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!

 

#lkfr12 : Strength-based Kanban : slides, interview guide and final handout available!

October 23rd, 2012 Posted in Lean, Strengths Tags: , , , , , ,

This year (2012) was the first edition of Lean Kanban France. David Shaked and myself facilitated a workshop about “strength-based kanban” to be used both as a tool and metaphor to boost one’s own coaching skills (whether to coach Lean or Kanban… or whatever!).

Here are the documents:

  • slides,
  • 1st generation handout (interview guide used for people to interview each other during the workshop)
  • and 2nd generation version of a strength-based kanban which you are encouraged to use, improve

…all the while to keep us informed of what great things you did with it!

Meanwhile, should you like to participate in the strength-based (r)evolution of Lean, feel free to join others on the Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma LinkedIn discussion group.

 

What Drives Entrepreneurs to Win (@gallup article on #strength)

September 25th, 2012 Posted in Strengths Tags: , , , ,

Gallup wrote an interesting article: What Drives Entrepreneurs to Win.

What’s interesting in this article is that it’s not another one on how to start a new businesss (there are plenty of those like The Lean Startup or Business Model Generation for instance). Although the article does give a glance at the process, it focusses more on what are those behaviors that makes entrepreneurs successful.

What I feared first was that they would identify people’s Strengths, as per their Strength Finder survey, for that would condemn (self-fulfilling prophecy) those not having the proper strengths to try at being an entrepreneur.

Rather, they took the “behavior” perspective that allows everybody to imagine how they build on their strengths to replicate these successful behaviors.

Excellent!

 

 

Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being #engagement #motivation

I just found this article on the topic. Looks great, will read it later.

The original web site redirects now to Self-Determination Theory which is a concept that has been integrated into Motivational Interviewing which I used in my paper regarding coaching executives into Lean Management without raising resistance.

A fresh look at behaviour management in schools from @guardian: #solutionfocus for @EducationFrance ?

Here’s another rgeat article from The Guardian about using Solution Focus in schools.

A fresh look at behaviour management in schools | Teacher Network Blog | Guardian Professional.

Someone’s from the french ministry of education to test it ?

Somehow, I can’t help but relate this classroom story with what happens in organizations. People are under constant monitoring from their boss, not by him constantly watching over their shoulder (though, sometimes…) but because of that more or less mean year-end review. You know you’ll be evaluated, a bit on what you did done right, but mostly about what you did wrong or not good enough and that you’re supposed to improve next year. Indeed, your bonus relies on that evaluation (despite it not being the most motivating factor)

Doesn’t it look like the same as in school? No wonder there’s so few people engaged at work! Besides, pushing people toward some forced behaviors is a sure way to make them resist. Doesn’t everybody in the change business knows that by now?

 

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 session, à 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!

Reblog: The Chairman’s Blog: Gallup Expands StrengthsFinder Offerings

August 20th, 2012 Posted in Personal Development Tags: , ,

This is great news! Gallup, one of the world reknown Strengths assessment company is now offering people the opportunity to buy a code to assess their strengths. Before that, people had to buy the book first.

Of course, this is not up to par with VIA character strengths which offer their assessment for free, but still, it’s better that way!

Read more below.

The Chairman’s Blog: Gallup Expands StrengthsFinder Offerings.

Reblog: Metrics in Lean – Alternatives to Rank-and-Yank in Evaluating People | Michel Baudin’s Blog

August 16th, 2012 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , , ,

Here’s a nice article from Michel Baudin about evaluating employees.

Metrics in Lean – Alternatives to Rank-and-Yank in Evaluating People | Michel Baudin’s Blog.

I like most of what’s written there, though I’m still wary of just evaluating. Couldn’t we yank (pun intended) the evaluation process altogether?

My arguments in support of this are that, like Deming said, most problems are process related (being into Systems Thinking, I’d also say that most are system related as well). So, how could you evaluate someone when their individual performance only accounts for 5% in their result?!

I’ve come to know that some companies try to evaluate teams rather than individuals. I see clear benefits from that, though the main drawback being that people can hardly stand out when they would like to. But it might be a matter of adapting to that kind of evaluation and seeking peer recognition rather than management’s. Some of the benefits are:

  • better intra-team collaboration and exchanges
  • fewer competition among team members (which is often detrimental to overall performance)
  • better sense of purpose since people share something and can feel contributing to something bigger than themselves (the team) – a highly motivating factor
  • (gentle?) peer pressure so as not to be caught sky glazing, though I’m not sure this really is a benefit (surely in the eyes of traditional management, but not necessarily in employees’ mind…)

All in all, I have it that a poor performing individual is mainly a management problem:

  • has the employee been hired for the wrong reasons?
  • has the employee been hired on wrong criteria for the job?
  • did management provided adequat support for making that person thrive in his job?
  • did management do his duty so as to keep that person in the job she was hired for?
  • is the person still adapted/willing to do the job she was hired for in the first place? Maybe this is time for her to move elsewhere in the organization… to a place she’s willing to go!
  • etc.

Of course, there are new challenges with taking care of people that way, namely that you can’t just put people where they would like to be if they don’t have the required skills. But you can surely devise a cleaver way of slowly prepare the persons for their new activities. Of the cost involved to do so, you’ll also gain a highly motivated workforce that will fight for their own benefit, which, incidentally, will coincide with that of the organization. Priceless, isn’t it?

Isn’t that a win-win approach to be sought for?

 

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