Well, based on a discussion here, I’m not sure, and both of them could well complement each other. Here’s a quick graph I did on it (sorry for the rough aspect, made it with the mouse):
I missed this one, but the results are interesting : http://fuzzzyblog.blogspot.no/2013/03/systems-thinking-usage-survey-2013.html
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 🙂
Michael Ballé’s Gemba Coach Column is about trying to define 1) what is a root cause and 2) how to do 5-Why’s analysis properly.
Very good article and this is a topic barely tackled clearly. I have yet to find root cause analysis being done right (well, apart from those in Lean books of course).
This is an affirmation and my own experience is totally opposite of it (well, if I focus on some specific aspects).
A more acceptable affirmation would be for me: “people like or dislike change depending on the situation, but disliked changes seem to be more memorable and thus people speak more of them“.
Think of any day or your life and how things were different from the previous day: there were probably a zillions things different. Can you really say you disliked them all?
Most went unnoticed. Some were disliked, and some were liked.
Provided it’s a change they want.
Now think about the change people resisted and the one they happily followed: what were the differences?
I’m rarely definitive in my statements, but “people resist change” is the most ridiculous sentence I just keep listening all day long since I happen to see just the opposite again and again. At least this sentence is wrong stated that way.
And of course, believing the sentence is the very start of a self fulfilling prophecy… I believe “People resist change”, so I don’t bother exchanging with them and I just force my changes onto them and hire change management to handle whatever dissatisfaction and resistance will happen, and since it does happen, I was right acting that way from the beginning.
One of the saddiest thing in life, mind you…
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…
I just invented this one…
All those consultants that try to force Lean down the throat of the managers that, according to them, are too dumb to “get it” are just, IMHO, plain wrong. This is the surest path to “change resistance“. Of course, telling is quicker than letting people experiment and trying to understand things from the perspective of the people.
Yet, if management is supposed to learn how to have their people conduct experiments, and then learn from them, then share them with their colleagues throughout the organization, why on earth are they lecturing and teaching them Lean?! If managers learn anything, that will be to continue in command-and-control mode and impose Lean tools and processes onto employees that won’t necessarily understand the purpose of them. And since the managers don’t know exactly how things happens on the Gemba (of many managers do “standing in the circle” for hours ?), they commands will be just resented as unsuited at best by employees, further decreasing their engagement levels, and the few trust left they might have had in their managers.
Is that really what’s wanted?
Of course, putting on my “Systems Dynamics” hat, I can see that the more consultants do it that way, the less organizations really improve on the long-term, and the more need will be felt for more Lean consulting.
I am not saying that consultants want the situation to be that way. I’m just saying that doing more of the same Lean teaching method will just produce more of the same long-term failed results.
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?”
Well, is this question a good question in itself? I’ll let you answer it after reading what follows.
This came out of an exchange with a friend and colleague: Alexis from YisY.
A good question is one that serve the purpose of the person asking it, obviously. It would be a bit long to explain what our purpose is with Alexis (hint: we’ve developed a kind of workshop to help people grow using “soft” social technologies which we named “Laboratory of Social Technologies” and a provisional french only leaflet is available here), but here’s what I came to.
If you have complementary criteria, please contribute in the comments below!
So, good questions might be:
- questions that seek what is rather than what isn’t: they work from strengths (what you want, what you do that works, what you desire, etc.)
- questions that bring closer rather than move away: they help bring ideas or people close rather than move them apart
- questions that encourage collaborative rather than individual answers: they foster social constructionism or collective intelligence, if not wild emergence
- open rather than closed questions: they make people think something new/more profound rather than stay on the surface and elicit automatic response
- exploratory rather than justificatory questions: they invite “why if?” rather than “whose fault?”
- questions that stretch rather than contract: they help people grow rather than force them to stay at their place
- questions that encourage rather than threat: they help develop people rather than command them
What are your good questions?
Excellent artice and quick exercise. Do it now! Thanks Alan for the thing!
- 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?