Angular Execution — Common Constraints
Angular Execution is a framework for managing complex knowledge work. It is a triangle representing “Work” that sits on top of an x-axis representing “Effort” and a y-axis representing the “Time” it takes to implement a solution. Inside “Work” triangle comprises four sub triangles components that make up the work needed to solve a problem. When work is aligned, each triangle is the same size, and effort aligns and builds a foundation for the solution. This is what we all aspire for.
In “Angular Execution,” the “Solution” sits on top of the “Problem,” “Authority,” and “Resources.” The key is that the “Solution” is constrained and can only be as big as the smallest foundational triangle. The examples below are typical constraints we all deal with. These examples will help you see where to spend your effort and provide professional boundaries, so you are not banging your head against the wall.
If you haven’t read the original post on Angular Execution, take a quick look here.
Constrained Subject Matter Expert
Being a Subject Matter Expert has its benefits. Typically the SME is close to the action, and the work can be gratifying. Doing the”Work” also allows SMEs to see some crazy backward processes, but they often don’t have the “Authority” to allocate “Resources” to implement an adequate “Solution.”
As you can see, the SME has a complete understanding of the “Problem.” However, they have limited authority and influence over resources. This is a common SME challenge. They don’t have access to the resources required to solve their problem ultimately. Sometimes the solution may seem so simple to fix and so far away at the same time.
In the example above, the key is to find out who controls the smallest triangle (in this case, Resources). Then, finding the “Authority,” whether it is a PM, a dev manager, or a team lead, will provide a path to the “Solution.” This person or people are crucial, and the only other is to shrink the scope of the solution by fixing what is within the SME’s locus of control.
Managers have different challenges. They usually have less expertise than SMEs, but they can have more control over the resources. However, their resources are often constrained. In other words, they have more autonomy and can direct their team’s effort, but most of the time, finding the right thing to work on is the biggest challenge.
In this example, the manager has the “Authority” to assign more resources, but the team has resource constraints. Therefore, the manager’s challenge is to ensure their resources are working on effective use of time. The best solution is to shrink the work to align with the smallest triangle (resources in this example).
The challenge for the manager is not to waste career capital on overpromising and underdelivering. Doing this will erode “Authority” and waste time which was the big problem in the first place.
Executive leadership can focus resources like no one else in the organization. However, they also have different challenges, like managing EBITA, driving sales, and answering the board. The biggest challenge is that they are abstracted from the business problems by management layers, and they are often incentivized to find the next great thing.
In the example above, the problem is abstracted or misrepresented, and therefore, the solution’s impact will not meet expectations. To be fair, executives have to make these bets to find the next big thing. The challenge can be resisting the urge to make a quick buck instead of working on aligning the business.
The key for executives is to dig below the abstraction and find the problems that need the resources. Most likely, you have a manager that could use some resources that will have a more significant impact than the newest shiny object.
Finding the smallest triangle also provides a path to a “Solution” with a more significant impact. Therefore, placing your effort into growing the smallest component will lead to the most significant potential impact. Hopefully, these examples provided some practical insight that you can use today. For example, instead of beating yourself up as an SME because you don’t have resources, you can find a manager with authority. As a manager, you can work with your SME to right-size your project and hopefully find some capacity. Finally, as an executive, you can challenge your beliefs around the problem and not maximize your resource allocation.