Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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Autonomy dynamic model (#systemsthinking from @doingwhatworks article)

SD Analysis of Autonomy

SD Analysis of Autonomy

Reading Coert Visser’s blog post “People prefer to choose for themselves what they initiate and they want to control as much as possible what they do“, I decided to give it a shot at modelling what comes to my mind using my preferred tool of choice: Vensim.

The first analytical thinking through a problematic autonomy situation would be that people’s desire and actions to increase their autonomy is motivated by Others’ action. “Their faulty behavior against me motivates and authorizes my reacting to it“.

Of course, from the view point of others, the same thing happen with us (‘A‘ in the attached diagram).

So, although each actions from A or other tend to reach an equilibrium toward one’s own autonomy desired level (loops B1 and B2), the connection between actions (center of picture, R1) creates an overall reinforcing dynamical structure where A and Others are competing for their autonomy levels. In the end, it’s more than probable that all will loose: a typical loose-loose situation resulting from a “win-loose” mental model.

So, I added, as a proposed solution, that an overall external loop (in dotted lines on the diagram) be added where A and Others exchange on their similar desire to achieve some autonomy, and do listen to and respect the corresponding desire of the partner. In doing so, they might lower their desired autonomy level but in the mean time counter balance the negative and reinforcing loop of their action and we could hope that they reach some form of win-win equilibrium.

That solution can only exist if Dialogue is possible between A and Others.

How are you communicating about problematic situations in your organization? Do you talk them through or do you complain, finger point to one another and stick to phone and mail to fire reactive actions to one another?


“A model of success” from @doingwhatworks (#systemsthinking )

Success to the Successful systems archetype wikimedia commonsCoert Visser, again, gives some interesting insights with regards to self-reinforcing feedback of success and virtuous circles of the kind in his blog article: DOING WHAT WORKS: A model of success.

I’d like to also point to the Systems Thinking / Dynamics archetype of Success to the Successful (click on the CLD link to see a schematic representation) where, once someone achieve a result, he gets more visibility and maybe more resources to continue its successes, to the detriment of possibly others.


Reblog: DOING WHAT WORKS: Results of the mini-survey on #solutionfocus assumptions

May 30th, 2011 Posted in Change, Solution Focus Tags: , , , ,

Coert Visser, solution Focus practitioner, recently did a survey on the topic of change. Though the survey was probably answered by people with the same center of interests as him, I find it interesting nonetheless. Or should I given that hypothesis?

Each proposition is linked to a more comprehensive explanation of the answer and what was meant beinh the question. Very interesting!

DOING WHAT WORKS: Results of the mini-survey on solution-focused assumptions.


#SolutionFocus approach to continuous improvement in #Lean

To my readers, it’s no news that so-called “kaizen events” (or more precisely, kaikaku) work.

It’s also no news that continuous improvement (CI) after such events is hard to sustain.

That’s where Solution Focus comes into play. Reading the excellent blog of Coert Visser the other day, it occurred to me that I had misunderstood something in the SF approach. That of the type of solution being searched for.


Yes. SF does not look for a concrete solution such as a new method of doing things, a new tool or a new widget. It’s even stated in the underlying principles: S.I.M.P.L.E:

  • Solutions – not problems
  • In-between – the solution is in the interaction
  • Make use of what’s there, not what isn’t
  • Possibilities – past, present and Future
  • Language – simply said
  • Every case is different

My insight occurred in the “I“: solutions are in the interaction between people. I should have read the book more carefully. Moreover, SF comes from psychotherapy and is rooted in social constructionism, that should have raised my awareness… A psychoanalysis would probably link that to my IT engineering education… Well, whatever:)

A Solution Focus Approach to Continuous Improvement

Solution Focus framework

Solution Focus framework

So, what would a Solution Focus approach to “continuous improvement not working” be?

Well, let’s turn to the framework (see side picture).

  1. Move from Problem to Platform. What we have is people not taking care of continuous improvement, so what we do want is people constantly taking care of CI.
  2. What’s the Future Perfect? An ideal outcome would be that the team manager takes the CI as a way of life (or at least managing his team) and do it all the time in all situations.
  3. Scaling: where are we today? Well, it depends on the team!
  4. Counters / Know-How: what are the resources, skills, know-how and expertise that will count in getting us toward the solution (I’m quoting here the excellent and foundational book “The Solution Focus” that brought SF to organizations). Please mind the underlying part, which corresponds to the “In-between” of SIMPLE above.
  5. Affirm whatever the people are already doing toward the solution: recognize and value it.
  6. What Small Actions could you do right now to move up one level on the scale toward the Future Perfect?

Again, my insight regarding CI is in step 4 that deals with:

  • resources brought to a situation (that is, put in the interaction between people)
  • skills put to the service of the desired outcome / future perfect
  • know-how which also relates to behaviors
  • and expertise, also put to use in the situation

So, the learning here for me is that we should not be looking at new tools or some fancy visual management (though it might helps sometimes) to sustain continuous improvement, but really look after the way the manager is enacting CI in her behavior and her interactions with her team.

I’ve all too often seen visual performance management not being acted upon and slowly disappearing under dust because management was lacking the proper behavior toward it.

You can improve without visual management, but you can’t improve without doing things and displaying some improvement related behavior. Of course, when the two are used together, their effectiveness is far more powerful than used alone.

So, what is the solution?

Ok, so we know what team leaders must do: show, in their interactions, that they care about CI. What help does this solution gives us? My answer is:

Absolutely none.

Yes, you’ve read it properly. This solution at which we arrived is of no help for at least two reasons:

  • It doesn’t gives us details at what, precisely, needs to be done.
  • It’s been devised out of the gemba, so it’s worthless because it’s deconnected to the real reality (speaking in systems thinking terms, one would say that it does not have requisite variety)

The real solution is that we need to pass team leaders through the Solution Focus framework and have them come to the same kind of solution. They need to find their own answers to questions such as:

  • What, for you, works for keeping people interested to continuous improvement?
  • What worked before (or is working now) for keeping people working on a specific topic?
  • What worked before (or is working now) for keeping yourself working on a specific topic?

Please beware: the last question is a treacherous one as the team leader will probably reply that her manager constantly reminded her of that very topic to be kept on top on the priority list…

We, as Lean coaches or consultants, need to constantly remind ourselves that team leaders not only need to grow their own visual performance management board, but also their own way of acting and enacting a behavior that fosters continuous improvement. Although it’s longer and sometimes tougher than to decide that in place of them, it’s also the only way that does not raise the so-called “change resistance” that we always find on our (and their’s) path.

What’s next?

Well, now, we know what needs to be done on the part of team leaders. To be more precise, we knew it before, but I feel it’s a new way to go look for ways to finally achieve improvements that are really continuous.



Reblog: DOING WHAT WORKS: Perspective change

Another short and nice article by Coert Visser about question that helps develop a Systems Thinking view of a situation in the mind of the person being asked: DOING WHAT WORKS: Perspective change.

The article doesn’t mentioned systems thinking, this is my link of the tswo subjects, but SF is deeply rooted in the field, so it’s no wonder the roots diffused to the core.


Reblog: DOING WHAT WORKS: Effective questions for helping and providing direction

Here is a very interesting article from Coert Visser about leading people by asking questions: DOING WHAT WORKS: Effective questions for helping and providing direction.

Also, follow the inner link to “Constructive and Activating Management Techniques” on the same topic.

Telling is straightfoward and not helping people learn. Indeed, people just take what you say and either accept or reject it. Of course, some rare people are able to say things crafted in such a way that it makes people think deeply about it and help them get insights about whatever it is that the discussion is about. Milton Erickson comes to mind for instance.

For the more mundane people like me, asking questions is a way to gently push people to think about an issue and by this way step by step creating in their mind a systemic representation of what you’re trying to get through to them. “What else?” is for instance a powerful yet simple question that fosters deep thinking (used in Systems Thinking or Solution Focus).

Socrates used this a lot of course, but it somewhat had not benefitted him 😉

What else are you using to make people stop-and-think?

#Lean may very well increase your employees intelligence…

Reflecting on my previous quick post (I really need to add value instead of just repeating what I’ve read elsewhere…) I made the link between these five practices that help increasing one’s cognition, and Lean. The practices, should you not want to read the previous post, are:

  1. Seek Novelty
  2. Challenge Yourself
  3. Think Creatively
  4. Do Things The Hard Way
  5. Network

There’s Systems Thinking playing behind the scene here as I feel (like the referred blog post’s author Coert Visser) that they are all related to one another. Let me review each point in turn and discuss it from a Lean point of view.

Seek Novelty

By constantly trying to improve the company, Lean managers strive to maintain a state of permanent change. That is, a state where nothing stays as it is forever and people need to improve constantly, thus change and fin new ways of doing things. Novelty can be found in, for instance, the 5M:

  • Methods: innovate new ways of building the widgets your company sells
  • Man: rotate or change job to discover new places in the company
  • Materials: seek new ways of using your materials, or new materials altogether to improve your widgets (or reduce your costs)
  • Machines: innovate with your machine usage: error-proof devices (poka yoke), automatic unloading (hanedashi), arranging machines into cells, etc.
  • Mother Nature: how can you innovate with the constraints of your envionment to be more efficient? Or innovate in ways to preserve the environment?

Well, you can extend the 5M to 8M if you like, you get the point.

Challenge Yourself

Lean is continuous improvement and this rythms with constant challenge: how to reach that next better point from where you are? I don’t have much to say as this is rather obvious…

Think Creatively

Again, this is what a sensei requests from employees, for instance in A3 problem solving. From Toyota Kata, one knows that constant questioning is required: what’s the problem? why is this a problem? How do you know? What could another solution be? How will you check the results? How will you “sell” your proposal to colleagues (nemawashi)?

Some of the harder problems would probably mandates to think out of the box (as Einstein said, one cannot solve the problems with the same state of mind that created them).

Do Things The Hard Way

This means, do your homework. Don’t rely on others to do it for you or rely on devices to do it for you. If TPS is not hard way, I don’t know what it is! 🙂


Well, I can see two networking tools in Lean: A3 and Hoshin Kanri: they make you meet others, discuss the topics with them, have creative and hard discussions and so exchange possibly differing points of views. A good way to maintain brain plasticity, for sure.


It is said that Lean takes ordinary people to achieve extraodinary results by making them constantly improve the processes they work in. Now, studies have shown that it also turns these ordinary people into extraodinary ones.

Given the flow of past Toyota employees moving to the Lean consulting business, I tend to believe there might be some truth in these studies.

Reblog: @DoingWhatWorks : Five principles for increasing cognitive ability

March 8th, 2011 Posted in Solution Focus Tags: , , ,

Some great findings by Coert Visser: DOING WHAT WORKS: Five principles for increasing cognitive ability.

This is to announce a great article about the fact that cognotive ability can indeed be increased and is not fixed as it was supposed to be until now. The way to improve your cognition would be to:

  1. Seek Novelty
  2. Challenge Yourself
  3. Think Creatively
  4. Do Things The Hard Way
  5. Network

(see linked article to know more: very thorough!)

Reblog: Interview with Heidi Grant Halvorson (author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goal) by Coert Visser [and how it relates to #Lean]

February 22nd, 2011 Posted in Change, Lean, Solution Focus Tags: , , , , , , ,

This is a very nice interview of author Heidi Grant Halvorson about her book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals.

INTERVIEWS: Interview with Heidi Grant Halvorson.

Coert Visser, interviewer, works in the field of Solution Focused Change.

I really appreciated the interview and the part about what types of  goals allow for lasting happiness:

  • relatedness
  • competence
  • and autonomy

That book seems to be a very good candidate for mandatory reading for managers.

Again, I find that hoshin kanri, or company wide annual goal setting in Lean companies, when properly done, aligns very well to these kind of researches.

  • hoshin kanri supposes that the whole company, starting at the CEO, deeply wants the best for its customers and its employees. That for me connects to the purpose of the company and fills the relatedness advocated for by Heidi Grant
  • by allowing all levels of the organization to contribute to the details of  the hoshin planning process according to their own level of competency and personal knowledge of what needs to be done at the job position they hold, the competence need is also fulfilled
  • and, in the end, by giving responsibility to all organizational levels to know and work on the specific goals they set, aligned with the company goal, autonomy is taken into consideration.

Of course, this (relatedness, competence, autonomy) is also true for A3 problem solving, but I let that as an exercise to the reader 🙂

It’s great when research validates some practices already done, because it allows for some kind of formal explanation and justification of “why it works”. People can stop complaining that “it ain’t work here” and “we’re different”, because researched formally showed that it’s doomed to work anywhere. It’s also a way to reinforce a (young) (Lean) coach that’s it’s the good way to go, whatever the organization’s reluctance to go down that path.

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