Having the chance to own a house with a small garden, I recently got interested in Permaculture. Indeed, I’ve been interested in Christopher Alexander‘s pattern language already (and I blogged about his 15 principles of wholeness before).
Reading this great introduction about permaculture this morning got me thinking about how this would connect with business and organizational improvement. And, the fact is that it seems to work like a charm!
Here are the 12 principles of permaculture viewed from the perspective of organizational improvement and efficiency (with a twisted view from strength-based Lean…)
- OBSERVE & INTERACT – “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This indeed is the first step of improvement: go to the real place (gemba, genchi gembutsu) and look at the process! Improvement is not done in an office remote from where the work or the process is done.
- CATCH & STORE ENERGY – “Make hay while the sun shines.” When thinking of “Lean and Green”, this would obviously make sense of course. But I like the human aspect as well where you need to feel, catch and use the energy of people: what motivates them to do what they do? What’s the purpose of the organization that drives it to deliver its services? What fuels people to work? Before you try to change the processes, you must take great care in not destroying that energy. One could also see in this point the sometimes added 8th waste of “unused employee creativity”: this too is a kind of energy which should fuel an organization.
- OBTAIN A YIELD – “You can’t work on an empty stomach.” Or “Produce”. The goal of an organization is to service its customers, right? So you need to ship as soon as possible. And the better the quality has to be, though we’ll come back later to this one.
- APPLY SELF-REGULATION & ACCEPT FEEDBACK – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation.” When you produce, you need to look at what you ship, and self-correct in case of a problem. This pertains to the final client, but of course to internal clients as well, between teams or silos (if your organization is so structured). So, regulation with the previous and later steps in the process (TAKT time, anyone?) and client feedback… I also like the saying about the seventh generation: don’t look just at the next step, for your job might have consequences far beyond further down the process (or in the Client’s life).
- USE & VALUE RENEWABLE RESOURCES & SERVICES – “Let nature take its course.” Again, I’m not so much interested in material resources (although they’re important of course), but in the human resources: don’t exhaust them but do care for them. Don’t use too much of it that none would be left to let it renew itself. Don’t burn them out.
- PRODUCE NO WASTE – “Waste not, want not. A stitch in time saves nine.” Told you it fits nicely with the efficiency improvement stuff! The link with Lean Waste (Muda) is obvious here. And before reducing waste, there is not producing it in the first place.
- DESIGN FROM PATTERNS TO DETAILS – “Can’t see the wood for the trees.” I read this one as not focusing on the details at the expense of forgetting the principles. The risk here is to improve locally at the expense of global efficiency (the one pertaining to performance from the client’s perspective, and the organization as a whole). So, it might mean to follow the patterns of efficiency (implement them) and then tune the details (adapt them to the local processes and activities).
- INTEGRATE RATHER THAN SEGREGATE – “Many hands make light work.” Back to the silos: you’d better reinforce interactions between the parts rather than growing them apart from one another. This goes also with #4 when accepting feedback from other parts of the organization.
- USE SMALL & SLOW SOLUTIONS – “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Small PDCA improvements. Enough said.
- USE & VALUE DIVERSITY – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” If standardisation of parts and processes is key to efficiency, it should not from the perspective of people: valuing and leveraging diversity increases the chances of finding the best solutions. Diversity of minds in a team, and reaching beyond the limits of that team, through feedback (#4 again) from them is, again, key to improvements.
- USE EDGES & VALUE THE MARGINAL – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well-beaten path.” Here again, we take care of the frontiers of teams and processes and look at interactions to improve. Divergent ideas are valued as a way to further improve. Incidentally, the more your standardized, the more you’ll be able to see divergent ideas. Don’t fright on them as something to be banned, but seek what they might tell you about how to further improve.
- CREATIVELY USE & RESPOND TO CHANGE – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.” And the last one: whether your processes look perfect or are still under change, keep an opened eye for forthcoming change and invite, accept it. Change is the only constant thing in the world (Heraclitus).