Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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Thinking about Rio+20: who owns the Green Economy? | Opinion | Whitsunday Times

I read the paper here: Rio+20: who owns the Green Economy? | Opinion | Whitsunday Times and I’m worried (also see the other document from the parallel People Summit at Rio “Another Future is Possible” which is referenced from that “Tragedy of the Commons” blog post of the School of Commoning).

I’m worried because, like so many expert advices in organizations and governments, it’s unheard by those in a position to lead the change. To the best case, it will end on presidential desks and maybe will be read by them. To the worst, it will be forgot or even fuel that “tragedy of the commons” we’re experiencing regarding ecology on a global level where the more pressing the situation is, the more pushy ecologically aware people will become, thereby making leaders resist.

To me, the problem is two-fold: 1) experts having a non systemic perspective and 2) experts  pushing leaders to change using fear.

Let’s look at these. Read more »

Could it be that the SEE system is self-sustaining the current global mess? (#systemsthinking)

Reading about a draft report created out of contributions by Systems Thinkers on the LinkedIn group “Systems Thinking World“, in a discussion aimed at replying to UN’s General Secretary Ban Ki Moon call for revolutionary thinking regarding the current economic crisis, the following considerations occurred to me:

“Could it be that the current Social, Economical and Ecological interplay (system) is indeed sustaining the current situation (a downward slope to future ecological, economic and hence social havoc?”

I tried to quickly summarized my view in the attached diagram (for those that don’t know how to read such a diagram: boxes are “stock” that accumulate (or decrease) over time. Arrows are “flows” between stocks. A + arrow means that both sides of it move in the same direction (if origin increases, so does the destination of it, and conversely when decreasing). A – arrow means the two ends of the arrow move in opposite directions (if origin increases, destination decreases and vice-versa)).

Systems Dynamics causal loop diagram of SEE sustaining an unsustainable future...

The corresponding explanation would go something as:

  • The Economy being in a downturn, it negatively impacts the Social capital of people (trust, willing to give to others [not in terms of money but more on the line of compassion and relationships]), which makes them less likely to contribute to improvements of the Economy (R1). 
  • A decreasing Economy is negatively impacting Ecology as well (R2 through Ecological capital and Survival Instinct back to Social Capital) which, along with all the fuss about Ecology in the medias (UN call including), stresses out our Survival instinct, thereby negatively impacting our Social capital as well. 
  • The less we have a Social capital, the less likely we are to contribute to Ecology (R4). 
  • The last loop is about our stressed out Survival instinct that negatively impacts our Social capital, reinforcing the downturn in Survival instinct (R3).

Please show me where I’m wrong?!

Of course, should that situation has an ounce of veracity, the question would be: out to get out of it. This is the whole purpose of the aforementioned thread to propose some systemic (revolutionary in itself, probably) answer.

Systems Thinking #howto #video from @systemswiki #stwg

SystemsWiki is a great web site for those that want to learn more about Systems Thinking. It relies heavily on the LinkedIn group Systems Thinking World (which I invite you to join if you’re so inclined). The group’s description is the following:

We believe a systemic perspective provides the best foundation for creating effective approaches for dealing with situations and shaping a better tomorrow. Our purpose is to create content which furthers understanding of the value of a systemic perspective and enables thinking and acting systemically.

Now, after some free webinars, SystemsWiki releases the training videos on Youtube. Check them out!

Dark Matter, Dark Energy & #Contructivism (#stwg #systemsthinking)

Someone sent this link in another social network: Dark Matter, Dark Energy And The Shadow Universe.

According to recent research, it seems that 95% of the universe accounts for something which we can’t sense, yet know (for, as constructivism tells us, the nervous system is a closed system and we can only build knowledge from what we experience through our senses).

What gives hope for the future, yet, is that we inferred the existence of that Dark side of the universe through its consequences in the reality-out-there-we’re-able-to-sense.

How does it relates to constructivism? Well, all of our knowledge is initially rooted in what we once felt through our senses as primitive humans. That means that what we can’t sense, we can’t know about. Yet, some systemic trick inside our mind is at play here, meaning that there’s a reverse to the medal: what we don’t know about, we most often can’t sense. Thomas the Apostle might complain here, but if he was to only believe in what he saw, the facts are that we only see what we believe in first. Moreover, this has been proven biologically by great researchers such as Humberto Maturana at least that studied some nervous systems: the external stimuli to nervous systems are really not up to par with the electrical activity constantly going on internally – it only barely account for changes in the nervous system.

The reason for our brain discounting what he doesn’t know from the sense is probably because it’s a way to filter the vast amount of information that comes constantly from the senses to the brain. Some abstractions and simplifications are done that allow it to more quickly react to potential dangers.

And yet, we, as humans, are sometimes capable of “discovering” new facts for which we didn’t know about. Of this, we must thank our time-binding capability, as Alfred Korzybski taught us (that mean we don’t start from scratch at each generation, but we build our knowledge on top of that of the preceding generations). And thanks to our high-level cortex, we’re able to make some mental analysis and infer things for which we might not have any sensory experience before. Indeed, that what some great thinkers do all the time, as for instance Einstein when he “discovered” the Theory of Relativity.

So, what’s the point of this article? Well, it depends on you, dear reader 🙂

On some basic account, it’s a tremendous message for the future to come about possible new discoveries regarding the Universe.

On some more pragmatic level, the next time you don’t understand your manager, your employee or any of these humans you encounters all day long, rather than discounting them as idiots:

  • ask yourself what dark side of them you might not be knowing?
  • ask yourself what side of you is a dark side from their point of view?
  • finally, ask them about what might be the reasons for their acting as they do that you don’t know about which explains the behaviors you witnessed. Because chances you assigned  meaning to those behaviors that are different from their intent or that you didn’t saw other part of their behaviors that would have explained everything, should you have known before.

Have a nice week-end!

 

#Change management using #TWI Job Relations

Readers of this blog know that I’m a big fan of Training Within Industry programs. They were at the roots of Lean, along with other things. Although we usually talk of Job Methods as the ancestor of Kaizen, I would like to make a small focus today on Job Relations and how it is sound advice when it comes to change management.

The JR cover page states the following about the purpose of the program:

The Training Within Industry program of Job Relations was developed in order to provide management with a tool whereby supervisors could acquire skill of leadership.

Now, reading the associated card, one can see the following notices:

A supervisor gets results through people.

and

People must be treated as individuals.

I’m not going to review the whole program or card, but would like to stress how JR could make for a good training for any change agent, especially managers when then need to lead a change on their perimeter.

Foundations for good relations

First, there are some fundamental points stressed in JR as how to behave with people and maintain good relations. Two are worth stressing in the context of change:

  • Tell people in advance about changes that will affect them
    • Tell them WHY if possible
    • Get them to accept change
  • Make best use of each person's ability
    • Look for ability not now being used
    • Never stand in a person's way

How often are we seeing changes that are not told in advance and where the affected persons’ ability are not used in the change? I don’t see these two points as being separated, but as working together.

Indeed, it’s been recognized over and over that people are less likely to resist change when they understand the reasons behind it and they get a change to participate in it (by using their abilities).

By keeping the JR card with you and studying it thoroughly, you increase your chances of managing your people respectfully.

JR method step 1: Get the facts

The first step of the JR method is about “getting the facts”. Late Lean literature talks of “grasping the situation”, which is very similar, if not identical.

Worth mentioning though is the “Get opinions and feelings” item. From a systems thinking point of view, it’s good as it fosters different perspectives on the situation. Now, this item is not detailed on the card, but it’s the only one being given a list of key points on how to achieve it, if you do the hard work of reading the sessions outline (synthesis available in session V):

How to get opinions and feelings
  • Don't argue
  • Encourage individual to talk about what is important to him
  • Don't interrupt
  • Don't jump at conclusions
  • Don't do all the talking yourself
  • Listen

How’s this for a “manager as coach” behavior? How often have you encountered a manager that really listens to you that way?

JR method step 3: Take action

Step 3 is interesting here for the two following points:

  • Are you going to handle this yourself?
  • Do you need help in handling?

What’s important here to me is when these two points of the method are combined with the preceding two fundamental points mentioned above. Indeed, a manager or change leader should not fear from getting help from the very people who are going to be impacted by the change. By reflecting in how s/he could get help from the people, by using their ability, he considerably augments the chances of the change going well.

Seeking help and involving others is not a sign of failure, but of sound responsibility.

(From a systems thinking point of view again, it helps achieve requisite variety with respect to the change perimeter).

Conclusion

I hope to have shown how the use of TWI Job Relations method can help in leading change. Of course, this is a bit slower than traditional “command and control” way of managing change, but I bet the JR way has a lot more long-term beneficial consequences than the traditional way.

TWI programs session manuals can be downloaded for instance from http://www.trainingwithinindustry.net/.

Critical Systems Heuristics: New #mindmap uploaded to @biggerplate #stwg #systemsthinking

Having read recently about this topic, I summarized most of the method in a mindmap which is available on biggerplate.

Please note that a lot more is available (and detailed!) on CSH Author Werner Ulrich home page! Please go and see.

Next time you’re on the gemba and you seem not to talk the same language as your peers, it may be useful to critically explore your assumptions and boundaries!

 

Reblog: Seth’s Blog: Cities don’t die (but corporations do)

So long for command & control: Seth’s Blog: Cities don’t die (but corporations do).

One ruler cannot have the requisite variety to manage a system entirely on its own, except for chance.

Give up control and adopt direction. Better yet, share direction setting with your collaborators. Co-create. Help them rather than direct them. Use Appreciative Inquiry!

Probably something to do with Servant Leadership

Also, when people participate and build something, they learn and can adapt to changing setting. Like building resilience in. When you’re in charge, they don’t learn. Or they don’t learn what could save you all later. The less they learn, the more reluctant you’ll be to give them the reins. That’s shifting the burden… You’re setting up yourself for failure…

Reblog: Noah Raford » Adapting Snowden’s #Cynefin Framework to Encompass Systemic Organisational Change

October 18th, 2011 Posted in Change, Systems Thinking Tags: , , , ,

Here’s a video I wanted to see from quite some time ago.

That’s very interesting and mixes the Cynefin framework (from Dave Snowden) with the Adaptive Change Cycle (Resilience Alliance) which I didn’t know about.

Noah Raford » Adapting Snowden’s Cynefin Framework to Encompass Systemic Organisational Change.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with this, but I’ll investigate the Resilience Alliance and their model of change a bit more, for sure!

 

A layman explanation of Viable System Model (#vsm #systemsthinking #stwg)

October 13th, 2011 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: ,
VSM Model

VSM Model

I often talk on this blog about the VSM (not to be confused with Lean’s Value Stream Maps). Here’s my try at laying down a quick introduction to it.

First of all, the reader should open the picture on the right in a new window. I’ll refer to it.

The VSM is a model created by Stafford Beer that describes what ought to be done for an organization to be viable (i.e. to sustain itself over time). There are three kind of components in it:

  • Environment (left oval on the diagram), obviously out of the System, defined as Operations+Management
  • Operations (circles in the middle)
  • Management (squares and triangles on the right)

The VSM is an embodiment of Ross Ashby’s law of requisite variety. What does it mean?

Variety is loosely defined as “the number of different states a system can be in”.

The Law of Requisite Variety states that for a system to effectively control another one, it must feature at least as much variety as the one it wants to control.

So these are the basis of the VSM. Here is how it goes.

Environment

The Environment is what the system wants to control, so the system must bear the requisite variety, either genuinely or through attenuation (which means that different states of the Environment are managed through the same response from the System because, from the point of view of the System, they fall into the same “category”).

So, in front of each part of the Environment the System wishes to control, there a corresponding Operations part that interacts with it.

Operations

Operations manage parts of the Environment. As these parts may overlap, different Operations sub-systems need to communicate (represented as the big zig zag line between the two circles on the diagram).

Please note an important point:  the VSM is a recursive model, meaning that every Operations is supposed to be a VSM in itself.

The preceding sentence means that each Operation sub-system is autonomous in the management of its portion of the Environment. More on this later.

Yet, as I said above, some parts of the Environment may overlap, meaning that different Operations sub-systems have to cooperate. Which might, sometime, require some external help in the form of Management.

In the VSM, Operations is named “System 1”.

Management

The Management sub-systems are Systems 2, 3, 3*, 4 and 5 with the following roles:

  • System 2 is in charge of all the signaling between Operations and System 3
  • System 3 manages the relations between different Operations sub-systems and resolve any residual conflicts that may not have been resolved between the System 1 themselves . In VSM speech, it’s said to absorb any residual variety not managed by Operations
  • System 3* (three-star) is an audit system onto Operations
  • System 4 is the foreseeing sub-system in charge of anticipating the future of the Environment as a whole to ensure the VSM will evolve accordingly. Operations are mainly in charge of the present of the Environment parts they’re dealing with and of the Future of their part (since VSM being recursive they have their own sub-system 4)
  • lastly, system 5 is the ethos of the whole VSM, the policy, what defines the strategy of the whole.

Usage of VSM

How do you use the VSM? Mainly, there are two possible usages:

  • one is to define the structure of an organization, the VSM being a template against which a real organization may be designed.
  • the other possible usage is as an audit model where an existing organization is assessed against the model to see where some sub-systems could be lacking, possibly impeding viability of the whole, or where parts of the organization may not fit the VSM in which case these parts can be candidates for removal.

On a more pragmatic level, the overall structure of VSM (and Stafford Beer work on that topic) shows that a viable organization is one where operational entities are autonomous with respect to what they have to manage in the environment, yet following an overall strategy defined at global System 5 level.

Communications between Operations need to exist to ensure coordination and someone must be in charge of coordinating the whole (System 3). Time is taken into account by keeping an eye on the future (System 4) and informing the strategy and/or the management of Operations (System 3) where deemed necessary.

The other side of the coin showed by VSM is that any central authority trying to control everything from the top to down is doomed to fail because it will violate the law of requisite variety (it can’t have the requisite variety). The Environment won’t be properly matched by the variety of the system and so the overall viability is at risk.

Finally, I already talked a bit about VSM (by giving my own sources and mindmap) here (the mindmap is about other principles exposed by Stafford Beer).

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Lean is social constructivism and constructionism (#stwg #systemsthinking)

A few days ago, I attended a Lean conference in Paris (with Michael Ballé) and had an insight with respect to what Lean senseïs (such as Michael) are trying to do.  Or, to be more accurate, I attached some specific meaning to a senseï-deshi relationship (which should be that of a manager with his collaborators, by the way). The details of this kind of relationship and what it entails is well described in Toyota Kata by Mike Rother (a book I yet have to read as I can’t keep pace with the TAKT of Toyota books being released… More info from Mike Rother is available on his own homepage for Toyota Kata with summary slides).

What is it that I had an insight about? Well, one recalls that:

  • a manager should spend most of his time on the Gemba, coaching his collaborators
  • the coaching consist mainly in having people repeat the PDCA loop: grasp the situation (by going to the gemba again), make hypothesis, test solutions and adjust/genealize through standardization where applicable.

One utterly important point (to me) is that the manager/senseï always stresses that grasping the situation, hypothesis formulation, solution testing and standardization must be done with all people impacted, on the gemba.

Testing is where constructionism as a learning theory occurs and co-thinking on a problem is where social constructivism happens. Let me explain below.

On social constructivism in Lean

Lean is very high on socialization of workers (and managers! Western companies should learn from that) and the A3 document is where this most evidently occurs: the A3 holder should not work on his problem on his own but meet with all stakeholders with the A3 as a central point of discussion and summary of discoveries about the problem.

What this process is all about is plain social constructivism: people make meaning of their work environment by constantly exchanging between them about it, either in groups (in Obeyas) or face to face.

Here’s what wikipedia says about social constructivism:

Social constructivism is a sociological theory of knowledge that applies the general philosophical constructionism into social settings, wherein groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings. When one is immersed within a culture of this sort, one is learning all the time about how to be a part of that culture on many levels. Its origins are largely attributed to Lev Vygotsky.

(emphasis mine)

Sounds familiar to Lean people, huh?

Social constructivism is a way of seeing knowledge as meaning made out of social interaction. Any other “knowledge” is just hypothesis making and needs to be confronted (dialogued) with other people to check for validity and build meaning “into” it.

We all know how senseïs work hardly at breaking our (often wrong) mental models and replacing them with 1) Dialogue with stakeholders and 2) genchi genbutsu. This is where the second part happens.

On constructionism (learning theory) in Lean

With Lean senseïs striving for everybody to meet on the gemba where the real stuff happens, Lean is rooted in constructionism as well. Constructionism as a learning theory is defined as follow by Wikipedia:

Constructionist learning is inspired by the constructivist theory that individual learners construct mental models to understand the world around them. However, constructionism holds that learning can happen most effectively when people are also active in making tangible objects in the real world. In this sense, constructionism is connected with experiential learning, and builds on Jean Piaget‘s epistemological theory of constructivism.

(emphasis mine; the page further elaborates on problem-based learning… hint, hint)

What this means is that those that do something learn and know (quite) for sure. What you know in your head without prior testing is only belief (which unsurprisingly rythms with bullshit in Michael speech…)

I recall having read about or heard some of the most impotant questions regarding A3 thinking:

  • how do you know this is a problem? Have you gone to the gemba to check?
  • what are you going to do to test your hypothesis? (constructionism)
  • how will you convince your co-workers about your solution? (constructivism)

Merging social constructivism together with constructionism

The beauty of it all is to have both social constructivism and constructionism learning combined into the same management principles: meaning making occurs on the gemba with people dialoguing together.

That’s what a Lean senseï is trying to do: design learning experiments on the gemba where his deshi could learn something.

Footnotes

Here are some other notes that came to my mind while writing this post. Causation or Correlation? Probably both, the reader will decide…

Michael’s doctorate work on mental models

Michael is the son of Freddy Ballé who introduced Lean in France and Catherine Ballé, an organizational psychologist. Michael did his doctorate thesis on change resistance, especially in the context of introducing Lean into manufacturing companies. That work resulted in the writing of a book (french only it seems): “Les modeles mentaux. Sociologie cognitive de l’entreprise” (which could be translated as “Mental models. Cognitive sociology of organizations”) where these topics are described in deep details along with hypothesis, experiments and their analysis – all on manufacturing gembas. Already.

TWI Job Break Down Sheets improvement by Toyota

Looking back into Toyota history, one can compare the way teaching is done today to how it was done at the time of TWI at the end of World War II.

  • TWI’s Job Breakdown Sheets originally had two columns: “Major Steps” and “Key Points“.
  • Toyota’s JBS have one more: “Justification for key points“.

They obviously realized early that meaning at work was very important for employees. This of course also relates to their “Respect for People” pillar which implies that people know why they’re asked to do things…

Now, I hope you’ll understand better what is meant by “mono zukuri wa, hito zukuri“: “making things is about making people” (Toyota saying as said by Mr Isao KATO here [last page]).

 

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