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Introducing the Management Model Canvas© - Part 2: Logic


Part 1 of this series introduced the Management Model Canvas© and provided an overview of its individual building blocks.


We will now have a closer look at its inner logic and how it works from a holistic perspective.


Exploration, Exploitation & Integration

Note that the canvas clearly separates exploration (blue) from exploitation (red). One is concerned with search: the search for how to create value in the future. The other is concerned with execution: how we execute our business model to create value today.

But note also, that there is large green area in the shape of an “I” - it stands for integration. No matter how different exploration and exploitation are, a truly successful organisation needs to be able to integrate both sets of activities under one roof. And not just so that they may co-exist, but that they may benefit from each other. So that the organisation as a whole amounts to more than the sum of its parts.


Stability, orientation & performance

Another way to look at the canvas is to distinguish its outer frame (orange) from its inner core (red). The outer frame largely gives it stability and orientation while the inner core is what gives it life through performance.

Stability comes largely from knowing what you want to achieve, why and how you are going to make it happen. Performance is driven by people at the center and how their actions and behaviours translate into the dynamic activities of decision making, sharing resources and responding to change.


Management model design elements: content and theory

A good management model is clear about its design elements. Both in terms of content and in terms of the thinking behind it. That’s why when working with the canvas, we distinguish two types of sticky notes to describe the design: content notes (yellow) and theory notes (green).

A content note describes a specific element of the management model, eg, an intended result metric, a governance rule for decision making, a collaboration tool or a specific meeting practice.


A theory note identifies the thinking that drives the content. It describes an organisation’s worldview and explains why an organisation chooses to work in a specific way - and not in a different way. Theory notes may refer to management theories, frameworks or beliefs that drives management thinking in an organisation. Think of agency theory, disruptive innovation, job-to-be-done, total motivation, shareholder value theory or lean startup.


The MMD Library will be a helpful companion tool to help you think about what drives management thinking in your organisation. It will be a comprehensive, yet easily accessible library of proven management theory, frameworks and models from which to chose and to guide your thinking in each building block of the canvas.


Contribution and organisation design, deep dives

A third type of design element is the contribution element (orange sticky note). It is only used in the contribution building block of the management model.

Contribution elements identify the different parts of an organisation and define the results these parts are going the contribute to the overall goal. These results then become a kind contract with the rest of an organisation, as this is what a specific part commits to deliver.


The parts can be organisational units (eg, functions or market units) in a more classical organisation, they can be projects, they can be circles in a holacratic organisation or tribes and squads in a Spotify-like agile organisation. Anything, really. The canvas makes no assumption about the kind of organisational design model you are using - but does assume that you clarify who contributes what to your organisation’s overall goals.


Note that these parts typically have their own, more specific management models. So you can use the canvas to do deep dives and describe management models for differente parts and different levels of your organisation.


Story telling

Last but not least, when you have completed the canvas, it should tell a compelling story about how your organisation works and how management makes it all happen.

You know you’ll have more work to do when the story breaks down, when it is incomplete or even inconsistent. We believe that one of the biggest benefits of management model design will be to make explicit and tangible what today is implicit and intangible in most organisations: the story of how the social technology called “management” enables human accomplishment in your own specific context. Once we’ve made this tangible, we can also work on making it better.


Now that we have laid the foundations, we’re ready to move on in our series and look at each of the canvas’ building blocks in more detail. Stay tuned!

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© 2019 Raymond Hofmann Management

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