reflected the current status of all [technical] systems falling within the squadron’s purview; and it was Harry’s job to keep those boards updated. (With grease pencils; this was well before anything you’d recognize as a computer; and the Internet was only a twinkle in DARPA’s eye. Think of it as the Dark Age, wherein the business of managing support and resources was accomplished manually.)
The NCMO was “adjacent” to the Commander’s office by design: it functioned as his primary tool to exercise the Five Management Functions in accomplishing the squadron’s mission; it was the place where “it all came together” in the operations context. The Commander often “ducked in to get the current picture” of what was happening; and, used that information to perform his commander’s function.
The central feature in the room was the console/desk, at which sat the two airmen who were on duty at any given time, the desk being manned 24×7. That desk contained the most important feature of the NCMO: telephones, “hotlines,” and contact lists – communication tools. Without those communication tools, the function of management would occur, but largely be inefficient, to the point of being ineffective.
Here And Now
Today, we have lots of exciting tools the render that physical NCMO an antiquated and arcane facility. Tools such as the Internet, and low-cost devices and technologies that allow, promote, and feature decentralized communication across the Internet. The predominate feature of modern communications technology (and environment) is distributed communications; we no longer need a centralized physical office to manage our affairs.
In addition, and consistent with the modern technology and environment, the predominate feature of managing operations is the office automation toolset: software applications hosted either on a computer on the desk, or in our hand; and the requisite information is posted not on plexiglass, but at various and disparate locations “in the cloud,” which itself features ubiquitous access. This automation allows and promotes the function of management in a distributed manner, and features ubiquitous and immediate contact, connectivity, and communication, promising an efficiency of management those in the Dark Age never imagined.
But, for all the capability technology provides, it remains a set of features, features that deliver efficiency; and although those features increase capability, they do not alter function, wherein effectiveness resides: it remains for the Commander to perform the Five Functions of Management.
If those functions are being executed poorly, all the features in the world will not improve the end result; they will only cause the deficiencies to be exacerbated. If we’re going nowhere, features help us go nowhere faster, or go nowhere in a more distributed manner, or expend more resources going nowhere.
The New Age
The business world in the West is morphing into a new age, caused by the aggregated effect of both positive and negative economic factors, relentlessly interacting to take us where we’ve never been before. Old ways of doing business – traditional methods – will no longer suffice to serve evolving and future requirements; certainly not in a timely manner. Yet, fundamental business and management functions (sales, marketing, production, directing, controlling, etc.) will never go away, as the need for them is confirmed daily.
The old adages of “work smarter, not harder,” and “do more with less” are indirect acknowledgements of this evolving situation.
I’ve no doubt that the management functions performed decades ago within the NCMO are being performed today. But, the facility will have a new acronym; and it is probably a distributed facility, wherein the features of the technology allow the commander and attendant personnel to interact from disparate locations, in near real-time; and their interaction goes well beyond the single dimension of the old NCMO, as the management and command structures of the “tip of the spear” units are probably “featured into” the facility.
From this perspective, the technology serves to “feature in” an inclusive environment for people from disparate organizations to interactively perform business and management functions, in near real-time.