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Article on the 12 principles of #permaculture and how #sociocracy enhances them

It’s a nice read over there:

I’ve written on how to combine Sociocracy with Permaculture’s 7 levels, zones and design method (OBREDIM) here, although it’s in french only for now: GDP · GitBook (GDP is french for Dynamic Governance based on Permaculture).


#Permaculture as a form of #governance: initial ideas

I’ve been circling (!) into governance ideas (Holacracy, Sociocracy and Sociocracy 3.0) and Permaculture, recently. My takes on these are:

  • Holacracy is well structured but quite complicated to implement
  • Sociocracy is way simpler but leaves initial practitioner with a blank page syndrom making them needing to reinvent most of their work
  • Sociocracy 3.0 is modulable but complex to start with

And then I pondered recently on permaculture and management, and then onto governance and sociocracy, and discovered that you could use permaculture for governance (with bits of consent and circles inside, and double-linking and elections without candidates being nice additions). I still haven’t had the time to detail my ideas, but it mostly goes like this:

  • planning could use the OBREDIM (observation, borders, resources, evaluation, design, implementation, maintenance) permaculture design approach to structure issues
  • the circles (and sub-circles) are thought along the line of permaculture zoning like below. This also goes for analyzing issues and ensuring they’re properly contributing to the organizational ecosystem they belong to:

    • 0 = you,
    • 1 = the circle
    • 2 = the community/organization
    • 3 = the wider environment/ecosystem/bioregion where the organization resides
    • 4 = the nation
    • 5 = the world/Earth
  • governance could benefit from the seven levels, with the following correspondance :
    1. canopy: strategy definition
    2. low trees: roadmaps, tactics, policies
    3. shrubs: operational stuff: projects and actions
    4. herbaceous: nutrients: what are the recurring resources that will feed the circle?
    5. rhizosphere (roots): digestion: how can learning be reinjected into the organizational culture?
    6. soil surface (ground cover): protection: how can we maintain and preserve our culture (all the while nourishing it)?
    7. vertical layer (vines): interconnections with other levels and circles
  • and synchronization meetings (triage in Holacracy) or action planning benefit from the 12 principles to ensure the actions contribute the most effectively to the organization (do you create no waste? do you tap into renewable energy from people (ie in their strengths, not aside from then, etc. See my other posts on that)

That’s mostly it! When decisions need to be taken, you resort to consent after having clarified the issue using OBREDIM at all relevant levels (plants don’t achieve consensus, their behaviors mostly resemble consent to me). Elections are without candidates (plants don’t propose themselves, they each interact and structural coupling make some stand up given the local conditions). Circles are double-linked because it increases the communication channel variety through which complexity can express itself (the complexity is at most that of the communication channel). And of course a circle is the local ecosystem around a specific topic.

That way of organizing stuff also embeds elements from Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model. But I’ll let that proof as an exercise for the reader 😉

Du #SWOT au #SOAR : pour une mise en mouvement de l’entreprise vers sa #stratégie

Voici un excellent article qui présente, de manière simple et pratique, le SOAR comme alternative plus complète et plus efficace au SWOT. Une lecture rapide qui pourrait bien permettre aux responsables d’entreprise de lancer, enfin, leur entreprise sur le chemin du changement :

Merci Bernard !


The 30 elements of customer value via @harvardbiz @alexis8nicolas: what about employee assessment?

Here’s an excellent (as usual) article from Harvard Business Value: It reveals results from a study about customers not being interested just by Quality, Delays and Costs (as simplified in #Lean), but also by much more different criteria (30 in total):

The question raised by Alexis Nicolas is: Why about using these 30 elements to evaluate the perception of a collaborator about his job and the company he works for during periodic assessments?

The hierarchy is reproduced below, but to make a long story short, we could synthesize the levels with the following reading grid:

  • at the functional level: this corresponds to the traditional employee assessment where his/her contribution is evaluated. Only with much more details;
  • at the emotional level we could assess how the employee feels in his/her job and what are the factors inciting to contributing more than the job description;
  • at a life changing level we can start to identify how the job or the organization is helping the employee grow and whether (or not) it gives reasons for him or her to fight for doing the job;
  • and at the social impact level we can assess whether the employee feels the job as a way to contribute to something bigger than his life, toward the world: that’s what’s is the more motivating for someone and which has the power to turn a job into a life mission.

Thanks Alexis for the mind-blowing question!


#Permaculture and Organizational #Efficiency (#strength-based #Lean also)

Having the chance to own a house with a small garden, I recently got interested in Permaculture. Indeed, I’ve been interested in Christopher Alexander‘s pattern language already (and I blogged about his 15 principles of wholeness before).

Reading this great introduction about permaculture this morning got me thinking about how this would connect with business and organizational improvement. And, the fact is that it seems to work like a charm!

Here are the 12 principles of permaculture viewed from the perspective of organizational improvement and efficiency (with a twisted view from strength-based Lean…)

  1. OBSERVE & INTERACT – “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This indeed is the first step of improvement: go to the real place (gemba, genchi gembutsu) and look at the process! Improvement is not done in an office remote from where the work or the process is done.
  2. CATCH & STORE ENERGY – “Make hay while the sun shines.” When thinking of “Lean and Green”, this would obviously make sense of course. But I like the human aspect as well where you need to feel, catch and use the energy of people: what motivates them to do what they do? What’s the purpose of the organization that drives it to deliver its services? What fuels people to work? Before you try to change the processes, you must take great care in not destroying that energy. One could also see in this point the sometimes added 8th waste of “unused employee creativity”: this too is a kind of energy which should fuel an organization.
  3. OBTAIN A YIELD – “You can’t work on an empty stomach.” Or “Produce”. The goal of an organization is to service its customers, right? So you need to ship as soon as possible. And the better the quality has to be, though we’ll come back later to this one.
  4. APPLY SELF-REGULATION & ACCEPT FEEDBACK – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation.” When you produce, you need to look at what you ship, and self-correct in case of a problem. This pertains to the final client, but of course to internal clients as well, between teams or silos (if your organization is so structured). So, regulation with the previous and later steps in the process (TAKT time, anyone?) and client feedback… I also like the saying about the seventh generation: don’t look just at the next step, for your job might have consequences far beyond further down the process (or in the Client’s life).
  5. USE & VALUE RENEWABLE RESOURCES & SERVICES – “Let nature take its course.” Again, I’m not so much interested in material resources (although they’re important of course), but in the human resources: don’t exhaust them but do care for them. Don’t use too much of it that none would be left to let it renew itself. Don’t burn them out.
  6. PRODUCE NO WASTE – “Waste not, want not. A stitch in time saves nine.” Told you it fits nicely with the efficiency improvement stuff! The link with Lean Waste (Muda) is obvious here. And before reducing waste, there is not producing it in the first place.
  7. DESIGN FROM PATTERNS TO DETAILS – “Can’t see the wood for the trees.” I read this one as not focusing on the details at the expense of forgetting the principles. The risk here is to improve locally at the expense of global efficiency (the one pertaining to performance from the client’s perspective, and the organization as a whole). So, it might mean to follow the patterns of efficiency (implement them) and then tune the details (adapt them to the local processes and activities).
  8. INTEGRATE RATHER THAN SEGREGATE – “Many hands make light work.” Back to the silos: you’d better reinforce interactions between the parts rather than growing them apart from one another. This goes also with #4 when accepting feedback from other parts of the organization.
  9. USE SMALL & SLOW SOLUTIONS – “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Small PDCA improvements. Enough said.
  10. USE & VALUE DIVERSITY – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” If standardisation of parts and processes is key to efficiency, it should not from the perspective of people: valuing and leveraging diversity increases the chances of finding the best solutions. Diversity of minds in a team, and reaching beyond the limits of that team, through feedback (#4 again) from them is, again, key to improvements.
  11. USE EDGES & VALUE THE MARGINAL – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well-beaten path.” Here again, we take care of the frontiers of teams and processes and look at interactions to improve. Divergent ideas are valued as a way to further improve. Incidentally, the more your standardized, the more you’ll be able to see divergent ideas. Don’t fright on them as something to be banned, but seek what they might tell you about how to further improve.
  12. CREATIVELY USE & RESPOND TO CHANGE – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.” And the last one: whether your processes look perfect or are still under change, keep an opened eye for forthcoming change and invite, accept it. Change is the only constant thing in the world (Heraclitus).

Community building is (not) a tool (reblog @AxiomNews & more)

October 26th, 2015 Posted in Strength Tags: , , ,

Here’s a short but nonetheless good piece from AxiomNews (strength-based journalism).

It’s indeed paradoxical: we know that to achieve anything, a community behind your cause is a critical success factor. Yet, building it as a mean is (almost) always deemed to fail.

I think it might be useful to re-frame the issue of community building as being both a mean and an end, though this requires flexibility in whatever cause you might have had in the first place (for which you initially thought of building a community to thrust it).

By building a community as an end around a powerful cause, you might find the support you need to pursue that cause.

Stated otherwise, I’d encourage you to put the cause as the source for the community, and not its consequence, therefore building support for when you want to pursue your cause. Gathering a great community to socialize about your cause or project might get the support you personally need when facing difficulty in delivering on your cause. Be it encouragements or help, it’s still useful to feel you’re not alone on the road. People love to talk about great causes, and contributing ideas; they act less often toward that. So, leverage this natural tendency of we humans for that (and don’t get rebuffed by different opinions than your own – seek opportunities in divergences).

Building a community is no replacement for your own hard work – you can’t outsource your work to a community – but it might be a support for you doing the work. Incidentally, by showing off and walking the talk, you might get unexpected help in the end (and the more you’re loosing grip on your initial idea and let it be influenced and co-created by others, the more concrete help you might get).

  • DOESN’T WORK: Community –> Work on cause
  • WORKS: Cause –> Build community –> Support for the cause –> (Possible) help in building the cause further

So, seek to build a community around your cause for the sole purpose of getting warm support (if nothing else). And, who knows, you might get more help later but only if you don’t seek it.


#Labso leaflet available in english!

It’s with great pleasure that I propose below the first translation of our french leaflet regarding the #labso. That will be the base for the translation of the official website ( once we find the time to do so.

The source document will be uploaded to some shared repository as soon as possible as well. Meanwhile, feel free to drop us a note if you have comments, requests or else @nicolasstampf or @alexis8nicolas.

Enjoy: QUAD LabSoTech v1.2 EN


#TWI Job Instruction is technical #strength-based teaching – #Lean

It stroke me the other day that the Training With Industry Job Instruction material is just strength-based appreciating, gathering and teaching for the shop floor.

Strengths are what make people tick: what they know and know how to do, and succeed at.

Job Instruction is what TWI developed as a teaching method in order to gather shop floors best practices and teach them to new hires in a most efficiency way.

There are two phases in JIT:

  1. Prepare the material, where the trainer go on the shop floor (or Gemba) and interviews the employees on what are the best ways to achieve some work, and how to best do it (safety, tricks, etc.)
  2. Deliver the material, where the trainer is encouraged to cut the work into suitable pieces so that the teaching can be done in 20-30 minutes at most.

The way JIT is built also is based on the best strengths of how people learn: small theoretical chunks followed by thorough practice and correction, before any bad habit have a chance of forming.

Also, JIT insists on the fact that the Job Breakdown Sheets are material for the trainer only, and not for the trainees. What to put inside relies on the strengths of the trainer, it’s not generic training material for all kind of trainees.

In the end, I find JIT to be a method to gather “technical” strengths of workers and transmit them around the shop floor for all to benefit.

Just ages before the strengths movement crystalized.

Can #Lean be #positive? Answer from @thegembacoach

Here’s an interesting one from Michael Ballé’s Gemba Coach Column.

Readers of this blog know I’m a big fan of Michael’s thinking. He’s one of the best sensei one can imagine.

Yet, he’s not strength-based in his approach (apart for the “respect for people” which very few seem to understand from him). This latestest column is no different: in trying to make Lean appear positive (as did some other senseis before), Michael stayed in the deficit-based thinking. He’s sticking to the Toyota approach of Lean (which makes wonder wherever it is applied properly, no argument on this) and he explains how looking for, and solving problems can be a positive thing, because it can help people improve their work and achieve a shared purpose to a level that few organizational development initiatives might bring.

Yet, I’m not entirely convinced. Lean can be so much more when viewed from a strength-based perspective.

First of all, problems can be seen as an opportunity of asking oneself when has the problem been less present (if not just totally absent). This is true positive thinking without the need for reframing the situation. In a true positive deviance, one can meditate on the saying that “in any malfunctioning system, something does work properly”. We just have to ask to start searching for, and finding it.

Second, one can put more emphasis on what people would like their system, organisation or process to be. Sure enough, problems happen, meaning, things won’t turn out like we would like them to be. Yet, by accepting this (just like what Michael advocates for), we can just let go of perfection and “make lemonade when life brings us lemons”. If it can be done with problems (solving them when they appear), then why can’t we cease positive opportunities when they happen?

Indeed, I’m still convinced that the PDCA, continuous improvement way to efficiency is the right one to advance. But just like other systems, you can use the loops and feedbacks to run negative or positive paradigms through it (ok, it goes a bit more complicated than this, but I hope you get the point).

So, continue your PDCA and A3 problem solving, but why not next time try to ask about what’s working and what you’re trying to achieve? Why not ask about a time when things worked, at least partially, and what you did that helped make it better? I’m sure you’ll re-discover interesting stuff that you’ll be proud to share with your colleagues, and standardize and teach to others.

But, by building on successes to confirm and reinforce your positive first steps (instead of possibly demotivating problems to solve), you might get more energy to go down the Lean path and more rapidly. Isn’t this an attractive vision to strive for?

Keep us posted on your experiments!


What the #ebola pandemic reveals (again) about the world systemic vulnerabilities – #systemsthinking #vsm #labso

Out of a discussion on LinkedIn, I wrote the following:

Regarding the Ebola pandemic, at first we, the outsiders of Africa, didn’t notice, then we didn’t believe, then we didn’t invest, then we weren’t prepared, then we’re stuck by the huge implications of what might happen, then bounded rationality kicked in and we blinded ourselves to what ought to be done.

Sounds like a reinforcing loop (the epidemic archetype) running faster then the structural adaptation of the minds (cf. works of Maturana & Varela) getting progressively (though exponentially) involved in the system at play.

It seems to be our modern living habits (cheap international travels – flights, trains, cars), dense inhabiting zones, etc have created systems into which both information and viruses spread faster than the speed at which we can think, adapt and react.

This conclusion, for me, supports the idea that we need to change the way we address that high-speed complexity (high interconnectedness). More than ever, we don’t have the requisite variety to tackle it, whether static or, now, dynamic.  More than ever we need skills in facilitation of big groups to achieve collective intelligence. This is what we’ve tried to do by creating the Labso, Laboratory of Social Technologies: showing people how easy it is to tap into the power of the crowd and social networks by uncovering what works and why and making more of it, if not co-creating something bigger.

I hereby also predicts that this won’t be enough in the near future, on two accounts:

  • connectivity will continue increase both in the number of connections and in the speed (because of technology)
  • AND because by going to mass facilitation, we’re just solving a short term problem and contributing to the acceleration as well.

My personal solution to the near future (or present situation for some problems) is to accelerate further by sticking close to the geographical area, trust it to handle the local situation properly, and only signal/ask for help “upwards” when the need arises.

Sounds like a global Viable System Model to me, don’t you think?

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