Starting in the 1950s — the decade in which the discipline of strategic management was created as an alternative to happenstance, random occurrence, chaos, favoritism, nepotism, and blind luck — strategic management begat the operating model which begat the target operating model (TOM).

TOM is defined as:

a description of the desired state of the operating model of an organisation [sic]. When working on the operating model, it is normal to define the “as is” model and the “to be” model. The Target Operating Model is the “to be” model.

The as is model is oftentimes referred to as the current state. And the to be model is frequently referred to as the desired state. Since the current state of most organizations is indifferent dysfunction, the desired state is sometimes referred to as the pipe dream or fantasy.

Atmospheric Pastry

Nevertheless, like Utopia, the to be model (or the desired state) continues to be pursued with quixotic fervor, particularly by those who’ve never worked in corporate bureaucracies. But since, as Peter Drucker once said, “In business school classrooms they construct wonderful models of a non-world,” we continue to chase a reality that’s changing faster than we can run.

Nevertheless, most management and organizational consultants now agree that the state of any organization can only be optimized or idealized by combining TOM with two other crucial elements:

  1. Deliberately incisive configurational knowledge (DICK), a means by which to effectively structure the organization
  2. A holistically abundant renewable resource yardstick (HARRY), a tool with which to comprehensively measure the resources — human, financial, and other — necessary for the organization to perennially perpetuate itself.

While all this conceptual claptrap may seem like just so much pie in the sky, it at least keeps corporate executives, management consultants, and other public nuisances preoccupied enough to otherwise stay out of the way.

Get Real

It’s tempting to view the derivation of operating models and management techniques as common sensible. It’s easy to imagine that, like coaching a sport, all you have to do is know the game, know the players on your bench (or the ones you need), know your competition, and dispatch your team members to fulfill the roles for which they’re best suited in the structure that’s most conducive to their success. Oh, please.

If it were that simple — if it were a mere matter of common sense — would we really have spent almost 70 years developing and refining strategic management? Would we really have needed all those business schools? Would we really need consultants to tell us what to do even though we’re pulling down six- and seven-figure salaries to get it done? Come on.

If it were easy, every TOM, DICK, and HARRY would do it.

Dilbert cartoon ©2014 Scott Adams, Inc.