Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Back to Basics: What is Management Automation?

From time to time in my training sessions I have to go back to basics and explain the meaning of the terms “management” and “automation,” and how they relate to each other. To save time, I decided to write a separate post to review a few fundamental principles. These are principles we use a lot in GOMA. They are not invented by us, and generally they match to commonly used terms. You can read more about them in special literature, and I’ve included a few references at the end of this post.

Let’s start with management. Our definition says that management is “the act of conducting efforts to accomplish desired goals by using available resources efficiently and effectively.” In other words, management represents any goal-oriented activity. From the standard definition we removed the reference to people to make it more generic and applicable to management in socio-economical and  technical systems. The ending, “using available resources efficiently and effectively” states that management is rationally justified and is not a random process.

Automation is defined the following way: “The use of technology (machines, control systems and information technology) to enhance or completely eliminate manual operations.” The meaning of “automation” generally matches the meaning of “technology.” It just puts an extra focus on the partial or full elimination of manual work, and its replacement with work performed by machines.

From those two definitions we can describe management automation as “the use of technology to partially or completely remove people from management.

There are couple other principles we often use in our work.

Comprehensive (full) automation is automation which completely eliminates people from the management process--like Skynet, but a positive and good one. The creation of comprehensive automation systems is the ultimate goal of our GOMA research. We are working towards that vision. Though it may not be possible today, it could become quite possible in the future.

Conceptually complete MAS is a management automation system (MAS), which supports the entire management process from beginning to end. It is able to obtain, process, transmit, and present all required management information. For example, if person is taken away from all tools, locked in an empty room, and given a computer with only one application to interface with the MAS, he will be able to perform all his work at a reasonable level.

The creation of conceptually complete MAS is also researched in detail in GOMA. It is quite obvious, that in order to do his job, a person must know what is required from him (he must see the upper-level goals) and be able to perform all functions in his OODA loop: observe, analyze, make decisions, and act on them. The actions can be delegated to lower management levels, or be performed directly by the system.

Here it is important to understand the difference between a management system and a management automation system (MAS). While a management system performs management, a management automation system is only able to support the management and automate management functions. The MAS is not able to manage by itself without a human, unless it is a comprehensive system.

For instance, let’s look at a cargo movement system. A person, who carries cargo around, is a management system based exclusively on manual operations. That person can perform management on his or her own. A driver with a truck (loader) represents a similar system, but with different quantitative and qualitative characteristics. The truck is an automated part of the system or MAS, but it is not able to act on its own without its driver. Only a fully autonomous truck-robot is a MAS and a management system at the same time--or, in other words, a comprehensive system.

To finish, let’s look at what a GOMA system is. In our interpretation a GOMA system is “a management automation system based on explicitly defined and interconnected goals, achieved by the joint efforts of elements at different management levels, operating in their individual OODA loops.

In other words, any GOMA system must have:
  • Explicitly defined management goals
  • Reason-consequence links between goals
  • Support for all OODA loop functions performed by automated active elements--i.e. observation and analysis of information, and planning and execution of decisions made based on set goals and analyzed information
  • Execution results linked to back set goals at all management levels

There are other principles and terms we use in GOMA, but these are the basic ones. It is good to have a firm understanding of these principles when studying GOMA.