Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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#AppreciativeInquiry with Teams: an article by Gervase Bushe – use it for #Lean

Here is a very interesting article I stumbled upon from Gervase Bushe: Appreciative Inquiry with Teams.

The article gives different way of using Appreciative Inquiry with teams to help them solve issues and perform more rapidly (in the case of a newly formed team). Both dos and don’ts are proposed.

I find this paper really interesting in the context of introducing teams to Lean and using some appreciative or positive approach for that purpose (the paper also mentioned some Solution Focused approach, though without naming it).

This is the kind of straightforward and very operational paper that lights your mind and that you know how you could put is to its best use (or give it your best try in order to learn by doing).

Thanks Mr Bushe!


#GTD is easy! Here are the three habits you already knew how to do

April 1st, 2011 Posted in GTD, Solution Focus Tags: , ,


Getting Things Done book

Getting Things Done book

GTD – Getting Things Done- is a personal productivity method that helps you get things done and relieve the often associated stress. It’s been created by David Allen in his book “Getting Things Done, the art of stress-free productivity“.

This might surprise a number of you, but I’m a firm believer that GTD, in all its bells and whistles is easy to implement, because you already know how to do GTD and when you think about it, that basically comes down to only three habits.

Surprise! Who would have thought that? People often complain that GTD is tricky and complicated to setup and use, that they get lost in too many lists and that they don’t know how to deal with such a complicated system. To which is often replied that it would be worst without any system.

But do people really have no system to manage their todos prior to GTD? I doubt it and here is why.

First habit: write stuff down

What do you do when you’re stress because you have lots of stuff to do?

You write it down.

And what does GTD tell you to do? Suspense… Exactly the same: write stuff down!

So, basically, we all already know that to relieve stress regarding stuff to be done, the best way is to write it down so as not to forget any of it.

That’s all. The very basic of GTD is to write stuff down to:

  • Empty your head instead of trying to memorize it, so that you can think clearly afterwards to concentrate on getting things done.
  • Remember it later.

Is this black magic? I doubt it…

What GTD tells you to do is to write stuff down all the time. We had a working solution to kill stress, so all we have to do is to apply it continuously. Hey, you had a thought just right now! Write it down. And that one too: write it down as well! This is how your inbox fills up which brings me to the second GTD habit.

Second habit: identify the desired outcome

Ok, this one may be less intuitive, yet you do it all the time when you really want something: you describe it in as much details as possible. You create a powerful vision that’s so compelling to you that you can’t help but go for it and do the necessary tasks that are required for it to occur.

I agree that most of the time, these powerful visions result from some exchange with a friend or partner and you rarely construct them in your mind on your own. Yet, this is the way humans are: we move in the direction of our most powerful visions of the future.

What GTD tells you to do is to ask yourself, for each stuff that you’ve written down: What’s the desired outcome? You need to do this when you take a thing from your inbox and think about it. You need to turn that “stuff” into a “desired outcome”.

As for the technical background, a desired outcome is something expressed in a positive way (something you want rather than something you don’t want) and in the present tense “as if” it had already occurred. Both these criteria are necessary for a well crafted “desired outcome” that will ensure you the best results.

Which leads us to our third and last habit…

Third habit: identify the Next Action

Who needs an MBA to understand that “Call sister to book her garden for mom’s birthday” is easier to deal with than “Mom’s birthday party”? Clear and detailed next physical actions are easier to deal with than vague “stuff”. Oh that was difficult to come with, for sure!

What GTD tells you to do is to do that consistently, for all the “stuff” that came into your world that you probably have jotted down on paper or in your smartphone: first identify the desired outcome and then what the Next Action is.

Putting it all together

This is all about GTD! When you put it all together, it looks like what follows.

Write, Outcome, Next Action

So, here we are:

  • Write down everything that cross your mind in order not to forget about it and keep an clear mind
  • Identify the corresponding desired outcome
  • Write down the Next physical Action(s) required to move the original “thing” to completion.

What do you need to do that for? Well…

What GTD tells you to do is to apply this model of “write>outcome>action” to all your life (or more precisely to all of your altitudes). That means:

  • To your Actions
  • To your Projects
  • To your life altogether: Personal values, 3 to 5 years Vision, 1-2 years Objectives and Areas of responsibility.


What do you do when you have lots and lots of stuff? Again, real magic here… you sort them!

That’s just what GTD lists are: a way to sort all of this stuff and Projects and Actions you’ve come about into different “Contexts”.

What GTD tells you to do is to:

  • Move Actions to different Contexts so as to avoid looking at Actions to which you can’t do anything because you’re just not in the right place or have the right tools or are with the right persons to do them (these last lists are called Agendas).
  • Move stuff you’re not sure you’re really willing to do or you’re not sure when you’re going to do them, to a Someday/Maybe list.
  • Move stuff you need to check about later in a Waiting For list.
  • Move date or hour specific actions to your Calendar (yes, this is also a form of context in GTD, dependent on Time and Place: that of the meeting!)
  • Move all your projects to a Project List so that you also don’t lose track of them
  • Move all your project related information to Project specific folders so that they are all in one place.

So, here is how you come about to having a whole GTD system in place. Of course, viewed from the end, it’s a lot of lists. That’s why GTD tells us to do a Weekly Review just to maintain that system under control: go through all of your lists and mark what have been done. And during the review, write down stuff that might pop up in your head. And to help you further your emptying of your head, GTD provides you with Incompletion Trigger lists (both personal and professional).

That’s it! So, do you still think GTD is difficult?


#Video About The #Book “Fry The Monkeys Create A Solution” (#Solutionfocus)

March 16th, 2011 Posted in Solution Focus Tags: , , ,

For those that like videos, here is a 6 minutes video about a very recent book regarding Solution Focus: About The Book “Fry The Monkeys Create A Solution“.

The video is a light introduction to the world of Solution Focus and answers the most common questions about it (whether it is about problem phobia for instance).

I have not read it (yet?). What I did read is “Solutions Focus: Making Coaching and Change S.I.M.P.L.E.” which is a great book targeted to a wide range of audiences, from consultants to managers and coaches in differing contexts (individual to small teams to bigger systems, though it is acknowledged that Appreciative Inquiry may be more suited for that purpose). The S.I.M.P.L.E. principles at the heart of Solution Focus are explained as well as the easy tools and the OSKAR coaching framework that can be used for, well, coaching using SF.


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?

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.

Reblog: #SOLUTIONFOCUSED CHANGE: The word ‘talent’

Here is an excellent and well researched blog article: SOLUTION FOCUSED CHANGE: The word ‘talent’. There are reports on the fact that talent and intelligence may be grown and that confidence in this growing possibility actually make it more effective.

This is in line with other work on systems thinking and systemic therapy (from Palo Alto’s mental research institute and the work of, for instance, Gregory Bateson and Paul Watzlawick).

Of course, Solution Focus is an approach with roots in these works, so the article on this blog should not come as a surprise :-). I’m currently reading that book, by the way and created the corresponding category on the blog, because I think I’m going to invest more time in this!

What also strikes me is the link with experience. Aren’t we in the field of Constructionism? Isn’t it what the Thinking Production System (aka Toyota production System, TPS or Lean) is also all about?

  • Plan an experiment to learn something
  • Do
  • Check the result and seek to understand the results
  • Act / Adjust as a consequence

So, not only did Taiichi Ohno enforced doing and having experiences, he also enforced thinking out the results to ensure learning did occur (this is hansei in japanese). In effect, this probably raised intelligence of workers and he didn’t know it at that time (though he probably knew that people not doing things were indeed dumb, given the low opinion he had about most managers! 😉

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