Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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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…

Some thoughts about what #positive #lean could be by mixing #AppreciativeInquiry and #SolutionFocus

I’ve been thinking lately of what some less deficit-based or more positive-based Lean could be. I know three kind of positive approaches:

  • Appreciative Inquiry, more geared toward identifying what gives life to people, what interests them;
  • Solution Focus, which tries to identify what works or has worked and do more of it;
  • Positive Deviance, which allow a group to identify people (the positive deviant) that achieve a definite purpose in the same condition as others who do not.

What I find interesting in these approaches is that I find them far more powerful when it comes to motivating people to change. Because they appeal to what people really want or like to do. Surely enough, epople do want to solve problems, but only to the extent that it allows them to move toward something that they feel interested in, something that serves them in one way or the other.

Read more »

Reblog: Compassionate #Coaching Evokes Better Results | Business News Daily (#appreciativeinquiry)

Here is a very interesting article on BusinessNewsDaily about coaching people for a positive vision, backed with research on brain imagery: Compassionate Coaching Evokes Better Results | Business News Daily.

Coincidentally (or not?), the research was done at Case Western Reserve University, home of Appreciative Inquiry.

Applications in parenting and management is cited in the article.

Donella Meadows: #vision is a necessity before any other #systemsthinking method (sort of #AppreciativeInquiry)

Reading through the Systems Thinking World LinkedIn Group, Gene Bellinger (SystemsWiki owner and group owner) posted the link below to a video of Donella Meadows talking about Vision.

Meadows is a renowned systems thinker whose main work is the “Limits to Growth” book about how our continuing use of non renewable resources will bring a brutal stop to our growth.

In the video posted (http://www.uvm.edu/giee/beyondenvironmentalism/Meadows.mov), Meadows talks about the very importance of always having a vision in mind before trying to do something and how this helped her discover things that she thought she wouldn’t have otherwise. Read more »

Change This – Radical Management: Mastering the Art of Continuous Innovation

I’ve posted yesterday about a book I’ve heard of: Radical Management: Mastering the Art of Continuous Innovation.

Now, in my mailbox today, I can see the lastest ChangeThis newsletter with a presentation of Steve Denning’s ideas which he details in his book. The manifesto is here: Change This – Radical Management: Mastering the Art of Continuous Innovation.

I’m happy that I’ve read this manifesto, because it allows me to understand more about what that style of management is all about. And I must say that I like it even more!

Being an idea-connector as I am, I can’t help but connect the principles that Mr Denning proposes to the ones I’m more used to. Here they are.

What are the 7 principles?

First, a quick reminder of the seven principles Mr Denning proposes:

  1. The purpose of work is to delight clients through value innovation
  2. Work should be carried out in self-organizing teams
  3. Work should be done in client-driven iterations
  4. Each iteration should deliver value to clients
  5. Total openness: everyone levels with everyone
  6. The workplace is a context in which teams themselves want to improve
  7. Management communicates through interactive conversations

I shall now link these very interesting propositions with the main topics of this blog and show how I feel they relate to one another.

Lean

Lean is a total management system encompassing the whole organization. Or it should be. One of the fundamental principle of Lean is that you must give customers what they want, at the moment they want it, in the quantity they want, all by reducing their burden to buy it from you. As Lean is rather radical in its force to move toward this direction, it means that to reduce your costs, you also need to reduce your turnover and the best way to do that is to give back some power to your employees and take care of them. You need to let them use their mind as to what and how the company can be improved and how they can best work to best serve your customers.

As the driving obsession of Lean is to achieve all that through the mean of reducing the delay between the moment a customer makes a request and the moment you’ve collected the money he gave you in purchase of your product or service, this means that you should try to deliver any products to any customer requesting it (that’s one-piece-flow behind it, for sure).

I relate this to Mr Denning’s points #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5.

Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking is a way of thinking of systems (as defined as a collection of parts related to each others) that allows to see the forest despite the trees. Indeed, the whole has some (emergent) properties worth studying that you can’t see when only studying the parts. There’s a lot more behind this sole sentence and diverse methods to help you achieve that.

One method that I find especially visible through Mr Denning presentation of Radical Management is that of the Viable System Model by Stafford Beer. I’ve uploaded a diagram presenting what the VSM is (same letters, but different than the Lean “Value Stream Map”) behind this link.

Mr Denning’s Radical Management points #2 especially relates to the system law of requisite variety. According to this law, which is a building principle of the Viable System Model, small teams have a better chance of matching the environment’s variety than some top management up the hierarchical ladder. Hence, autonomous teams, all working under the same vision or in the same direction (as set by point #1) are a must. In this view, point #7 might be seen as a new way of interacting with teams corresponding to System 2 in charge of interactions and conflicts between autonomous systems 1 (teams).

Besides, when you have the autonomy to work the way you want, you’re more willing to improve your own work conditions than if they’re imposed on you by some management far away. That’s point #6.

Strength-based approaches to management

I’ve already covered the 7 points. Yet, although it’s not explicitely stated in the manifesto which I link at the beginning of the article, I have the feeling that the whole radical management system is somewhat more strength-based than traditional management approaches. Indeed, when you’re talking of “delighting clients” (#1), “delivering value” (#4), “openness” (#5) and “interactive conversations” (#7), you’re more likely to deal with what works and motivates people than seeking to assign blame for problems.

Conclusion

All in all, Radical Management seems to be a very good approach to management, with a nicely put combination of Lean, Systems Thinking and Strength-based approaches to management. Being from a Lean background mainly, I can only regret that of all the fantastic Lean books available, people only remember the tools part and not the management part. That’s similar to trying to use some powerful tool without reading the accompanying instructions: no wonder you end up hurting people.

So, if some management book can focus readers on improving their management skills, so far so good! We’re in desperate need of some new style of management and Radical Management, in my opinion, greatly fills the gaps.

Mindmap: Solution Focus

November 4th, 2010 Posted in Change Tags: , ,

Out of the strength-based approaches to change, there is one which is called “Solution Focus”. Out of a book written by Paul Z Jackson and Mark McKergow, the approach focuses on finding solutions that had, are and would work to solve the problem at hand.

The typical process goes something as follow:

  • Establish a platform: convert the problem or issue to an image of what already once worked (kind of similar to Discovery of Appreciative Inquiry)
  • Future Perfect: using the miracle question, imagine the perfect future in the case where the issue disappeared overnight.
  • Scale: if 10 is Future Perfect and 1 is the opposite, where are you now?
  • Look at counters: what resources, knowledge, skills and experience from the Future Perfect is already present today?
  • Affirm: affirm current & present counters that can help you move forward.
  • Small Actions: what can you do today to move to next step (+1) on the scale and collect more counters?

I did a mindmap out of the material I found on the net and uploaded it onto BiggerPlate. Go check it out!

Mindmap : Positive Deviance Approach

November 4th, 2010 Posted in Change Tags: , ,

Positive Deviance is a strength-based approach that tries to identify people which, despite the same conditions and limitations, get to strive in a particular context and then have the community replicate their successful behaviors. Very participative, the approach uses lots of open questions and whole system involvement to help communities fix their problems byidentifying and replicating on what some of their members (the so called “positive deviants”) are doing.

The PD Initiative has some very good guides (including a Basic starting guide) available to download along with stories and other interesting resources: go check by yourself!

I just created a mindmap out of the guides available on the Positive Deviance Initiative web site and uploaded it onto BiggerPlate.

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