Progress Attempts

Dr. Adam Tacy PhD, MBA avatar
The idea

Progress seekers make progress – moving over time to their more desirable progress sought state – through progress attempts. Either doing so alone using their own resources, or integrating with resources offered in a progress helper’s proposition.

It’s a story of resources, progress-making activities, integrations, judgements of progress and overcoming hurdles to progress.

Here’s the mechanics of how these attempts work.

Progress attempts

A seeker always wants to reach their more desirable progress sought state. That is to say they want to progress.

progress: moving over time to a more desirable progress state

We call the act of trying to progress a progress attempt.

Remember our definition of progress as a verb?

Progress attempts are the execution of the activities mentioned in the definition. We can more fully say that progress is:

progress attempt: an attempt by a progress seeker to progress towards their progress sought through executing a series of progress-making activities

This builds out from Grönroos’ definition of service (“processes made up of a series of activities that are normally, but don’t have to be resource integrations”) and mostly aligns with Payne et al’s view of customer value creation:

The customer’s value creation process can be defined as a series of activities performed by the customer to achieve a particular goal

Payne, A. F., Storbacka, K., and Frow, P. (2006) “Managing the co-creation of value

Seekers embark on progress attempts, which consist of a sequence of progress-making activities. These activities primarily involve resource integrations that drive progress and give rise to value. Though that value may not be recognised until later.

However, it’s important to recognise that success is not guaranteed – hence the “attempt” in progress attempts. Seekers often encounter a lack of resources, which poses a significant hurdle. To overcome this hurdle, seekers turn to progress propositions that provide supplementary resources. However, even with these propositions, the lack of resources may not be fully addressed, new lack of resource hurdles may arise, and there are five additional progress hurdles to consider.

Additionally, seeker’s unique and phenomenological judgements of progress potential and progress reached feed into decisions to start and continue progress attempts. As do helper’s judgements in some cases.

Lets look at the role of seekers in attempts and briefly of helpers.

Progress attempts

We can summarise a progress attempt as:

When a seeker makes a lone progress attempt, then they are responsible for identifying and executing all the activities. As well as having access to the necessary resources.

Successful completion of each activity in sequence results in progress. That is to say, progress reached state moves further towards the initial view of progress potential. Complicated only by progress sought and progress potential evolving during the attempt.

Role of the seeker

The seeker acts as Payne suggest when attempting progress on their own. They must establish and execute all the progress making activities themselves.

When engaging a proposition, progress becomes a joint endeavour, leading to the co-creation of value as progress is made.

In the context of the progress economy, the concept of co-creation challenges Payne’s notion that customers are solely responsible for performing activities. Bitner et al (1997) present a more firm-centric view, suggesting that seekers, during what we refer to as attempts, are partial employees of helpers. Furthermore, Storbacka and Lehtinen (2001) identify seekers as fulfilling multiple roles:

a customer (payer), a consumer, a competence provider, a controller of quality, co-producers and/or co-marketers.

Storbacka and Lehtinen (2001) “Customer Relationship Management: Creating Competitive Advantage Through Win-win Relationship Strategies

In the progress economy, the role of seekers varies depending on the positioning of the progress proposition along the continuum between enabling and relieving propositions. At the enabling end, seekers are aligned with Payne’s perspective, although the progress-making activities are proposed by the helper. At the relieving end of the continuum, seekers assume roles more akin to consumers or controllers of quality. In the middle ground, their role expands to include providing competence (skills and knowledge) and actively participating as co-makers of progress, contributing to the value creation process.

Role of the helper

A helper plays a dual role in a progress attempt. Firstly, they propose the progress-making activities and offer supplementary resources to overcome an initial lack of resource hurdle. Secondly, they are involved in performing the progress-making activities. However their level of involvement depends on the position of their proposition on the progress proposition continuum.

Primarily, a helper functions as a competence provider, co-producer, and/or co-marketer, actively contributing as co-makers of progress. They collaborate with seekers to create value. Additionally, they may assume the role of a controller of quality, ensuring the progress meets the desired standards.

Depending on the position of their proposition on the continuum, helpers may also judge and react to progress (or lack of). They may terminate or decline engagement with a seeker based on their assessment. This aspect will be explored in greater detail when we delve into progress propositions.

Progress-making decisions

Seekers go through a decision process, whether consciously or unconsciously, when initiating and continuing their progress attempts.

This decision process shares similarities in structure with Rogers’ innovation adoption decision described in his book “Diffusion of Innovations“. It involves unique and phenomenological judgements about progress hurdles and progress states, such as the progress potential and progress reached.

Progress Decision Process

The natural points for making continuation decisions occur at the end of each progress-making activity. Seekers evaluate whether they have achieved sufficient progress, if there is enough potential for further progress, and if the progress hurdles remain low enough. If so, they likely continue.

Seekers may choose to abandon their attempts (referred to as discontinuance in Rogers’ terminology). Discontinuance can occur due to a disenchantment when the above factors are not met, or it can be a replacement discontinuance if the seeker discovers a better way to make progress. Lastly, a phenomenological discontinuance, not part of Rogers’ thinking, happens when the seeker stops simply because they feel like stopping.

There is a slight difference in the decision process between a seeker attempting progress on their own and one engaging a progress proposition. The distinction lies in the additional progress hurdles introduced by a proposition.

Before we delve into the progress-making activities and resource integration, we should really consider what success of an attempt means.

And we need to keep in mind that success of an attempt is a subjective judgement. A seeker may accept less progress than their progress sought and initial view of progress potential.

What is a successful attempt?

Asking the question “what is a successful attempt?” is quiet interesting. Ideally, seekers aim to reach their progress sought state, which represents the maximum value for them. So the simple answer is success means reaching progress sought.

However, practical experience tells you and I that reaching progress sought in all aspects of life is a lofty, but ultimately unachievable, aim. There are many progress we will not be able to achieve on our own. And a good set we might not be able to achieve even when engaging a proposition.

So we’re willing as seekers to accept less than our progress sought for many aspects. Else we’d all still be living back in the caveman era.

Seekers evaluate their progress potential before starting an attempt, which is their unique and phenomenological judgement of where they believe they can reach in an attempt. Deeming progress potential as acceptable is one input to the seeker’s decision to proceed with the attempt.

Here’s a way to visualise this which we discuss in detail as we explore progress potential.

In essence, the seeker judges their progress potential of a solo attempt towards progress sought. If too low, they judge progress propositions’ progress offered and their progress potential towards them. Finding an acceptable state, they set off on a joint endeavour with the chosen helper.

An aim of a helper is to get their progress offered as close to progress sought possible and to help seekers judge their progress potential as being as close to progress offered as possible.

Now, assuming a seeker has decided to start an attempt, we should take a look at these progress-making activities that will be executed.

Progress making activities

Progress is made incrementally. For instance, when learning a language, we incrementally acquire and use words, sounds, symbols, and grammar specific to that language. Similarly, traveling a distance requires physically moving from one point to another, km by km, town by town. Even hanging a picture on a wall follows a clear progression from an empty wall to attaching a fixture and finally placing the picture.

These progressions happen through performing a series of progress-making activities.

progress-making activity: An atomic step, typically a resource integration, that increases progress reached progress state generally towards progress sought.

These activities are atomic steps that typically involve integrating resources to increase progress reached, bringing the seeker closer to their desired progress state.

And whilst this series of activities may seem like an abstract concept, we regularly encounter them under more familiar names in daily life, such as instructions, operating manuals, recipes etc.

Not knowing the needed activities, or their sequencing, can be a progress hurdle (lack of resource). This is why progress proposition include a proposed sequence. However, some seekers may attempt progress without this knowledge, or whilst ignoring a proposition’s suggestion, and rely on trial and error. That can lead to successful outcomes. The seeker may even enjoy the challenge, and be seeking to progress this way.

When progressing on their own, the seeker takes control of performing all the activities. However, the world becomes more interesting when progress propositions are engaged. In such cases, who performs the activities provides interesting insights and perspectives. It positions the proposition on a continuum. Ranging from being entirely driven by the seeker (enabling propositions) to being entirely driven by the helper (relieving propositions). Positioning also hints at the constituents of the progress resource mix and various non-functional elements of progress.

Scope of progress-making activities

In a goods-dominant logic world we naturally assume progress-making activities start with picking up a resource (goods), using it, and end once we put it down. But there is growth and opportunity in extending activities to before and after usage steps.

It’s also worth noting that whilst these series of activities do not need to lead directly to a fixed outcome. The Agile approach in the field of IT provides a notable example of this concept where the series of activities leads a journey of discovery of end-user useful progress-making functionality. Similarly, therapy is another journey of discovery rather than a fixed end point.

So now we know what these activities cover, it’s time to look into them, in particular the resource integration aspect.

Resource Integration

Resource integration is simply the act of applying one resource to another. With the intention of making progress. It’s where resources unleash their potential.

resource integration: the act of applying one resource to another resource with the intention of making progress

What are resources?

resource: the tangible and intangible entities available to an actor

Hunt, S. (1997) “Competing Through Relationships: Grounding Relationship Marketing in Resource-Advantage Theory”, Joumal of Marketing Managemet, 13. 431—445

They are the tangible and intangible (Hunt, S. (1997)), carriers of capabilities (Peters et al (2014)), entities a seeker has access to, either themselves or offered in a helper’s progress proposition. And we differentiate resources into two types – operant and operand – depending on how they are involved in making progress.

Operant Resource

acts on other resources resulting in progress being made

Operand Resource

needs to be acted upon for progress to be made

But, resources have no value on their own, they have only potential. Potential which is turned into progress through resource integrations. And, in the progress economy, we see the concept of value emerging from progress.

Consider the hammer and the nail. Before applying the hammer to the nail, neither are creating any progress. Applying the hammer to the nail results, if successful, in the nail being embedded in some material. Progress has been made, value emerges. Afterwards, the hammer returns to a state where it is creating no progress. In contrast the nail continues being integrated with the material, providing progress.

A model

Writing/editing this section

It’s useful to have a model in mind on how resource integration works to make progress (and for value to emerge). And Gallouj & Weinstein (1997) provide such a model. Below you can see a slightly updated version from their original.

The intention being the final characteristics (far right) are what the seeker experiences. We can interpret those as the aspects of progress sought (or offered) elements. The functional, non-functional and contextual elements. They are achieved through various resource integrations between the items in the rest of the diagram.

The technical characteristics are the operant resources that when acted upon lead to aspects of progress. These are the goods, physical resources, data, locations, processes, systems (operant), and the series of progress- making activities.

On the left we find the skills and competences of the seeker and any helper employees and systems acting as operand resources.

Progress is made, therefore, through acts of resource integration, primarily operant resources acting upon operand ones.

The rules
  • operant resources act upon operand resources – I can unlock a door
  • operand resources can act on other operand resources – steam can turn a turbine
  • operand resources can act on other operand resources by the action of an operant resource – I can use a hammer on a nail
  • operant resources generally do not act on other operant resources (but can act in conjunction)

Service dominant logic tells us that we’re all resource integrators.

All economic and social actors are resource integrators

Foundational Premise #9, Vargo & Lush (2008) “Service-dominant logic: continuing the evolution

Relation to value

A progress attempt is where value emerges for the seeker. Repeated acts of resource integration turn the potential for progress held in capability carrying resources into actual progress. And value emerges from progress.

At the start of a progress attempt there has been zero value created (or co-created if a proposition is engaged). Value increasingly emerges as progress is made. However, emerging value needs to be recognised (to borrow an acounting term). And recognition may not be simultaneous with emergence. For instance, we may not recognise emerged value until an attempt completes.

Value emerging and recognition are topics we discuss further when looking at progress as a verb.

Key considerations
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