In this 5th article in the EDUCHAOS series, Marie Jasinski poses this question: Are you a bigger package than you thought you were? Find out by exploring the crafty art of patching - how you can mix, match and morph your professional assets so you stay agile and responsive in unpredictable and dynamic markets.
What is patching?
Leader as patchworker: showing off your assets
Asset portfolio: discovering your own patchwork of assets
Designing your own patchwork of assets – think Velcro not glue
What is patching?
Patching is a business process whereby organisational decision-makers stay on the edge by routinely mapping and remapping their business assets in order to remain responsive to shifting market opportunities.
Patching is about breaking an organisation down into loosely connected chunks or “patches”. Each patch is then given the freedom and encouragement to do as well as it can to achieve their goals and keep the organisation current, viable and dynamic.
The term patching comes from complexity theory and is a strategy for keeping an organisation as fit and responsive as possible.
The following quote by Eisenhardt and Brown captures the essence of patching:
Patching is the strategic process by which corporate executives routinely remap businesses to changing market opportunities. It can take the form of adding, splitting, transferring, exiting, or combining chunks of businesses. Patching is less critical when markets are relatively unchanging, but when markets are turbulent, patching becomes crucial. It allows corporate managers to focus on the best opportunities and to leave the less promising ones behind.i
Leader as patchworker: showing off your assets
Patching usually refers to mixing, matching and morphing sub-units of an organisation to provide a better service to its customers. But can this concept be equally applied to individuals? Can you be more strategic and use the patching concept to get a better grip on how to utilise your unique professional asset portfolio more effectively? Can you use the concept of patching for constantly remapping and recombining your own asset portfolio to be in a position to respond to ever changing opportunities?
Can you patch it? YES YOU CAN!
Patching is an agile approach to the fragile world of leadership, innovation and change. Patching is not only a strategy; it is also a distinct mindset or world view. If you are a patch worker, you believe that alliances are inherently temporary, frequent and small scale and are more about manoeuvring through rather than managing change.
Asset portfolio – discovering your own patchwork of assets
Patching starts with self awareness and an understanding of your asset portfolio, what you have to offer and how you can utilize what you have most effectively in a leadership or change agent role. The concept of patching can help you to understand your “portfolio of patches” and how to “stitch, unstitch and restitch” your assets in response to emerging opportunities.
Here is a portfolio of different asset “patches” to get you started. You’ll probably identify some more as you start bedding your assets down.
© Design Planet, 2004
1. Conceptual assets
The mental models, beliefs and values that provide a frame of reference for working in a dynamic environment
These are the lenses you look through to frame your understanding of innovation, leadership and change. Also called frames of reference, mental models and world views, they underpin your beliefs, values and actions and are often what drives and motivates you. Conceptual assets focus on visioning the future and are often associated with the big picture and strategic thinking.
2. Partner assets
The people you can work with
These are the local, national and international networks you work with and develop. Partner assets could be at an individual, group or organisation level. This asset is about relationship management: the capacity to seek, build and sustain professional relationships.
3. Role assets
These are the types of roles you perform which expand your sphere of influence
Role assets go beyond titles like Manager or Trainer and could include roles like mentor, leader, critical friend, presenter, synthesizer, muse, coach, facilitator, researcher, motivator, agent, advocate etc. Role assets tend to be over and above the cause of duty statements!
4. Context assets
These are the locations where actions and interactions with clients take place.
Context assets enable you to utilise your capabilities and expand your sphere of influence and impact. Context assets could include your capability to work face-to-face, online, and in enterprise work places. Other contexts which you can expand your spheres of influence are through publications, conference presentations, and communities of practice.
5. Content assets
These are the different areas of content expertise.
What do you know that keeps you ahead of the game and how is this knowledge developed and sustained? Content assets could include your understanding of flexible learning, client needs, professional development, pedagogy, emerging trends, innovation, relationship management, emotional intelligence and high performance team work. How you build this content could be through formal or informal study, reading and communities of practice.
Designing your own patchwork of assets – think Velcro, not glue
Patches are neither hierarchical nor linear, but rather a way to deconstruct and reconstruct your asset repertoire to understand it better and utilise it more dynamically and effectively. It is akin to laying out the different patches when making a quilt in order to get an overall picture of the raw material you have to work with.
While the raw material is essential, what counts in the end is the design of the patchwork and your assembly method. The design includes how different patches are aligned and how they work together to get the best possible effect. When it comes to assembly, think Velcro not glue! If you stitch or glue your assets too tightly together, they become to rigid and are hard to unpick and re-assemble when the opportunity arises. With Velcro you can just rip them apart and re-stick them in new formats when the opportunity arises!
Eisenhardt and Brown’sii four principles of patching are keys to the success of how to position yourself to lead and influence change.
- Principle 1: Do it fast – implement patch decisions quickly to reduce anxiety.
Respond quickly to emerging opportunities by patching and repatching your repertoire. This ability to be nimble is a key advantage in dynamic environments.
- Principle 2: Develop multiple options, and then make a roughly right choice.
Seek several “good-enough-for-now” solutions and act on them. When working with dynamic markets, this also makes good business sense because…
…it is cognitively easier to compare several alternatives than to analyze a single alternative in depth… (p.6)iii
If you work in a bureaucracy you may be tied to ”chains of command” decision makers who painstakingly seek “the best solution” and this will slow you down. If this is the case, lead from the shadows by focusing on your local context and make an impact by being “good-enough-for-now”.
- Principle 3: Take an organisational test drive.
This principle avoids “painstakingly planning out details in advance” by doing a trial run to discover what works and what doesn’t. Presenting at conferences is a great strategy to test drive new ideas!
- Principle 4: Find the right fit between general manager and business unit.
The wrong manager can stall the patching process. Been there? Experienced that? Luckily, you are the manager of your own asset portfolio, so you’ve made a good choice about who’s in charge of the patching process!
Being fast, having options, testing out ideas and making your own decisions – in other words applying the principles of patching - is a key to the success in the role of leader as patch worker.
Patch working: it’s flexible thinking with attitude!
iEisenhardt, Kathleen and Shona Brown (1999), “Patching: Restitching Business Portfolios in Dynamic Markets, Harvard Business Review, (May-June), pp. 73-74
iiEisenhardt, Kathleen and Shona Brown (1999), “Patching: Restitching Business Portfolios in Dynamic Markets,” Harvard Business Review, (May-June), pp. 72-82.
iiiEisenhardt, K. & Brown, S. (1999) Patching adapting organizational structures. Harvard Business Review, v77 i3, 71 (1)
Articles in the EDUCHAOS series
EDUCHAOS: out of control and thriving!
EDUCHAOS- Disruptive Technologies
EDUCHAOS: Using improv and storytelling in business
EDUCHAOS: Job Sculpting - in tune with making work WORK!
EDUCHAOS: Patchworking – showing off your assets
EDUCHAOS: Go Conative - where there’s will, you’re away!
EDUCHAOS: Tuning in to your own voice!
EDUCHAOS: Loose change – a new currency