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CycloPraxis Overview Article



CycloPraxis:  Matching Employees and Positions.

Despite following conventional wisdoms, most of us have erred by assigning a “Round Peg” employee to a “Square Hole” position.  We’ve surely avoided assigning salesmen to research positions or finance specialists to human relations – each function has unique strengths.  We’ve no-doubt carefully evaluated promoting our best salesperson to sales manager since personal contribution is a poor predictor of leadership skill.  Still as a manager in operations, marketing, and development I experienced many “Round Peg Square Hole” disappointments -- until I added CycloPraxis as an additional evaluation criteria. 

CycloPraxis identifies, segments, and align lifecycle variable aspects of a position description with the natural work habits of employees.   That’s a terse definition of a novel word.  Let’s try it again … slowly. 

Lifecycle is an analysis paradigm often applied to key business variables.  For instance, the marketing function has long targeted specific audiences – from early adopters to late majority -- aligned by product lifecycle.  Financiers recommend different funding mechanisms – angel, venture capitalist, IPO – depending on a startup’s maturity.  The nature of activity in many other functions – from product development to quality to customer support -- changes along the lifecycle.   Now, with CycloPraxis we have the ability to appreciate the changing expectations of heretofore-static position descriptions according to an inevitable lifecycle paradigm. 

CycloPraxis is from the Greek 'praxis' meaning a natural way of working and ‘cyclo’ to signify the concept of company lifecycle.  We can separate the lifecycle of a typical business [and the individual product lines within a business] into Authoring, Building, Capitalizing, Diversifying, and Extending stages [A, B, C, D, & E to make remembering easy].   The nature of the work and the expected contribution from employees is very different at each stage.  

The kickoff lifecycle stage is Authoring where an entrepreneur passionately promotes his/her idea.  During Authoring high-risk innovation must be conceived, and championed and defended.  Authoring is the proud output of freedom seeking creative individuals with superb long-range vision, tenacity, and with more of a penchant for risk than pragmatism. 

Building is a time for productizing innovation, early-adopter customer partnerships, discovering beachhead markets, beginning operations, establishing finance and quality and human resource functions, and initiating first processes. In contrast to authoring, Building involves a focused time-driven implementation of the single chosen idea using the best of project management practices.  Building requires task oriented individuals energized by significant accomplishment against difficult first-time challenges.    

In the third stage, Capitalizing, the business increases and ultimately maximizes sales, output, and profits.  Stable recipes for sales and operations with ever-increasing quality and ever-improving costs best serve the owners and customers alike.   Teamwork dependent assignments and organizational design are the basis of a ‘structure’.   That structure both preserves successful recipes and assures predictability and repeatability.  Individuals most effective at Capitalizing are those for whom structure and predictability provides a comfortable foundation for steady continuous improvement.   

At some point markets pass their prime and begin to decline.  Businesses need to consider Diversifying – typified by authoring and building once again -- as a fourth stage.  Diversifying is often an unwelcome change into an otherwise comfortable and consistent capitalizing environment.   

In a final Extending stage, the business’ mission must adroitly shift from customer acquisition to customer retention.  As the business evolves to the Extending stage, long term relationships and customer satisfaction become the principle means for preserving revenue and profits.  Knowledge experts and caring customer service agents are key underpinnings for sustaining the business.   Extending is best realized with employees who value relationships and prize being helpful; tasks, ideas, and productivity are subordinate.  Extending is a self-reinforcing activity with the subliminal goal of keeping a customer’s loyalty thereby perpetuating the existence of the organization which serves them. 

Fortunately, the lifecycle specific differences the position descriptions and the natural working style of employees are easy to identify and understand.   Carefully selected cyclopraxis-determining interview questions and specifically adjusted cyclopraxis-optimized management methods yield fine success.   

In addition to avoiding “Round Peg Square Hole” through improved interview techniques, CycloPraxis sheds new light on a number of other challenges business owners may face.

·   Growth Stall.
Have you reached a point where sales growth has leveled off and you recognize diversification is in order?  Despite incentives to do so is your organization hesitant?  Perhaps your organization lacks sufficient numbers of Authors and Builders.

·   Changing Founder’s Contribution.
Has the founder begun to feel like a square peg in his/her own company?  Perhaps a mismatch has developed between the founder’s praxis and the cyclopraxis of the business.

·   Endless Challenges, Elusive Profitability.
Would simply repeating some previous successes – while not as inspiring – provide some profits?  Perhaps Builders are not appreciating the shareholder value in capitalizing upon success.

·  Changing Mature Organizations
Without change, the structures, strategies, skills, systems, and even staffing of today’s best businesses will under-perform in tomorrow’s world.  The builder praxis – properly managed – is the best agent of change.

 Business Leaders could ask several CycloPraxis questions in pursuit of getting the most from their people. 

-          Does the nature of the work align with the lifecycle stage of your company and market

-          Do your leader’s styles align with the lifecycle stage of the company

-          Are new people being added with appropriate CycloPraxis

Negative answers might very well suggest you have some “Round Pegs in Square Holes” and an opportunity to improve your company’s effectiveness.

Submitted to Renaissance Executive Forum for Publication

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