In addition to the four types of task complexity (as is also the case with the four cognitive processes discussed below), the four orders of information complexity (A, B, C, and D) have to be taken into account too. For example, a task that has to do with anticipating difficulties which are likely to be encountered in using a spoon to eat a bowl of soup (cumulative processing of the first order complexity of information (A) in a concrete world) will be substantially less complex than the task of anticipating difficulties which are likely to be encountered by a detective in solving a crime (cumulative processing of second order complexity of information (B) in a verbal symbolic world).
Thus (as was the case for the categories of cognitive complexity), combining each of the four orders of information complexity with the four types of task complexity, gives the same range of categories of task complexity running from category A- I to A-4, B-I to B- 4, C- I to C- 4, :lnd D-I to D-4. But practically these can be limited to B- I to B-4 and C- I to C-3, since these cover the world of managerial leadership in stratum-I to stratum-VII.
Second Order Categories of Task Complexity: The following are illustrations of the nature of task complexity in tasks to be found at stratum-I to stratum-IV.
Category B-1 task complexity (stratum-1): Direct action in immediate situation These are the kinds of task found at shop- and office-floor level. The task requires a person to proceed along a prescribed linear pathway to a goal, getting continual feedback in order to proceed. As problems are encountered, the person has to use practical judgment to decide what is wrong and then has to apply previously learned methods [or overcoming obstacles. If the methods are unsuccessful, the person reports back to his or her manager. Examples of such tasks would be: type this memorandum, coping with words which are difficult to read; drill holes with this jack hammer, and get around big rocks in the ground which are in the way of the drill.
Category B-2 task complexity (stratum-II): Diagnostic Accumulation. These are the kinds of tasks found at first line managerial level. An individual must be able to note things that might indicate potential problems and obstacles, accumulate such potentially significant data, and initiate actions to prevent or overcome such predicted problems as may be identified. Examples would be: design a new jig for this machining process, working out the design as the job proceeds, accumulating data on how various parts are most likely to fit together so that the whole will work well; use good detective procedures to accumulate the evidence necessary to find a hit-and-run driver.
Category B-3 task complexity (stratum-III): Alternative Serial Plans. Increasingly complex situations require alternative plans to be constructed before starting out, one to be chosen and serially progressed to completion, with possible change to another alternative if necessary. For example, a person in a computer company heads a team of four programmers on a project to create a program that will make it possible to translate material from one computer language to another. She constructs three possible paths to the goal: the first would be sure but would take much too long, the second would be excellent if it worked but would lead to an expensive project failure if it did not, the third is relatively sound and could most likely be completed in the time available although it might be slow and might create uncertainty in the early stages. She opts for the third.
Category B-4 task complexity (stratum-IV): Mutually Interactive Programs. These are problems still more complex because they comprise a number of interacting programs which have to be planned and progressed in relation to each other, and controlled by transfer of resources between them and by adjustment of resources and schedules so as to keep the overall program on target. Trade-offs must be made between tasks in order to make progress along the route to the goal. For example, a designer and developer of new venture products for a large corporation (who has four assistants to help her) has to construct and pursue simultaneously a number of development paths: a developing design of the product and product applications, an in depth analysis of potential international markets, the making and testing of models of the new product, and a sustained commercial analysis of its potential business value to the Corporation. A balanced focusing of attention upon each of them in relation to the others is essential yet difficult; the designer may require to change any of the pathways at any time and, in doing so, she will have to adjust each of the others, all in relation to one another.
Third Order Categories of Complexity: Corporate Strategic Levels. Here are some examples of the basic categories which show up in the conceptual order of ideas and language, second order of abstraction (category C-I, C-2, and C-3). This broad order of complexity characterizes the corporate strategic world.
Category C-1 task complexity (stratum-V): Situational Response. These are the kinds of task faced by presidents of strategic business units in large corporations. Practical on-the-spot judgment must be used to deal with a field of ambiguous conceptual variables, and to make decisions envisaging the second and third order consequences of those decisions. For example, a business unit president is driving half-a-dozen critical tasks to achieve a 7-year plan, and must continually pick up the important area of impact and the likely consequences of changes and events on customer attitudes, on competition and policies, on world commodity prices, on legislation, on third world countries, on tariffs, on technology, on his own R&D programs, on interest and foreign exchange rates, on availability and cost of capital, on cash flow, etc. In order to do so he maintains a continuous “what-if” analysis of business priorities to sharpen his judgments of consequences and of what has to be done at any given time. He must rely upon situational responses and direct action, as he steers the business in the surrounding environment, to keep his profits at a reasonable level while maintaining customer goodwill, high morale among his own people, and the survival of the business with a growing balance sheet value. Category C-2 task complexity (stratum-VI): Diagnostic Accumulation. This is the level of corporate executive vice-presidents who must build up a picture of likely critical events world-wide, international networking to accumulate information about potentially significant developments to could affect the Corporation and its business units. In order to take sound actions, they must anticipate changes so is to forestall adverse events and to help to sustain a friendly environment for corporate trade. Thus an executive vice president, overseeing six full scale P&L account business units, sustains a worldwide network of information sources and pics on changes which may constitute unexpected threats are opportunities for any of his business units. He applies pressure to influence this environment, by such means as sponsoring or encouraging particular pieces of research at universities or research associations, and meeting with potential and government leaders and with senior executives of large customers. By means of accumulating significant conceptual information, and within corporate capital expenditure policies, he decides whether and when to make changes in the major resourcing of the business units, taking into account other corporate priority demands.
In the “CTO Critical Success Factors” figure, the elements facing a Senior Executive in charge of growing the company are shown as a mind map. It illustrates the complexity of elements in the thinking process and the way in which they might interact (positively and negatively) in complex and non-linear manners. Such is the world of a Category C-2 person.
Category C-3 task complexity (stratum-VII): alternative Strategies. This is the level of corporate CEOs working out strategic alternatives for worldwide operation, using complex conceptual information concerned with culture, values, and the business of nations and international trade.
For example, a corporate chairman and CEO is expanding his company, developing two additional executive vice president roles as a base for growing between five and seven new business units. Some of these are already partially grown within the company but are in need of capital infusions to enable them to grow into true P&L account subsidiaries. Others are to be developed based upon new products in new fields, and some are to be added by the acquisition of new small companies with interesting products and outstanding young potential talent — double gain. He’s worked on a number of alternative strategic alternatives, and has obtained support for them from the board and his senior subordinates, and is currently pursuing one of them that calls for penetration into related fields both at home and abroad. It is a program that is designed to see the Corporation well into the next century.
Because these categories are steps in task complexity or at the very heart of the requirements for the sound structuring of the managerial hierarchy they have been discussed in detail. They tell us just what the correct number of managerial layers ought to be (one layer for each category of task complexity). And because each category of task complexity has a corresponding category of cognitive complexity in human beings, it is possible to reap great benefits from being able to match task complexity in work with complexity in peoples’ mental capability. That match is discussed following section and gives an important basis for achieving managerial competence and effective management.