Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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Don’t look for #change resistance. It’s bad for you.

People expect change resistance and most, if not all, change approaches recommend anticipating it to better fight or manage it.

Indeed, in a pure constructivist view, what you look for, you’ll find (one of the principles of Appreciative Inquiry). If you keep asking what might go wrong, chances are that people (willing to help you) will play devil’s advocate and throw stones at your ideas. Indeed, you’re the one that looked for these people in the first place! Further, by confronting these people, you’ll most probably dig your grave yourself. You entail yourself to critics, a sure way to lower your morale and make your project stale. In a short time, you’ll see but the bad sides of your project.

On the other hand, if you search for supporters, chances are you’ll find some, too (same constructivist principle). Supporters will praise your ideas and send you positive messages that will boost your energy. Being in a good mood, you’re in a better position to listen for ideas that may enhance yours, creating synergies among participants, fostering even more positive energy and moving everybody in that future they’re collectively imagining, thereby creating it (the fact that you might have taken these very same ideas as critics in the previous situation will, hopefully, never occur to you!).

Here’s a trick to help you find supporters: ask them what they need first and see how your ideas could provide it then show them how.

Did you know that most people love to help others? How could you find out by yourself?

How come people don’t learn #Lean #management? #linkedin Answers

December 6th, 2011 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I asked this question on LinkedIn some days ago and got some really good answers (well, from my point of view anyway!). I plan to do a best of by combining some of the best answers because I see links between them… some time in the future!

Here’s the question and the answers.

#SolutionFocus responses to “What You Can Say To Kill Ideas” | Productivity Improvement (#Lean)

There’s this article I’ve just read here: What You Can Say To Kill Ideas | Productivity Improvement. I haven’t been in the Lean business for long, but I feel like I’ve already encountered all of them. Sigh.

I think I can give it a try at Solution-focusing it. Let’s go!

  1. Don’t be ridiculous. So you think some of these things won’t work. What part of it can you think we can start with that will work?
  2. We tried that before. Great! What worked that we could put back in place? What have you learned so we do it differently this time?
  3. It costs too much. Of course I don’t have your expertise on the operational stuff. What part can you think could be done cheaper?
  4. It can’t be done. What part can’t be done? What part can be done? When can we start?
  5. What’s beyond our/your responsibility. What part is under your responsibility? What are the smaller parts that cna be started right now? How have you succeeded to get management approval for other things? How could we apply the same solutions here?
  6. It’s too radical a change. Agreed, you can’t make such a big leap in one time. What small part do you want to start with?
  7. We don’t have the time. What have you the time for, currently? What can we temporarily drop and replace with some small parts of this?
  8. That will make other equipment obsolete. Great, I haven’t think of this: further improvements. What other improvements do you see?
  9. We’re too small/big for it. Surely. What needs to be adapted to our size? How would you change it?
  10. That’s not our problem. Ok. Who’s problem is this? How have you succeded in the past in bringing similar problems to their knowledge and get both os us to work them out? How could we repeat the same process here?
  11. We’ve never done it before. That’s true. Let’s do it, where do you want to start?
  12. Let’s get back to reality. What part do you feel don’t fit into current reality? What could be changed to make them fit? What about other parts, can we give them a try? 
  13. Why change it; it’s still working OK. Of course things are working already (indeed, the company’s still in business). I guess there are probably part of the organization already doing this future state map. Can you see them? How can we make more of them?
  14. You’re two years ahead of your time. So are some of our competitors. What in this plan is already (maybe partly) being done that we could build on?
  15. We’re not ready for that. You’re already doing part of that. Let’s get figure and ask the people.
  16. It isn’t in the budget. That’s fine, we’re going to self-finance this anyway. Where can we start today?
  17. Can’t teach old dogs new tricks. This is not necessary. Look closer, what have you already been doing? What have you noticed in this plan that you always dreamt to be able to do? Let’s go!
  18. Do the best you can with what you’ve got. That’s my motto too and probably your people’s too. What best to they want for them, the customers and the company? What have you noticed they’re doing superbely despite current work conditions? How can we remove these barriers?
  19. Too hard to sell. What part is to hard to sell? What about cutting this in pieces and going progressively? Where do we start? Have you sold similar challenging things in the past? How did you do it? How could we adapt that here?
  20. Top management would never go for it. What are we already doing that works? Could we show that to management as a proof of concept? What small experiment can we try on our own to demonstrate it’s viable?
  21. We’ll be the laughing stock. And a model for all others. How can we present this differently, then?
  22. Let’s shelve it for the time being. I understand some of it to be too big a leap for you. What specific part can start with? Maybe cut this into smaller pieces to begin with?
  23. We did all right without it. Great! On seeing this plan, what part do you see having done already? What further improvement do you notice in the plan could further improve your already good performance?
  24. Has anyone else ever tried it? Probably, and I think the people in your department have for some part of it. Can you help us point which part is already in place (albeit maybe only partly)? For the other parts, it’s currently done in other places. Would you like me to arrange an appointment with one of our competitors to show us how they’re doing better?
  25. It won’t work in our industry. What part do you see not doable in our industry? What would make it doable?
  26. Will you guarantee it will work? I guarantee you that if we try these things, we’ll learn something that will help your people improve their process.
  27. That’s the way we’ve always done it. Fantastic! What part have you always done already? What other part can we start working on, then? What prevents you from doing it absolutely all the time with 100% success? Can we start working on providing more of this better working conditions to you and your people?
  28. What we have is good enough. What do you have? How is it good? You’re the one to decide in the end, but can we just imagine what would happen if this plan were to be implemented? How would that further improve your current situation?
  29. But we would also have to change the___________. cf. 8
  30. It’s in our future plans. Excellent! What part have you planned already? What small tasks can we do to start now?
  31. We’ll have somebody study that problem. You’re taking this very seriously, that’s great. We’ll arrange to work through it with someone of your department for the details. What parts would you like to start with? Who are we going to see?
  32. It’s against our policy. Which policy? This policy’s here for some good reasons. Glad you noticed. What part is against the policy? What other parts can we start already? What would need to change to make that part conform to the policy? Have you got policy changed in the past because they hindered change? How have you achieved it? Can we do it again for this stuff?
  33. The supplier would never do that. You’d be surprised how much they’re probably doing this already. Let’s go and see them!
  34. The customer wouldn’t accept that. I may have missed something on the customer part: can you tell me which one and what need to change? What acceptable other parts of this plan can we start working on now?
  35. When did you become the expert? I’m not: you and your people are the experts, this is just a theoretical roadmap that needs to be worked with your people. Where do we start now?

My main focus points during these rewording was to keep in mind:

  • resistance surely is because I don’t have requisite variety when proposing a plan to change: so I need to let the people / managers adapt it
  • keep being oriented toward solutions: people are very probably already doing some parts of the future state map: find out which and build on it

I assumed a top managers wanting to move fast forward, so my reframing always has been somewhat pushy. Another approach could have been to be not to push at all and let the manager whether he wants to change or not. See my Solution Focus / Motivational Interviewing Series for such an approach.

Comments welcomed!

 

 

#Lean is hard on processes in order to be soft on people

October 11th, 2011 Posted in Lean, Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,

After yesterday diatribe on the people side of improvement, it occurred to me this morning that when doing Lean management, what we work with are mainly processes, not people; at least not directly.

“Hard on problems, soft on people” is indeed an often cited quote in Lean culture.

Lean is based on a coaching culture where the coaches are the managers (“teach, don’t tell” is another Lean quote). Yet, you can’t coach someone who doesn’t want to (whatever his/her [good or bad] reason).

So, the process is used as a pretext for that coaching. In an organization that needs to make benefits, improving efficiency is something well understood from employees. Yet, it’s hard (if not impossible) to come toward people and tell them how they should work better, because:

  • it’s disrespectful (and Lean is based on Respect for People!)
  • it’s presumptuous unless you did their job before and preferably not long time ago
  • and even if not long ago, you’d be served a well-merited “why didn’t you do it yourself when on the job”?
  • you don’t have requisite variety, meaning a manager can’t know the details of how to do each and every job he’s supposed to manage
  • and finally, it goes against what Lean management teaches us: having employees learn. If you tell, they don’t learn. Period.

So, even if you know how to do it better, you shouldn’t say it. And so you focus on the processes instead. Because by improving processes, you squeeze problems out of them, which means food for thought for your employees, which they will solve because it’s their job (not yours as a manager!), which will improve further the process and make it all the more sensitive to more subtle problems.

So is the virtuous circle of Lean.

(The vicious circle of traditional management is all too common: no problem solving, thus more problems, more firefighting, less time to solve anything, and more problems, leading to people leaving the company, new hires, less experience of the current situation and so further less problem solving). I wrote about it here: Nobody Ever Gets Credit for Fixing Problems that Never Happened (Creating & Sustaining Process Improvement).

How often do you focus on the processes instead of only the results of them?

#Change resistance in others is proportional to our own resistance to change one’s mental model (#stwg #systemsthinking)

Most Change Management activities are geared toward informing, explaining and training people into the change that ought to be done. It’s more or less Coercion Management to me (they conveniently share the same initials by the way).

There’s also the saying that goes “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed“. How true!

It occurred to me that the change resistance we most often sense in others may indeed be the reflection of our own resistance to change our mental models with regard to the situation that needs to be changed.

Which comes down to the assumption (a mental model as well) that there is a reality “out there” and that some view of it may be right when that of others may be wrong (the changer here supposing to have the right – or a righter – view of the situation and thus being allowed and empowered to force the change onto others).

Indeed, the more we push our (unilaterally designed) change, the more people resist. How come? I see two main reasons for that:

  • lack of people involvement in designing the change, with various consequences
  • personal belief to one view of reality only, violating the Law of Requisite Variety (Ross Ashby). Read more »

How to begin #Lean coaching using #SolutionFocus and Motivational Interviewing (#1 in Series)

This article is #1 in a Series where I investigate the use of Solution Focus and Motivational Interviewing to coach CEOs into starting their Lean initiative. Other articles will follow, feel free to comment!

2% of Lean transformation are successful. That means that 98% of Lean transformations fail (Google search).

Can you believe it? From an approach that stresses reflection (or hanseï), it’s more than surprising that almost nobody’s looking for other ways to introduce Lean. I mean something that works better!

Actually, there are some people, for instance on the Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma LinkedIn group, but we’re few.

I would like here to express my ideas about introducing Lean differently to top management (or maybe other lower management levels) using Solution Focus and Motivational Interviewing.

Read more »

#Lean idea: Treating clients as cooperative, no matter how resistant they may appear (#solutionfocus)

August 29th, 2011 Posted in Change, Lean, Solution Focus Tags: , , , , ,

Here’s is a very nice blog from Coert Visser: Doing What Works: Treating clients as cooperative, no matter how resistant they may appear, is the quickest and most promising way to encourage further cooperation.

I’m now deeply convinced that it could help a lot of Lean CEO trying to “do” Lean if their senseï or Lean coach would deal with them in a solution focused way.

The traditional Lean coaching approach has traditionally been to hit the CEO on the head until they do it and get it (maybe from a cultural approach to coaching in Japan). Surely enough, Lean has to be done by oneself to be fully understood: what a one-piece flow can bring in terms of problem detection and team work is a marvellous thing that needs to be experienced to be best understood.

Few consultants that I know can run down this path: the CEO is barely available and most often nominate someone to take care of the Lean job, or worse, let the consultants manage Lean projects on their own.

Instead, if Lean coaches would deal with the CEO first, foremost and only, it might be a slower start but a better, firmer start in the end.

As Solution Focus is about what works in terms of behavior, it may help to raise awareness in the CEO that what he sees in his company is how he thinks. And that by changing his thoughts and corresponding behaviors, he might get something else that works better for the company as a whole.

I’ll post something about Motivational Interviewing as a way to approach that first meetings with the CEO… soon.

 

A curse anatomy: #Systems Dynamics view of Micro-management #systhnk

Systems dynamics diagram of micro-management addiction situations

Systems dynamics diagram of micro-management addiction situations

The (real) situation

A friend of mine (middle manager) himself is subjected to micro-management from it’s own manager. Given the high number of projects and subjects ongoing in his perimeter, it’s a pain for him to follow all of them at the level of details required by his own upper manager.

A tentative model

Upon analysis with a systemic diagram, I found a horrible picture where the more a manager would go into micro-management, the more it will feel the urge to go. Here’s the explanation why (click on diagram to open it in a new window to follow explanations)

At the beginning, there is a micro-management need, either from a personal inclination and/or from a high hierarchical position that naturally prevents someone from having detailed information about project.

Balancing loop B1: the manager being in micro-management need take on the micro-management of activities in need (from his point of view), which will, hopefully and again, from his point of view, fix any issues on these activities hence relieving the micro-management need.

This is the main reason which a micro-manager start micro-managing in the first place. Only that this triggers three different reinforcing loops that we will now describe, resulting in a classical “fixes that fail” systems archetype…

Reinforcing loop R1: out of that micro-management need, some activities are felt in need of being-micro-managed (because of perceived problems for instance). The more the manager thus focuses on these micro-managed activities, the less there’s a focus on other activies. As a consequence, issues on other activies start to raise (we’ll see why in the next paragraph). The more other activities have issues, the more they are felt as activities in need of micro-management, which increased the need for the manager to micro-manage activities.

Reinforcing loop R2: the more a manager increase his micro-management need, the less his direct reports are motivated. Which results in a decrease in management of their activities and further increase issues. Side note: an issue on an activity need to be considered from the point of view of the micro-managing manager. This further adds to the micro-management need in the first place.

Reinforcing loop R3: when the motivation of direct reports decreases (as seen in R2), so does the trust on the micro-manager in them, which further increases his micro-managing needs.

So, there we are in a situation where the consequences of micro-management further reinforce themselves.

The solutions?

So, where do we go from there?

Traditional way of dealing with “fixes that fail” archetypes is to try to anticipate the unexpected consequences (of micro-managing in this case). Here, that would mean informing the micro-managing manager of that systemic situation. As we’re talking of a personal inclination (whose psychologic causes may be diverse) it’s not sure that the person will change his behavior (further, pushing the model onto him may just raise it’s resistance to the much needed change, hence locking the situation even more).

It maybe the case that the current situation is one in which we’re dealing with a symptom instead of addressing the root cause. In that case, we’d be in a shifting the burden systems archetype situation with new possibilities arising. I’m for instance thinking of teaching people how to “properly” manage their activities such as not to trigger micro-management needs and teach the micro-manager that he needs to teach rather than do himself, just for his own sanity (hereby addressing the WIIFM: “what’s in it for me”).

It may be the time for some Solution Focus work with the micro-manager and/or the micro-managed people: what behavior worked for you in the past? How can you do more?

Or some coaching, maybe using Motivational Interviewing style where the micro-managed manager is brought peacefully to recognizing that he needs to change (for his own and his people sanity) and then coach him to change?

Have you ever been face with a micro-manager? How did you manage that situation without flying away?

 

Relating Motivational Interviewing, Stages of #Change and #Gestalt

During my recent readings, I stumbled (again) upon information on Gestalt Therapy, which I am not familiar with. Reading further a bit, it occurred to me that it’s mainly about patients needing to first become what they are in order to become what they want, later (I bookmarked some articles, including one that make the link between AI and Gestalt on my delicious tags for Gestalt).

And so I made the connection with Motivational Interviewing that itself is built on the Stages of Change model. MI does not force clients into change, but rather:

  • take them where they are and
  • help them understand the pros and cons of where they are

Only when people move to Contemplating change are they helped building an intrinsic motivation for the change.

Some recent discussions on Appreciative Inquiry forums also mentioned cases where AI practitioners had to deal with negative feelings first before moving on to positive. I see a form of Gestalt practice in this where it helps people recollect who they are now (including negative aspects) before recollecting their best selves and building on them. Also, it’s a way of acknowledging the fact that the system is locked in a deficit-based way of thinking and that it obviously obsesses it to the point of needing to explicit it and dig it out. A form of second level of acknowledgment of the need for positivity (first is stop being into problems, second is stop thinking about finding problems to grow).

I’m writing this blog entry to try to articulate how these fit together. It seems to me that, with respect to change, a change agent or change practitioner would be better to:

  • help the system acknowledge where it stands now, both on the problematic/deficit side and on the life-giving side (what it is when it is at its best). Also, acknowledging the system’s need to be always deficit-based without ever considering the strengths may further help build that gestalt image of itself (if gestalt experts are reading this, I’d be grateful for their comments!)
  • only after when that here and now recollection has been done should the work with AI be allowed to continue (make meaning of the strengths, Dream, Design and Destiny)
  • all of this could be done with the help of the MI techniques that take the system where it is without forcing him through stages of change to which it might not be ready to go to.

I, myself, through (limited) AI experience, sensed some form of resistance in people I facilitated to move to a strength-based approach (I’m in a highly problem-solving skilled environment, and so not dealing with problems… is problematic!). I’m also wondering whether or not I may have created this myself in expecting it from the people I facilitated (social construction, again!) Hence the need to always listen, listen and listen to the system and always take it where it stands, nor where I would like it to be…

Thoughts still wandering…

D x V x F > R and the Stages of #Change

July 4th, 2011 Posted in Change Tags: , , ,

Reading again about this formula for change, it occurred to me that there’s a strong parallel with the stages of changes I recently posted about.

The formula goes this way: D x V x F > R where

  • D = Dissatisfaction with current situation
  • V = Vision for a preferred future as compared to current situation
  • F = First steps to do to start the change
  • R = natural Resistance to change

So, for any change to occur, all elements needs to be superior to zero or the change will simply not be possible.

The link I did with Stages of Change is in the order of the factors in the formula. Indeed, the initial stages of changes are:

  • Pre-contemplation stage where people don’t see any need for a change (= they’re satisfied with current situation)
  • Contemplation stage (people see the need for a change but are ambivalent about changing)
  • Preparation stage (people are committed to changing, but need help in preparing an action plan)

(The other stages are Action, Maintenance and Relapse but relate to the ongoing change or after change has been done).

To each of these stages correspond different strategies to engage people in the change (italic is a quote from Wikipedia)

  • people in the Pre-contemplation stage “typically underestimate the Pros of changing, overestimate the Cons, and often are not aware of making such mistakes. These individuals are encouraged to become more mindful of their decision-making and more conscious of the multiple benefits of changing an unhealthy behavior.” Isn’t this helping them raising their Dissatisfaction with current situation?
  • people in the Contemplation stage “learn about the kind of person they could be if they changed their behavior and learned more from people who behave in healthy ways. They’re encouraged to work at reducing the Cons of changing their behavior.” Isn’t this helping them defining their Vision of a preferred situation?
  • people in the Preparation stage “are encouraged to seek support from friends they trust, tell people about their plan to change the way the act, and think about how they would feel if they behaved in a healthier way. Their number one concern is—when they act, will they fail? They learn that the better prepared they are the more likely they are to keep progressing.” Isn’t this helping them build an Action Plan and First Steps to initiate the change? (with support from relatives)

I don’t know if one author quote the other in these different works, but there are clearly relations between one and the other.

Of course, how to provide that help is what most of this blog is about: explaining, teaching and coaching in various approaches. My last lines of thought clearly are more of the coaching side and raising intrinsic motivation in people, using, for instance, Motivational Interviewing.

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