Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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Don’t teach #Lean

genchi genbutsu

Now, thinking about it, how long have companies been trying to replicate Toyota? That’s easy fact to find: get the publication date of “The machine that changed the world” from Womack, Jones & Roos: 1991.

2012-1991=21.

It’s been 21 years that people try to teach Lean. And few succeed. Yet the teaching and education business is longer than that. Should we have known a bullet-proof way of teaching, we’d know by then, don’t you think?

So, instead of trying to find the root cause of why Lean teaching fails (besides, it doesn’t really fail: it’s just that knowledge learned that way cannot be put into motion), let’s turn to what works instead. What do successful Lean coaches tell us about turning a company Lean? It simple, and I guess anyone in the Lean business knows it:

現地現物 !

Or, as I read elsewhere:

Go to the real place, look at the process, talk to the people.

Why does teaching Lean doesn’t work?

Trying to teach as systemic a thing as Lean is very difficult. Every single tool or practice is connected to every other one: Just in Time helps with flow, but also raises problems (that the purpose, by the way!), so you can see them, but you’d need visual performance management board as well, which means you need to learn and practice Five Why’s root cause analyses, Pareto, and Ishikawa. So, you’d discover that your training is lame (Job Instruction!), your batches are too big and because your die changeovers are too long, so you must SMED them, and so on.

So, when someone’s trying to teach Lean, they’re mainly trying to have some square pegs forced into round holes. The peg being the Lean material, and the hole being the people’s brain they’re trying to indoctrinate. People will have a hard time making sense of their knowledge with what they have in production. Teaching them is also mostly diverting their mind from where the true work needs to be done: the floor (gemba).

So between using new and non-practical knowledge or continuing to do what they’ve already done (and that they perfectly know how to do from their perspective), what do you think they will do? They will continue to do business as usual of course!

So, what to do about Lean knowledge?

Should we stop teaching Lean? No, of course, otherwise we’d be short of Lean experts someday. But what’s important is that the ones having Lean knowledge don’t try to push it onto people (besides, pushing isn’t the best Lean practice, by the way), but they must try to have people pull knowledge. And not pulling knowledge from the mind of their Lean consultant, but from their own! Which means the Lean consultant must change job and become a Lean coach. The role of a coach being that of a guide that doesn’t give solutions, but helps and encourages on the path to understanding. Of course, the Lean knowledge of the coach is useful: it helps him/her to ask the good questions at the most efficient moment so that the people can discover and learn Leanin the context of their own work.

Here’s one example of what I meant by the diatribe above: http://theleanedge.org/?p=3875. Michael Ballé’s one of the most respected Lean coach on the planet, but it took me quite some years to fully understand what he meant by repeatedly and bluntly telling people (like myself!) to go back to the gemba and work there. But for people like me that are more interested in learning than in producing, that wasn’t pleasant a discourse as I wanted it to be.

Now I know how I can have learning AND teaching at the same time: by going to the gemba and patiently and relentlessly showing the direction of Lean to people, but by coaching them to discover what would work best for them, in their own context. Hopefully, I have different tools in my toolbox to help me along the way, like Appreciative Inquiry to work out with people why do they do what they do, Solution Focus to help them remember what do they do that already works for them from a Lean perspective or Systems Thinking to nudge them into considering the whole system rather than just their silo and have them get out of their own way to truly build that systemic way of the company by 1) going to the real place, 2) looking at the process and 3) talkig to the (other) people.

 

Systems Dynamics study of “less trains when incidents means more incidents” #stwg #systemsthinking #systemsdynamics

Autumn is traditionally a season where suburbs trains have problems. There are a few reasons for that, including leaves on the rails (I found an official flyer explaining the process of which I’ll talk someday).

I’ve come to notice that very often, once there’s an incident on a line (someone using emergency signal thus causing a train to stop), other trains are unscheduled. Indeed, I think this is worsening the situation (escalation of incidents) resulting in possibly more incidents, up to a point where the traffic being stopped for too long, people who are blocked in a train open the doors and walk on the rails, thereby causing the whole traffic to Paris (yes, I’m in France) to come to a total halt for obvious security reasons.

Until this extreme situation (that happens once or twice a year), there are intermittent problems that the attached Systems Dynamics diagram tries to clarify. For my knowledgeable readers, it’s two intertwined archetypes: a “fix that fail” with a “shifting the burden“. Here’s why.

  • R1: First, there’s a train incident that cause trains to be late. With late trains, there is an increase of people waiting on the platforms to board the next train. Of course, the more there are people waiting, the more there is a risk of incident in the next trains, thereby increasing the number of train incidents.
  • B3: When trains are late, that increases the perceived complexity of traffic because the whole schedules have to be changed. So of course, an immediate and symptomatic answer is to reduce the number of trains in circulation thereby reducing the perceived complexity of traffic. This response is somewhat natural, but as we see next, it is a “fix that fail’ archetype.
  • R2: by reducing the number of trains in circulation, there is an opposite increase of the number of people waiting on the platforms for next trains, thereby increasing the risk of train incidents: we’re back into R1. The intended fix failed, thereby worsening the situation!

So we see that this first loops (R1-R2-R3) form a fix that fail archetype. Now I want to show how that situation is perpetuating itself through a “shifting the burden” archetype. Let’s continue the investigation:

  • B4: when the perceived complexity of traffic increases, so does the learning to manage complexity, which would, after some delay, decrease the perceived complexity of traffic.
  • R5: of course, with an increase in learning to manage complexity, the number of train in circulation could increase, thereby decreasing the number of people waiting for the next train and then reducing too the risk of incidents.

B3-B4-R5 form that ‘shifting the burden” archetype where there’s a strong incentive to reduce the perceived complexity by reducing the number of train (short-term, symptomatic response) which reduce the possibility of train controllers to learn how to manage complexity (longer term, better, response). Further, that short-term, symptomatic response is a “fix that fail” in that it worsen the situation by increasing incidents, thus trains late, perceived complexity of traffic and thus increasing pressure on controllers to further reduce the number of running trains.

*sigh*

Hopefully, there’s an unintended beneficial consequence for myself: being blocked in a train is free time to read more systems thinking books!

What to do? Well, I think one of the leverage points resides in the traffic controllers increasing their learning from complexity, but they would need to be aware of the situation first.

Also, I haven’t modelled the security measures that further makes controllers wanting to reduce the number of trains, but it’s acting in a similar way as B3. Yet, for the same reason, more people waiting makes for more incidents and thus a decreased security.

To me, the solution to less incidents (thus improved security) is to have more trains, which would mean more complexity, but traffic controllers would get a chance to learn from it, thereby making them able to sustain a dense enough traffic in case of incidents.

I’ll try to have that essay covertly sent to Transilien for their consideration…

 

Clay Shirky: How the Internet will (one day) transform government @TED #video

September 26th, 2012 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve just watched this great video on TED: Clay Shirky: How the Internet will (one day) transform government | Video on TED.com.

What I find interesting is that tools such as GitHub allows for a perfect collaboration among people to build the best possible Systems Thinking view of any issue, by drawing in any stakeholder and have them sharing their own view.

Of course there are other online collaboration tools (like etherpad, Rizzoma or Debategraph for instance), but I have yet to find some that allow for clearly identifying, then reconciling different contributions.

How to concretely achieve this has yet to be thought out, but I promise you to give it a shot.

n’ergotons plus, je vous prie at light matters – A Laws of Form comics #lof #stwg

September 7th, 2012 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: , , ,

I’m not sure I understand it all, but, since I’ve been looking around George Spencer-Brown Laws of form since quite some time, I will ponder this… well… comics?

n’ergotons plus, je vous prie at light matters.

I’m wondering if there’s a deliberate link between DSRP concepts as feature on Thinking at every desk and LOF…

 

Gordon Pask works (#systemsthinking #stwg)

July 13th, 2012 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: , , , , ,

This is mostly a note to self regarding that host of Gordon Pask works available on Internet. More to read later (as if I needed this more!)

Wikipedia quote:

Andrew Gordon Speedie Pask (June 28, 1928, Derby – March 29, 1996, London) was an English cybernetician and psychologist who made significant contributions to cyberneticsinstructional psychology, experimental epistemology and educational technology.

 

What is Ross Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety? (#systemsthinking background material)

This is a concept that I’m using since quite some time now and that I seemed to understand rather intuitively though, necessarily at a general level.

What it basically says is that for a controller to remove noise from a signal, it needs to have a minimum variety that depends on the signal it needs to remove noise from and the variety of the result that it deems Good. Which Ross Ashby summarized as “only variety can kill variety“, where the killing part was about killing the variety of noise. Read more »

#Systems #dynamics reading of #linkedin (big) groups moderation effects (#stwg #systemsthinking)

Here’s a thinking of mine I had the other day regarding group with a high number of members and a (strong) moderation of new discussion topics. That group which I am referring to is Systems Thinking World on LinkedIn.

Here’s the message I sent to the group owner and moderation, Gene, also owner of the fantastic Systems Wiki website.

As promised, here’s what came to my mind when I complained regarding your strict moderation rules. It’s quite of a big diagram, so here’s my try at explaining what happens. Hope it’s clear otherwise please ask for clarification. Though my own conclusion is clear: please create an unmoderated subgroup 🙂 Read more »

Rio+20, #sustainability & the commons: tragedy of the commons at 3 levels (#systemsthinking #stwg)

As my readers may know, I’m a member of the Systems Thinking World LinkedIn discussion group and there’s a running thread regarding that United Nations call from Secretary General Ban Ki Moon about some revolutionary thinking to get the global economy out of the marsh it is now.

Thanks to that (long) thread, I’ve been acquainted with various initiatives, one of them being that of The School of Commoning. One of their home page blog article is about a Tragedy of the Commons identified following the Rio+20 UN world conference recently.

Indeed, I identified not one, not two, but three Tragedy of the Commons happening regarding these sustainability issues, though not all at the same level, but probably reinforcing the whole problem at a bigger level (haven’t modelled that from a higher level, though, someone ought to do it. Volunteers, somewhere?). They are:

  1. Fight for usage of non renewable resources (or commons)
  2. Fight for monetization of non renewable resources (or commons)
  3. Fight for control over the non renewable resources (or commons)

Let’s review them each in turn…

Read more »

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