Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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Stop investigate solutions, start to gather the world! #stwg #systemsthinking

Stop looking for solutions, start to gather the worldThe problem situation

I love solving problems. Moreover, I also love finding solutions and making scaffolding theories. Yet, I feel there’s a big problem behind such tendencies: the more you work at a solution on your own, the more prefect it seems to be, then the more resistance you’re probably going to generate when you go out to the world for implementing your solution. Here’s why.

On the diagram on the right, start at the “Pressing problem” part and follow the arrows.

  • First the R1 loop (for Reinforcing). This really looks like what you’re all trying to do: you have (good!) solutions, and try to make people adhere to them. I think it’s mostly doomed to fail. The problem entices you to think about a solution which you will mostly want to advocate, thereby triggering a conflict with people’s different world views (because they haven’t got a change to think to your problem themselves), which more probably will result in others rejecting the solution you pushed onto them, thereby lowering the chances that actions are taken to solve the initial problem, in the end, making the problem all the more pressing.
  • The R2 loop is similar, only that is goes through your working out the solution increasing your own conviction that it’s a good one (because you’re adapting your mind to it).
  • The R3 loop is what prevents the whole system to come to a solution that would suit each and every one of us. continuing from the conviction that your solution is a good one, you (maybe unconsciously) decrease your willingness to give time to others to contribute to your building a solution, meaning that they indeed won’t work in a commonly built solution, indeed decreasing the chances (or number) of commonly built solutions, which adds up to the lack of actions taken to solve the problem, thereby making the problem a pressing one.

How to change that situation?

My intuition is that we should redirect energy flowing from the “pressing problem” to “thinking about a solution” (dotted blue arrow) directly to “others participate in a commonly built solution” (the green dotted arrow, mostly non existent at the time, or so it seems to me?). Doing such an action would suppress R1 and R2 loops and R3 would be shortened and more importantly replaced by a Balancing loop, meaning the more you work on a commonly built solution, the less there will be pressing problems.

A global organization to support commonly built solutions

The reflection above came out of a context related to finding global solutions to world pressing problem (mostly in the SEE fields: Social, Economical and Ecological). The Commons is all but one of the concepts meant at addressing these global issues. I’m not saying Management of the Commons is a bad solution. Indeed I even think of the opposite. But I think people working on such a solution should also start worrying about how they would have their solution adopted by lay people at a global level.

Here’s one of many web pages discussing the concept of the commons: Growing the Commons as Meta-narrative?

So, how to create that green dotted arrow, for me, is through a worldwide helping/supporting organization (be it the United Nations or else) that would facilitate concrete resolution of problems locally, regionally and globally. That would necessitate some efficient and practical means of communication between all levels top down and also on horizontal levels, between different fields: for instance, you need the ecologists trying to preserve some local pond to exchange with the nearest city officials, with business shareholders that want to build their industries near the pond, some people representatives that want both a green environment and some work to live decently, etc.

Fortunately, principles on how to organize such an organization do exist in the form of the Viable System Model for organizations as presented by Stafford Beer. What’s still lacking is an efficient model of communication, though in bootstrapping such an organization, currently existing forums, Facebook pages, Wikis and syndicated blogs would probably be do the trick.

To put it shortly and bluntly: the more people will think of a solution, the less chances are that it will become a reality.
(unless you can fund and implement it without the help of others, of course, but since we’re talking of a world-wide problem, it’s just impossible).

Site officiel de l’Association Française Edwards #Deming

Je viens de trouver ce site. Fantastique ! Avec pas mal d’articles disponibles en français sur le sujet (management par les statistiques… intelligemment). On y trouve aussi quelques logiciels en français et gratuits pour effectuer ces statistiques (je ne les ai pas testés).

Site officiel de l’Association Française Edwards Deming.

 

Why we learn more from our successes than our failures – MIT News Office

Here’s a nice paper that explains why rewarding the positive is more effective than pointing out failures: Why we learn more from our successes than our failures – MIT News Office.

So I’m now positively rewarded to continue rewarding the positive!

 

Reblog: How Do You Get Leaders to #Change? – Chief Learning Officer, Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

Here’s a nice article on How Do You Get Leaders to Change? – Chief Learning Officer, Solutions for Enterprise Productivity.

I especially like the end of the paper about coaching and asking questions.

Indeed, when we’re told something, there are high chances that it comes to collide with some of our beliefs or mental model (because we make sense of what we’re told with our own past experience, and that often means we mis-interpret what others are saying).

On the other hand, when asked question, we are forced to bridge the gap between where we stand (our current mental model) and what the other is trying to say. A question isn’t as explicit as a statement when it comes to expressing a perspective. So when asked a question, although we feel that some perspective is at play behind the question, we’re let with space which we can feel however we want, thus bridging the gap between our own mental model and that of the questioner.

Whatever your conviction when it comes to how people resist to change, I think we all admit that it’s hard to resist to a question (though, sometimes we might end up affirming that a question is meaningless. Yet, this is an opportunity for dialogue and explaining why we think so. So even in this case, the exchange and gap-bridging occurs, from the askee or asker).

No wonder Socrates asked questions! 🙂

 

Motivating novices through positive feedback and experts through negative feedback (a #SolutionFocus paper mentioned by Coert Visser @DoingWhatworks)

I would like to comment on the paper mentioned above (thanks Coert!). This is interesting, and I find that there’s commonality behind what’s appear as opposites (positive & negative feedback).

Indeed, my first shot was that there is a difference between someone who feels Competent with respect to some learning and someone who doesn’t. I’m using here Competent as in Self-Determination Theory that basically says that intrinsic motivation comes out of promoting Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness (thanks to @Coert for bring it to my radar, BTW).

So, if you’re pointing problems to a beginner, you’re just undermining both their sense of competence and autonomy.

It then seems to me that it all depends on whether someone thinks he’s competent (or autonomous) with respect to some knowledge or skill, or not. So, before feeling competent, you’d need to grow their intrinsic motivation (by praising their hard acquired competence and autonomy), and when they think they’ve come to some kind of expertise, then bringing that kind of positive feedback is just acknowledging the obvious to them and thus not working anymore.

And then for experts (or people who think they are), pointing to problems (gaps between perfection and where they stand) make the unobvious obvious. And if these people are willing to close the gap, then they might want to work on that gap.

I told in the beginning that there was a common principle. Here it is IMHO: it’s about what Gregory Bateson called Information. If you don’t bring information to someone, he won’t act (of course). But if you do, he might react to it.

And what did Bateson called Information? He called Information “a difference that makes a difference”.

So, to someone who thinks he’s a beginner, you point the difference with the beginner: that he’s better than that. To an expert that knows already he’s not a beginner anymore, talking of where he is doesn’t bring information. You’re not stating a difference in his mental model. But if you’re pointing to an unseen difference between his perceived expertise level and some kind of objective/better expertise level, then that is information to him, and he might work on it.

Now the problem is: how can we know where someone think he is on that scale of expertise? Well maybe that Solution Focus scale might come to help here. But then we would need another discussion about how to move up the scale: root cause analyse the gap (no way!) or find times where the gap’s sometimes smaller, and what is done at these times, and do more of it (yes).

Also, furthering the Solution Focus approach to help that expert improve, it might help to ask him about what does he wants more of. Because one can think that although he might be considered an expert when it comes to generalities about some field, he might himself doesn’t agree with that and/or think that inside the field there are some areas where he feels like a beginner.

So in the end, the difference that can make a difference mostly comes out right to someone when the person is giving hints as to where it might be.

Only when someone’s expertise claim to be encompassing might we bring to the table other mental models or situation that the so-called expert might have problems to solve. Indeed, who said one mind has the requisite variety (Wikipedia) to handle two (or more)? No one, for sure as 1 never equaled 1+1.

 

Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! | #Video on @TED

This is the most hilarious, serious and extraordinatry video I’ve seen in quite some time on how to change the world and help people.

Drop whatever you’re doing at the moment, and look at it now (less than 20 minutes).

That video speaks about helping people, listening, entrepreneurship, creating successful organizations, making people thrive, and hippos. Yes, hippos.

To me, Ernesto Sirolli holds the keys to successful Lean turnovers… or whatever else is needed by the people that want to thrive in their lives and work.

Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! | Video on TED.com.

 

What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind (N. Carr) @LinkedIn. Is this really a problem?

December 7th, 2012 Posted in Change, Lean Tags: , , , ,

Here’s a nice discussion launched on the LinkedIn group “Systems Thinking and Lean for Services”: What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind (N. Carr) | LinkedIn.

I make my own contribution which I reiter here, since the group’s closed:

The original english article (from 2008) hasn’t been linked. Here is it:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/

A remark I just made to myself: we’re changing the way we read, undoubtedly. That we probably are also changing our way of thinking, I can understand it too.

But should it really be viewed as a problem? I mean, if you want to continue to live by thinking the way you thought a few years ago (ie, ‘deeply’), then surely you have a problem. No argument either that deep thinking allowed some fantastic inventions.

But I think there’s an (unspoken) assumption behind the article: that this new zapping way of thinking is worse than the deeper one. Surely the same things can’t probably be achieved using the new way than with the older one.

Yet, again, is it really a problem?

Humans are structurally coupled with their environment (Maturana). Their environment reflects themselves, and this is reflected also in the language they use (and inversely if we agree with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis – now that I know Systems Thinking, I’d say there’s structural coupling here as well).

So that (new) languaging (Twitter or Facebook short messages), thinking, web surfing, zapping, etc. is the new way life is lived today. Or is going to be lived for years to come (I don’t see it changing soon: ask any teacher for instance about the trends they see).

In the article, Google is assumed to be the equivalent of Taylor. Then I suggest that Tim Berners-Lee was the Ford of Internet (he pulled knowledge online on the web), and now Taylor/Google is organizing it for us. I suspect the Semantic Web will even reinforce that (go think why! 😉

May I remind you that Taiichi Ohno came after Taylor with what was deemed to be known as the Toyota Production System (or Lean, though the latter lacks that Respect for People part, most of the time).

Should we compare the two, I’d say that where Taylor (Google) devised how to work (think), Ohno (? no replacement yet?) devised how to improve that work… without too much deep thinking, instead with constant and continuous improvement of the work.

Where Taylor split the work, Ohno used the small thinking of people to have them improve their small part of the work, then connect the dots (the parts) through A3 thinking and nemawashi (Google these! 😉

I see an enormous advantage in being able to surf knowledge on the web (for instance): it allows to far more rapidly connect concepts and ideas together, which you can only do so slowly when only thinking deep.

So instead of scarce big changes once in a while, we might end up with a flow of continuous small changes and innovations, all the time.

Toyota became the best in manufacturing doing exactly that. Why couldn’t people do the same for their own thinking?

#Video about Overcoming #Change #Resistance :: TOC.tv

November 22nd, 2012 Posted in Change Tags: , , , , ,

Someone (Franck V.)  sent me this nice cartoon about Overcoming Resistance :: TOC.tv. Check it out, it’s nice!

It’s the classical 4 elements of change:

  • what are the positive aspects of changing (need to have a lot)
  • what are the negative aspects of changing (as few as possible)
  • what are the positive aspects of staying the same (as few as possible)
  • and what are the negative aspects of staying the same (need to have a lot)

If all these variables are right, then people will most probably change.

Of course, this is the logical side of change, and it needs to be right.

But there are other aspects not evoked in this video that others (including myself) have found important for a change. Here’s an example why logic only isn’t enough of a motivation to change that I wrote some time ago about: Change or Die.

For instance, Self-Determination Theory explains that what’s motivating people ought to be intrinsic to them to be the most effective (surely, a motivation to change follows the same pattern). And intrinsic motivation mostly comes out of:

  • Autonomy: the decision has to be theirs
  • Competence: they need to feel competent to achieve the change
  • Relatedness: they need to feel being part of a group

I have other hints as to what needs to be true for the change to be accepted and done, and it has to do with the cybernetics of mental models (or that the mind needs the requisite variety to understand the change and its consequences). The less a mind is “adapted” to a change, the more it will find discrepancies between how it is now and how the change would have it then. And since that’s discrepancies against a (supposedly) good state, these are most probably seen as bad. And thus not wanted.

I have a paper in writing on this, so I’m not going to explain this in details here, I need to lay down my ideas properly first. Stay tuned!

 

Finding the perfect #systemsthinking method: is that what you really want?

There’s this discussion on LinkedIn about finding a Systems Thinking “Theory of Everything”.

I don’t know why, but it triggered something in myself that I would like to share here as well.

Let me again come back to constructivism: all these approaches and methods reflect the mental models of their conceptors. As such, they’re perfectly adapted to whoever created them along with the context in which they were primarily intended for.

Biomatrix seems the more systeMAtic of all those I’ve encountered, with this respect.

Now, I question the practicality of such highly sophisticated approaches. How do you teach them to people?

I don’t question their usefulness in bringing further understanding of a situation and consequently improving if with less unintended consequences than if no approach would have been used instead. But the more sophisticated an approach is, the more difficult it will me, IMO to “sell” it to some organization, either externally from a consultancy perspective or internally.

All these approaches try to do is help creating a model of a problem or situation in order to improve it. From basic principles (causal loops diagrams, DSRP…) to more sophisticated ones (Biomatrix, SoSM (System of Systems Methodology), etc.) they try to be as close as possible to reality, yet without fully embracing it (for it would be reality itself, not a map of it!) So, here again, we’re in constructivism: that of the creators of the aforementioned methods, and that of the people making up a system we would like to study/improve using one of those methods.

I have two personal convictions.

  1. The first one is that a system is its best map and that the (future) solution to its problems is already embedded i it, even if invisible for now.
  2. The second one is that you have to make a tradeoff somewhere between having a very good (ie matching the variety of the system) method to help a system see what solution would work for it, and a simple enough method that can be taught and explain to people making up the system. Too simple, it might not bring any insight, too complicated, it will be dismissed before even using it.

I personally turned to strength-based approaches to change such as Appreciative Inquiry (part of the “whole-system” change methods) or Solution Focus where the system itself is helped deliver what would work for itself.

If really needed, I can revert to some very simple models (that I use as a checklist) to help ensure some basic elements of an organization have been considered. For instance, McKinsey’s 7S might be helpful sometimes (and I don’t go further than what Wikipedia).

The fact is that a system is what it is, composed of most importantly (to me) its autonomous (sub)parts: humans. And humans construct their own reality, so instead of trying to box them into some different reality, I think we need to help them see their own boxes and help them connect them all so that they do something that matters and makes sense to themselves.

Don’t try to understand in too much details what they mean of what they want. Trust them to know better than you’d ever could. Lead them in the trouble waters of where they are to the clarity of where they would like to be. Let them identify the impediments on the way. Let them identify their strengths. Let them identify their own solutions (most of them they have *already* experimented to some extent – solution focus!). Then let them decide what path would work best for them and help them maintain the direction they chose. And then help them identify when they arrived at their destination so they can congratulate themselves.

And don’t even get me into change resistance, because that’s what a sophisticated method will probably trigger anyway!

 

Reblog: The art of #SystemsThinking in driving sustainable transformation | @GuardianNews @JoConfino #stwg

This morning, I had the pleasure to read a really excellent article about what Systems Thinking can bring to organizations (and the world) and what enabling people to move toward the positive can further do to enhance that (much like what Appreciative Inquiry, Solution Focus or other strength-based change approaches can do, for instance).

Well done, @JoConfino!

via The art of systems thinking in driving sustainable transformation | Guardian Sustainable Business | Guardian Professional.

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