Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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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!

 

Will speak at LKFR12: Hands-on experience on Strength-based Kanban: a Metaphor and Tool to boost your lean implementation coaching skills #lkfr12 #lean

I will be a speaker there along with David Shaked from Almond Insight.

You can read about our common presentation (and that of others) on the LKFR Speakers page. We intend to do a highly interactive sessionà la workshop where we hope attendees will get back home with a huge number of ideas that will work for them.

Our intervention will be a “Hands-on experience on Strength-based Kanban: a Metaphor and Tool to boost your lean implementation coaching skills.”

The agenda and list of speakers is incredible, make sure you come exchange with us!

Free Appreciative Inquiry PDF Leaflet (#ai #pdf #free)

I’ve just finished translating a leaflet I wrote in french a few years ago on Appreciative Inquiry.

Now, the document is available in english. Feel free to use and send to whoever you want, provided you keep the attribution.

It’s a short summary describing the principles and the method to get started in AI. For a more thorough list of papers, please go to the AI Commons or check the (excellent) AI Practitioner magazine.

TRI Appreciative Inquiry v2.3 EN

Enjoy !

(french: La version française est accessible dans ce post!)

Dark Matter, Dark Energy & #Contructivism (#stwg #systemsthinking)

Someone sent this link in another social network: Dark Matter, Dark Energy And The Shadow Universe.

According to recent research, it seems that 95% of the universe accounts for something which we can’t sense, yet know (for, as constructivism tells us, the nervous system is a closed system and we can only build knowledge from what we experience through our senses).

What gives hope for the future, yet, is that we inferred the existence of that Dark side of the universe through its consequences in the reality-out-there-we’re-able-to-sense.

How does it relates to constructivism? Well, all of our knowledge is initially rooted in what we once felt through our senses as primitive humans. That means that what we can’t sense, we can’t know about. Yet, some systemic trick inside our mind is at play here, meaning that there’s a reverse to the medal: what we don’t know about, we most often can’t sense. Thomas the Apostle might complain here, but if he was to only believe in what he saw, the facts are that we only see what we believe in first. Moreover, this has been proven biologically by great researchers such as Humberto Maturana at least that studied some nervous systems: the external stimuli to nervous systems are really not up to par with the electrical activity constantly going on internally – it only barely account for changes in the nervous system.

The reason for our brain discounting what he doesn’t know from the sense is probably because it’s a way to filter the vast amount of information that comes constantly from the senses to the brain. Some abstractions and simplifications are done that allow it to more quickly react to potential dangers.

And yet, we, as humans, are sometimes capable of “discovering” new facts for which we didn’t know about. Of this, we must thank our time-binding capability, as Alfred Korzybski taught us (that mean we don’t start from scratch at each generation, but we build our knowledge on top of that of the preceding generations). And thanks to our high-level cortex, we’re able to make some mental analysis and infer things for which we might not have any sensory experience before. Indeed, that what some great thinkers do all the time, as for instance Einstein when he “discovered” the Theory of Relativity.

So, what’s the point of this article? Well, it depends on you, dear reader 🙂

On some basic account, it’s a tremendous message for the future to come about possible new discoveries regarding the Universe.

On some more pragmatic level, the next time you don’t understand your manager, your employee or any of these humans you encounters all day long, rather than discounting them as idiots:

  • ask yourself what dark side of them you might not be knowing?
  • ask yourself what side of you is a dark side from their point of view?
  • finally, ask them about what might be the reasons for their acting as they do that you don’t know about which explains the behaviors you witnessed. Because chances you assigned  meaning to those behaviors that are different from their intent or that you didn’t saw other part of their behaviors that would have explained everything, should you have known before.

Have a nice week-end!

 

Reblog: Metaphors of Organisation by James Lawley

Someone just mentioned this:

Metaphors of Organisation part 1 & part 2.

Very interesting!

I’d like to add the “Organizations as mysteries to be embraced” (google search) way of seeing them, as proposed by Appreciative Inquiry for instance.

Reading this paper might throw you more into constructivism… This is for you own good. I’m not sorry for that 😉

 

A response to Youtellus: The power of questions

I really like this blog post: Youtellus: The power of questions. All the stuff about asking powerful and mind-blowing questions is true and should be practiced all day long.

Yet, this part makes me wonder:

“Leaders and managers have the obligation to always look for ways that the organization as a whole can function more effectively.To do this, they need to ask questions about practices, processes, persons and structures:
Why do we things this way?is there a better approach?”

I mean, do we really need to ask people questions about practices, processes and structures? I guess that if we do, we’d find problems. People rarely get interested in these (I do, but then, I’m a Lean coach, so that doesn’t count because I’m not “normal” 🙂

To be a bit more serious, I was interested in processes at the beginning because I was a sort of productivity geek. But then I understood that improving processes with Lean or Six Sigma was not a matter of using tools. Even further, it was not a process matter.

Improving organization is a people thing.

I don’t mean a social or psychological thing (though these may help, but at the same level as can IT for instance – heck, I am in IT now!) When I say “people” I mean real people, with a head and a heart!

Improving organizations is about taking care of your people and what they care about.

And in the sentence “what they care about“, the important word is not “what” (it’s none of your business) nor is it “care” (how they do it: again, it’s personal to them). What’s important is “they“.

  • If you want money in your pocket as a manager, you won’t be able to motivate people.
  • If you want to improve your organization’s efficiency, you won’t be able to motivate people.
  • If you want to serve your customers better, you won’t be able to motivate your people.

In order to motivate your people, you need to help them identify their WIIFM factor: What’s In It For Me?

You need to ensure your people have identified what motivates them (but they’ll tell you only if they want to). You need to provide them with the support they need from you.

By instituting a permanent Dialogue between your people regarding what and how they want to contribute to the world, you will be able to fuel the change your organization desperately needs. By building on what works for them, they’ll build an organization that will also:

  • work well (efficiency)
  • provide your customers what they want (efficacy)
  • and help them fulfill their dreams
  • which may, in the end, provide some earning for you (and them) as a side effect.

Of course, you need to trust your people to be able to come to an agreement about making a profitable company. But do you sincerely think they’ll imagine something that can’t pay their salary?

If you don’t trust your people, they’ll notice and they won’t trust you. Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Try giving first and see what happens. Only a bit, something that you won’t regret afterwards. Notice how it comes back, sometimes bigger. Then, next time, gives a bit more. And a bit bigger next time.

Then ask your people now that you’ve rebuild a trust relationship what they would like from you first.

And then give it to them.

Then see.

Enjoy.

 

What Steve Jobs can teach us in order to really appreciate systems?

Here is a very nice article from The Personal Excellence Blog. I will just recall the 11 points made over there:

  1. Life is what you make it out to be
  2. Dream big – very big
  3. The greatest things started somewhere
  4. Certifications don’t matter
  5. Live every day like it is your last
  6. Stop listening to what others say
  7. Do not underestimate the impact you can have on the world
  8. Failure only happens when you deem it to be so
  9. Do what you love
  10. Have faith – Never lose hope
  11. Outdo yourself – Over, and over again

Isn’t this a near perfect mix of Appreciative Inquiry and Solution Focus?

I’ve read elsewhere that you need to always think big because lower and mid-levels are already crowded. There’s still room available at the most higher levels: it might be easier to play big than to make room for yourself in mediocrity.

Let me rewrite the list by adding the powerful concepts at play underneath:

  1. Life is what you make it out to be – constructivism, appreciative inquiry
  2. Dream big – very big – constructivismappreciative inquiry
  3. The greatest things started somewhere – solution focus (smallest next action)
  4. Certifications don’t matter – strengths
  5. Live every day like it is your last – Buddha also said: and learn as if you would never die
  6. Stop listening to what others say – be active in constructivism, don’t let others construct you!
  7. Do not underestimate the impact you can have on the world – constructivism again: your questions are fateful, appreciative inquiry as well
  8. Failure only happens when you deem it to be so – constructivism!
  9. Do what you love – what else? Solution focus also
  10. Have faith – Never lose hope – constructivism though indirectly: when you want something strong enough, the universe will conspire to make it happen (recalled from memory, Paulo Coelho)
  11. Outdo yourself – Over, and over again – constructivism as well: think big and it’ll happen to you because you’ll construct the world accordingly.

Thanks Celes for writing this excellent article!

 

A constructivist view of the statistical quantification of evidence (#Lean #SixSigma stuff)

September 15th, 2011 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , ,

Just a quick note: I’ve stumbled across this paper (free registration required to download PDF) of the Constructivist Foundations excellent magazine (which I highly recommend) that may be of interest to all the hard thinkers about evidence and the proof sought in numbers. I’ve not read the paper yet… but given the excellent quality of the journal, I’m expecting the best!

Here’s the abstract:

Problem: Evidence is quantified by statistical methods such as p-values and Bayesian posterior probabilities in a routine way despite the fact that there is no consensus about the meanings and implications of these approaches. A high level of confusion about these methods can be observed among students, researchers and even professional statisticians. How can a constructivist view of mathematical models and reality help to resolve the confusion?

Method: Considerations about the foundations of statistics and probability are revisited with a constructivist attitude that explores which ways of thinking about the modelled phenomena are implied by different approaches to probability modelling.

Results: The understanding of the implications of probability modelling for the quantification of evidence can be strongly improved by accepting that whether models are “true” or not cannot be checked from the data, and the use of the models should rather be justified and critically discussed in terms of their implications for the thinking and communication of researchers.

Implications: Some useful questions that researchers can use as guidelines when deciding which approach and which model to choose are listed in the paper, along with some implications of using frequentist p-values or Bayesian posterior probability, which can help to address the questions. It is the – far too often ignored – responsibility of the researchers to decide which model is chosen and what the evidence suggests rather than letting the results decide themselves in an “objective way.”

Key words: Mathematical modelling, foundations of probability, p-values, frequentism, Bayesian subjectivism, objective Bayes, reality.

The Untapped Power Of Smiling – Forbes

September 9th, 2011 Posted in Personal Development Tags: , , , ,

Incredible article! Broad and well documented: The Untapped Power Of Smiling – Forbes.

There’s systems thinking even where we don’t expect it. When you smile, chances are that you’ll make others smile as well, providing you that happy face in front of you that will enlight your day.

Not only is this deliberate social constructivism (meaning being constructed in interaction) of a happy encounter, it’s also (social) constructionism (meaning being constructed in building something).

Next time you go to the gemba, smile at the people you see!

 

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