Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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My @leanpub book “The Colors of #Change” has started its publication!

Details are available on the page over there: or from here (a bit more complete).

Subtitle is “Respectful Change Management explained by Cybernetics”.

Check it out!

#Toyota, #Respect for #People (or “Humanity”) and #Lean — Lean Blog

March 5th, 2013 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Mark Graban did a very nice recollection of posts on Respect for People and what it means in Lean after John Seddon comment on it being ‘horse sh*t’. Here’s the article: Toyota, Respect for People (or “Humanity”) and Lean — Lean Blog.

I would add my 2 cents here by saying that respect not only is everyday showing of a nice attitude to people (also known as “politeness”), but also a longer term view of the thing where we want people to be part of a great work place (safe and interesting) and that their work has meaning.

  • So to maintain the interesting and the meaningful parts of the job, we remove waste (mura (uneveness), muda (non added value) and muri (burden)) to focus on added value.
  • And to ensure that it’s done properly (not from a manager in his ivory tower) and to develop people’s intelligence, we have the people do kaizen (continuous improvement) themselves.

Is that too difficult to understand?!


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).

Happiness reigns: meet Laurence Vanhée (@happy_laurence)

February 21st, 2013 Posted in Strengths Tags: , , , , , ,

Here’s a very good article on Happiness at work in Belgium. Laurence is also on Twitter.

Read the article here: Happiness reigns: meet Laurence Vanhée. I love this:

I believe in 5 dondoos to change our workplace :

  • Don’t Manage. Love
  • Don’t work. Have fun
  • Don’t think. Think green
  • Don’t complain. Innovate
  • Don’t motivate. Trust

What a program!

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! 🙂


Finding local roots for #Lean – Everywhere (@mbaudin reblog): What about here and there too? #solutionfocus

I found this nice piece of Michel Baudin regarding finding local roots for Lean to improve acceptance of Lean: Finding local roots for Lean – Everywhere | Michel Baudin’s Blog.

But then I wondered about having people “discover” that they already invented some Lean principles themselves? Maybe they just didn’t noticed or maintained them consistently over time?

This is what the Strengh-based approach to Lean is (well, at least using the Solution Focused way).

  • When have you seen this process improving? What did you do that contributed to that improvement? (finding improvements actions that work for the people here; the improvement part of “continuout improvement”)
  • How do you manage actions that you must do repeatedly? (finding ways to remember to to actions all the time; the continuous part of “continuous improvement”)
  • When have your work been easier to do? More interesting? What did you do to help create these conditions? (findings ways to improve the work that work for the people doing it)
  • Tell me about a time where your customers where satisfied with the product or services you delivered. What was it? How did you do it? (same kind of question, but for quality)
  • etc.


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!


#TWI used to make Construction more #Lean a @linkedin discussion

In that LinkedIn discussion, the TWI programs have been used with great results (both bottom line AND, more improtantly to me, with respect to the people side of the work). Furthermore, here are three nice questions Mark Warren provided as a sort of quick coaching process to introduce the J programs. Thanks Mark!

The act of going to the work is a “Learning to See” exercise to get people in the habit of looking for problems. Then asking a few questions.

  1. Do you have a process? (No – map the process and develop a job breakdown sheet to train staff doing the job. Yes – question 2.)
  2. Do you follow the process? (No – use JR to understand why. Is it a personal issue, or are they not following the process because of other reasons? Yes – question 3)
  3. Is the process capable? (No – start with JM, however more complex tools may be necessary to resolve. Yes – what did you overlook?)

via Just completed a mammoth TWI implementation on a large construction project in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 36% productivity improvement within 6 months. TWI is fantastic in the construction industry. | LinkedIn.

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