The deployment of complex technologies can be a demanding problem in modern societies, especially when various interest groups support or oppose such deployments. The magnitude of the challenge was not lost on Alfred A. Marcus (Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota).
Using the example of implementing wind turbine systems as a source of renewable energy generation, Marcus compared the approaches taken in Texas and Minnesota. Both states have the high and relatively consistent wind runs considered to be a necessity for large farms of wind turbines. However, renewable technologies such are wind turbine farms are not universally supported. Some like the romanticism of the blades gently turning in the breeze; others assert they are a blight on rural vistas; and, yet others both like the idea but oppose local deployment (the pejorative NIMBY).
Marcus observed that Texas' approach to decision-making and deployment was more top-down in nature, whereas the Minnesota experience was more bottom-up (and highly politicised). In considering this, he suggested that charisma without supporting regulation can lead to short-lived benefits. In effect, some ideas and decision processes need top-down 'support' to gain traction. Drawing on the work of Wilson (hierarchical decision-making) and Ostrom (collective action), Marcus proposed four 'rules' that can help, as follows:
In effect, Marcus' proposal was that a combined approach—incorporating hierarchical governance structures and decision-making processes and collectivism—was probably necessary if the not inconsiderable barriers to the deployment of complex and somewhat contentious technologies (like wind farms) are to be overcome.
Although he did not explicitly extrapolate his comments, Marcus' suggestions are relevant and applicable to boards of commercial businesses. Many decisions, especially strategic decisions, fail to gain traction in implementation because a suitable framework for both decision-making and monitoring and verifying implementation is not established. Perhaps boards might like to consider Marcus' proposal, and see how it might apply. I suspect the answer in many cases will be 'well'—so long as a shared commitment to a common and singular purpose was in place.
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Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and boardcraft; our place in the world; and other topics that catch my attention.