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 kept corporate executives, management consultants, and other public nuisances preoccupied enough to otherwise stay out of the way.

That was then. This is now.

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 need is:

  1. A purpose
  2. A strategy
  3. A method for submitting and evaluating concepts for products, services, business models, and/or new markets
  4. The ability to allocate resources to the most viable concepts
  5. Knowledge of the game
  6. Knowledge of the players on your bench (or the ones you need)
  7. Knowledge of your competition
  8. The ability to dispatch your team members to fulfill the roles for which they’re best suited in the structure that’s most conducive to their success
  9. The ability to manage projects and processes
  10. The ability to take new products, services, and business models to market.

In fact, it was so tempting we created an operating system that will transform your business by enabling you to do all those things with discipline, adaptability, and consistency. In the process of transforming your business, you’ll incrementally achieve the digital transformation vital to success in the 21st century. And you’ll achieve systemic, systematic, and sustainable innovation in the bargain.

We may have spent 70 years developing and refining strategic management and putting people through business schools. But this is 2023. And those days are behind us.

Just ask TOM, DICK, and HARRY.

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