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How to break the first rule of #systemsthinking via thinkpurpose

Here’s a nice blog post about the Vanguard Method (it calls itself “systems thinking” which I don’t quite agree, but hell, the result’s good, so who really cares? Besides, nobody really knows or can define what ST *is*)

How to break the first rule of systems thinking | thinkpurpose.

Next time people in your organization complains about a lack of time, have them count the marbles!


#SystemsThinking Usage survey results of 2013

May 30th, 2014 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: ,

I missed this one, but the results are interesting :

I’m puzzled by the top 3 reasons people are not learning about Systems Thinking:

1. Not enough time. Being deep into Time management and productivity, I can safely say this is the worst excuse people are most often giving. People have the time for a zillions different things in their life, like playing with their kids or reading a good old book. Not enough time usually means “I’m not interested enough to give it the required time to learn it”. Duh.

2. Poor quality of learning material. This one is highly subjective, and it mostly depends on the person and the material they find. Yet, when you don’t like something, you often tag it of being inappropriate when in fact you just don’t want to give it the required time. Back to the preceding point it seems. Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline is an acclaimed book on Systems Thinking (although it tackles only a small aspect of the subject), so there indeed are good materials available. If you don’t want to invest the necessary money (expensive books or courses), chances are you’ll only find lousy material. Definitely back to #1: “I don’t find it interesting enough to invest the necessary money”.

3. ST has no process or framework so it becomes too abstract and philosophical. Quick note: this question was asked on the Systems Thinking World LinkedIn forum and so the debates here are… well often abstract and philosophical. Back to #2 about lousy materials if you don’t invest a minimum of money. When you have a (deep) look at Systems Dynamics, SSM, SODA, CSH, or whatever else Systems Thinking method the group appears to talk of, you’ll find processes and frameworks. Moreover, the way ST is practiced is quite different from causal and linear thinking, ideas often going is many different directions. If you seek in ST what you’re reproaching in classical thinking, you won’t find it. But if you reproach ST what you don’t have in classical thinking, then of course, you won’t like it. This one boils down to me to “this ain’t like what I’m used to, so I don’t like it… so I won’t invest money nor time learning it”.

In coaching, it’s often the case that what a client asks is not what a client wants. It looks like to me we’re in the same case here: don’t ask people what they want in ST, since they don’t know their need or can’t explain it, or can’t see the point in using ST.

That was a very nice survey nonetheless, and the part about people who say of themselves they are systems thinkers is more interesting, IMHO… Go check it ūüôā


How I moved beyond #SystemsThinking methods…

This, I posted on the Systems Thinking World LinkedIn group:

I feel like I moved beyond ST methods (the one I cited in a previous blogpost). I was swallowed by Complexity and Ashby‘s law of requisite variety was the crack through which I came on the other side of the mirror.

What this means is: I recognize the complexity of the world and our (recent) capacity to acknowledge it. I recognize my own limitation to understand that complexity in a decent (short time) way: I simply acknowledged that I don’t have the requisite variety.

I also do recognize that people are structurally coupled to their own conditions and their own understanding of them, far better than I will ever be capable of.

So, my own ST way of approaching life is now to help people weave their own mental models with that of others (when they’re supposed to interact successfully) so they can co-build (ie, influence each other) a new one that work for both of them.

In any situation, the best strengths to use and the one of the people inside that very situation. So I help people weave themselves and make their co-intelligence emerge and address the situation.

The generic term for that is “strength-based approaches to change”, but, to me, it goes way beyond just identifying people skills and traits and using them…

Why do people don’t adopt #systemsthinking?

This is a recurring question in the LinkedIn forum “Systems Thinking World” hosted by Gene Bellinger. And one that haven’t had any satisfactorily answer so far.

Indeed, I think that the opposite question is valid too and even provides a hint as to one possible answer: “why do people using systems thinking don’t reverse to another way of thinking?

A more general question might be “why do people think the way they think?

Read more »

Connecting #Holacracy with #VSM (Viable System Model) – there’s hope yet!

I’ve been reading quite some stuff recently on Holacracy, and I think it would make for a very nice mashup with the Viable System Model. Here’s how:

  • The circles look a lot to me like Systems 1 and a hierarchy of them (super-circles, sub-circles) smells like VSM recursive levels to me. If you add that you can have Cross Link representatives (connecting circles that are not hierarchically connected), that starts to looks like true recursivity to me.
  • Then, you have the “process breakdown” part of the constitution that, to me again, is a way to detect unmatched variety at some level and pass it up the hierarchy/recursivity for managing (System 2)
  • And of course, the Lead Link/Rep Link roles match somewhat naturally with the vertical channels: the ones going down from system 3 to System 1 and up through System 2 as well.
  • Separation between operational meetings and governance meetings would fit well with an S3/S1 separation as well
  • Holacracy incorporates some features of the personal productivity method “Getting Things Done” (GTD) from David Allen, and this obviously would make for a very nice addition to a VSM-based organization (or any other one for that matter).

Indeed, Holacracy looks like a very nice way of running a VSM at whatever level you consider it. Where people might mismatch a VSM organization for a hierarchical one, having circles one inside another as a way to feature the recursive nature of VSM¬†and at the same time having each circle functioning as a viably entity in its own would be a great addition. Holacracy doesn’t address the viability of circles explicitly, yet it provides for some nice alerting mechanisms (algedonic signals in VSM terms) that would allow to bootstrap viability.

Where VSM brings a bit more to the picture, to me, is with its specific focus on the Environment (bringing the outside in, something that Steve Denning identified on Forbes) and the explicit focus on the Future and Ethos through System 4 and 5.

What do you think?

The paradox of improvement and #change in a #deficit or #strength-based vision of the world…

I was considering change this morning, in the context of how the brain, as a complex adaptive system, deals with it (this is explained in my book “The Colors of Change“).

When you work from a deficit-based perspective on life (that is, you have a vision or an ideal in mind and all you see are gaps between it and reality around you, that is, problems):

It’s easy to point out problems, but it’s difficult to solve them.

It’s difficult because you will want to fill a gap using things absent. Which is difficult obviously.

On the contrary, when working from a strength-based mindset, the situation is just the opposite:

It’s hard to point out strengths, but it’s easy to improve on them.

Because strengths are so easy to use, they are hardly noticed on first sight, especially by the person expressing them. For others, it’s a bit easier because someone’s strengths might look so different to one’s own mental model that singling them out is easy.

As for improving, well, the person exercising a strength needs to notice it first before being able to do more of it. But once it’s made visible again (using a slight shift in perspective, for instance), then it’s far easier to do more of it, because you know exactly what it is: you’re going to do more of something you already have done before. Compare this to doing something you never did or for which you’re not so good at!

As far as efficiency is concerned, I’d rather think a bit more beforehand to understand the strengths at play, and then act more easily afterwards, rather than the opposite (jumping straight on a problem but being dragged in acting out a solution to it).

Of course, there’s the middle path where you identify a problem, and then work out to find times when the problem was not present, what the corresponding strengths might be that made the situation better, and then do more of them. A bit simpler than strict problem solving, though still longer than pure strength-based work.

So what? Well, my conclusion is to just don’t damn look for problems in the first place. Just identify what you want more of because you just seem to like it, identify how come you’re good at it, and just-do-more-of-it!!!


Ma r√©ponse √† “Le but de l’entreprise, au-del√† du sophisme et de l’id√©alisme” via @alexis8nicolas

J’aimerais r√©agir √† cet excellent (comme toujours) article d’Alexis Nicolas. Alexis recadre le d√©bat du but de l’entreprise, le faisant passer du seul gain financier √† la proposition de valeur √† la soci√©t√© :¬†Le but de l’entreprise, au-del√† du sophisme et de l’id√©alisme.

Globalement je suis d’accord avec lui et viser l’apport de valeur ajout√©e √† la soci√©t√© (de mani√®re durable !) me semble plus pertinent qu’un simple calcul sur les aspects financiers.

Et pourtant?

Personnellement, j’ai tendance √† penser que viser des gains financiers¬†sur le long terme peut √™tre une bonne chose. Mais quand je dis long terme, je veux vraiment dire¬†de mani√®re durable. C’est √† dire que si vous visez, comme Alexis d’ailleurs le remarque, les seuls gains court terme, vous appelez l’asphyxie par √©puisement de vos ressources rares : talents, environnement et probablement clients (car vous exploiterez le filon le plus rentable du moment en oubliant la n√©cessaire adaptation pour suivre les mouvements de la soci√©t√©).

Mais je pense que lorsque l’on vise le long terme ou mieux, le soutenable / durable, d’autres √©l√©ments entrent dans le cadre de r√©flexion. On devient plus facilement capable d’avoir une vision syst√©mique de l’entreprise. En effet, sur du long terme, on comprend plus facilement comment au moins trois param√®tres entrent en compte et sont √©troitement li√©s¬†:

  • les clients (qui fournissent la mane financi√®re) ;
  • les collaborateurs (qui r√©alisent la valeur ajout√©e) ;
  • l’organisation elle-m√™me (management, actionnaires qui organise les relations entre les deux premiers).

Si l’on prolonge encore le long terme pour devenir permanent ou soutenable, un quatri√®me param√®tre entre en ligne de compte :

  • l’environnement (qui fournit le contexte dans lequel les trois pr√©c√©dents peuvent exister).

Donc, si √† court terme on peut se focaliser sur l’un des √©l√©ments au d√©triment des trois (ou quatre) autres (puisque l’accroissement important de l’un peut¬†se faire¬†sans probl√®me, bien qu’au d√©triment des autres), sur du long terme, il devient √©vident que les liens syst√©miques ont des effets sensibles, d√©tectables, des uns sur les autres. Et l’on comprend alors comment les quatre √©l√©ments sont intimement li√©s.

Pour moi (et on me pardonnera cette analyse de cause sur un blog o√Ļ l’on cherche surtout ce qui fonctionne), les critiques targuant la recherche du bonheur des salari√©s (par exemple) d’utopiste sont le fait de personnes ignorant les aspects long terme, consciemment ou non. Si conscience il y a, c’est probablement que l’app√Ęt financier court termiste est le plus important. S’il s’agit de simple ignorance, alors il est sans doute encore temps d’√©duquer.

Heureusement, l’√©poque actuelle met l’emphase sur l’aspect environnemental et la soutenabilit√© de tous types d’initiatives, et l’on peut esp√©rer qu’√† d√©faut de proactivit√©, le pilotage syst√©mique des organisations finira par diffuser de l’ext√©rieur vers l’int√©rieur des organisations…

Merci de ton article, Alexis !

A proposal for a new #Complexity- and #Strength- based #PDCA (for #Lean or else)

Thinking during commute the other day (should I have to live nearer my work, I’d be much more dumb!) I pondered how a better strength-based Plan Do Check Act loop could look like.

I find the current version of PDCA to be a bit too deficit-based and tainted of Command & Control. All too often we see managers or project managers deciding on a plan in their offices and rolling it over employees, without much consideration about what would work for them (they’re the ones with their two feet in the daily work, so they should know best). Sure, if you’re doing¬†nemawashi, this doesn’t concern you. But not everybody does it, yet.

So, since we’re speaking more and more about complexity (hmmm, Google Trends on complexity is making me a liar it seems – a construction of mine?)… anyway, I came up with the following new version:

  • Connect ideas of different people: who are they? what are their strengths? What ideas do they have? Aspirations? Opportunities they see? Results they expect?
  • Select ideas that you (collectively) would think are the more interesting to try?
  • Effect these ideas: go to the gemba and put them to the test of work. Measure heavily what happens of course (People side: does it enhance the work experience? Quality? Delays? Costs?)
  • Reflect on what happened: what did you learn? What new opportunities do you now see? What hopes does this give you? What else?

PS: well, at least the¬†Cynefin ¬†framework is trending more ūüėČ

Using Emergence to Scale Social Innovation

I just discovered this astounding article from Wheatley and Frieze on Using Emergence to Scale Social Innovation.

I do think the way social networking is done today is broken – or immature to say the least. How are we supposed to create working networks and provoke emergence the way Wheatley explains it, if we stick to groups of people?

What’s important in a network: the people that make it of the contributions they make?

When you look today at the way social networks work, you see communities of people, connected through people. IMHO, that’s not the way it’s supposed to work (it may be flattening to one’s ego to have loads of followers, but I challenge you to find any real usefulness in this kind of network).

Indeed, we can see people intuitively knowing this fact since they tend to agregate around dedicated web sites on specific topics. Look at Google Groups, LinkedIn groups or even Facebook groups! What connect these people are the topics around which they network. Yet, one topic alone isn’t enough. How are the topics connected?

The power isn’t in the @ (how people are now mentionned, such as @nicolasstampf for instance, but in the # (hash tag: the way topics are mentioned). Yet, today, social networks are organized around people. When you want informations about some #topic, you need to find your @people to identify when some #topic has been mentioned. Or to search a whole social network for these mentions (eg. Twitter). How inefficient is that?

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