What we doDear reader,
My name is Rajeev and I work at Pathscript as a doer-of-miscellaneous-things. That, I hear, is the technical term for my position. In some way, shape or form, I am, and have been since its inception, involved in everything going on at Pathscript. Perhaps this puts me in a position to describe accurately what the real talent here, our consultants, have to offer and what we do.
We are business management and operations consultants who believe that the engineering approach to business management and operations is the platform on which innovation, imagination and creativity can thrive – especially in startups, small and medium sized enterprises.
May I qualify this statement? Perhaps one idea at a time.
The First Idea
The Engineering Approach in Startups, Small and Medium Enterprises
In the context of business management and operations, the engineering approach refers more specifically to the practice of building processes, measuring systems and making informed decisions about your business using data and experience.
This is easier said than done – believe me. This approach involves constant planning, record-keeping, and review meetings. It is rife with uncertainty, disagreements, arguments, confrontation, and sometimes even Mathematics. It requires clear-headed, well-tempered, ambitious yet grounded business leaders for these ideas to come to life. I’ve heard 30 year old stories about the experiences the consultants had early in their careers at large corporations about being lost in a forest of process, procedure, and paperwork. It is on the shoulders of their mentors that they learned, practised, and mastered their craft; I am now on this journey.
There is a clear motivation for big businesses to invest in process orientation. They get from their effort: consistency in product, in people and in self-improvement. It provides to their leaders the mechanisms to guide their companies through what may often seem like an uncertain path forward. Startups and SMEs need to navigate the same world.
Investments into management technology, implementation and training can run into the millions of dollars. They spend time in making short, medium and long term plans, then breaking down their plans into actions that are assigned to individuals responsible for their completion. Measures and controls are put in place to observe the system, its dynamics and the company’s progress, and all whilst running a business, and meeting present day financial targets previously set.
A somewhat probing question to ask here is:
With tight resources, limited mentorship, manpower that is heavily loaded with responsibility, and a lack of scale to cover the additional overheads of building a process oriented organisation, can a startup or SME afford management science?
Our honest answer is: maybe.
We believe it does, but belief is not sufficient to answer that question with a strong ‘yes’. That being said, we have seen small businesses go through revolutions and come back from almost closing their doors. This occurs when business leaders have the humility to look critically at their own work, acknowledge fault and have the willingness to make the necessary changes. This quality is a prerequisite for the answer to our question to move from a ‘no’ to a ‘maybe’. I’m sorry – I wish I could be more positive but running a business is hard work and it may never pay off! We try our best to be as honest pertaining to the reality of a given industry as we can.
The key here is to find the right blend of management techniques to suit the nature, scale and goal of your company at a given time. This is where we come in. We try our best to help you determine the right strategies, create the documentation environment to keep your company on track, provide the necessary education and all those good things. This, however, does not always work. Your business and your team may not accept the changes that are needed.
Let’s find an equivalence in farming to paint a picture here. Say your existing crop is not doing well in your soil. You may with soil tests identify that the salt or pH balance is not suitable for your seeds. Research may tell you that another crop might flourish, so you sow the new seeds. Can anyone say for certain, before the crop has grown, that the soil and environment will suit your crop?
If even we as Pathscript, outspoken advocates for management science in startups and SMEs, are ourselves sometimes uncertain whether our approach will work, why take such a big risk of building an entire business around this idea? There must be a reward so great that pushes us to work hard with you and that justifies the risk on the off chance we succeed. That brings us to our next idea from the original statement.
Statement We are business management and operations consultants who believe that the engineering approach to business management and operations is the platform on which innovation, imagination and creativity can thrive – especially in startups, small and medium sized enterprises.
The Second Idea
The platform on which innovation. imagination and creativity can thrive
Let’s talk about Albert Einstein, who was in his later life an outspoken advocate for placing greater value on imagination in society. He perhaps was not wrong when he expressed this sentiment, and I’m paraphrasing here, that imagination is more important than knowledge, as unlike imagination, knowledge is limited. A new idea can embrace the entire world and give birth to evolution.
If I’m honest, I don’t think that in my life, I have ever had an original idea of such importance. What do I know about the underlying dynamics of the world? Every grand idea I have had so far has dissipated in darkness and ignorance. Einstein was probably wired in a way that allowed him a superior proficiency in abstraction and visualisation of the natural world. Is that a sufficient quality for imagination and reality to come together in a way that shaped our current understanding of the universe?
As much as he promoted the importance of imagination, we cannot forget that he studied physics, mathematics and the work of previous geniuses the likes of Ramanujam, Euler, Gauss and Newton. It is highly improbable that he imagined 4000 years of mathematics and got it right.
Knowledge fuelled his imagination.
Most improvement in our combined knowledge happens at a glacial pace. One small idea at a time. I don’t think I have had one of those either. I do not have Einstein’s powers of abstraction. I do however, have access to the knowledge he did and of those who came after.
As industrial people, what did our predecessors leave us? What have our contemporaries cared to share? The knowledge that management science can offer to you about your business is what four millennia of mathematics offered Einstein –
a platform on which innovation, imagination and creativity can thrive.
The engineering approach to business keeps you close to the realities of your business and presents to you the dynamics of your system in a structured way with abstraction. It keeps your processes running consistently and predictably; faults, weaknesses, strengths and opportunities rise to the surface for you to observe.
The magic happens when your creativity solves a problem with a small idea or gives birth to a grand new vision for the future of your business. When ideas born in your company don’t die in the dark, and start seeing implementation with subsequent reward, your business comes alive. That is how an SME can navigate through the harsh terrain and adapt like large businesses sometimes do.
Building and being a part of such an organisation, that has a real chance of contributing to society, makes the risk Pathscript consultants take worth the time, money, blood, sweat and tears; these consultants are the subject of the last idea from the original statement.