Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
Home » Archive by category 'Systems Thinking' (Page 3)

Using Emergence to Scale Social Innovation

I just discovered this astounding article from Wheatley and Frieze on Using Emergence to Scale Social Innovation.

I do think the way social networking is done today is broken – or immature to say the least. How are we supposed to create working networks and provoke emergence the way Wheatley explains it, if we stick to groups of people?

What’s important in a network: the people that make it of the contributions they make?

When you look today at the way social networks work, you see communities of people, connected through people. IMHO, that’s not the way it’s supposed to work (it may be flattening to one’s ego to have loads of followers, but I challenge you to find any real usefulness in this kind of network).

Indeed, we can see people intuitively knowing this fact since they tend to agregate around dedicated web sites on specific topics. Look at Google Groups, LinkedIn groups or even Facebook groups! What connect these people are the topics around which they network. Yet, one topic alone isn’t enough. How are the topics connected?

The power isn’t in the @ (how people are now mentionned, such as @nicolasstampf for instance, but in the # (hash tag: the way topics are mentioned). Yet, today, social networks are organized around people. When you want informations about some #topic, you need to find your @people to identify when some #topic has been mentioned. Or to search a whole social network for these mentions (eg. Twitter). How inefficient is that?

#Systemsthinking and #DSRP questions to improve systemic view of processes (Ref @iDSRP)

April 25th, 2013 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: , , ,

Although I love methods, standards (hey, I’m from Lean!) and the like, I also like when people come up with ways to look at their work and their company in perspectives that external people (us here) might not have imagined.

So, also to keep things simple, I would consider teaching people (and making corresponding “templates”) about DSRP as a way to learn differently than only linear thinking. See to know more on that systems thinking approach or method.

Faced with a problem (a process to be improved for instance), DSRP would allow to ask broader-view questions such as:

  • Distinctions: what are we looking at? What’s missing from the picture? Who could provide for other distinctions?
  • Systems: what systems (notice the plural here) does this process contribute to? What sub-systems is it composed of?
  • Relationships: how are parts of the process interacting with each others, especially differently than from what’s written on paper (possible ISO 9001 documentation)? What relationships are we blind to? How could we know best? How is this process related to other processes (both formally AND informally)?
  • Perspectives: what assumptions are we making regarding this process and how it is supposed to function? What assumptions make it (dys)function the way it does? What other perspective might we take to enlight the process differently? What might we learn, then?

And of course, there’s the possibility to use DSRP to craft positive and appreciative questions. I haven’t much given thoughts to this, but I will surely address the topic in my book “The Colors of Change“.

My @leanpub book “The Colors of #Change” has started its publication!

Details are available on the page over there: or from here (a bit more complete).

Subtitle is “Respectful Change Management explained by Cybernetics”.

Check it out!

Level 1 Module 1 – ThinkNation @iDSRP #systemsthinking: why we need it so much

I’ve just viewed the video here about the DSRP “thinking toolkit” I’ve already blogged about. Indeed, I even used it for my introductory Systems Thinking Slides out of my recent Napkin skills.

Level 1 Module 1 – ThinkNation.

Check the web site!

@kickstarter project: a new kind of #systemsthinking book, please support @systemswiki!

Gene Bellinger and Scott Fortmann-Roe have started a kickstarter project called “Beyond Connecting the Dots” to create a new kind of eBook where the systems thinking (systems dynamics) models will be directly editable and playable with inside the book!

Please support them by donating!

How are #SystemsThinking and #Lean related?

March 12th, 2013 Posted in Lean, Systems Thinking Tags: , , , , ,

This is a post I just saw on LinkedIn: how Systems Thinking and Lean are related?

Here’s my answer:

ST and Lean are not related on first sight. Yet, I’m one of the few being convinced that all the Lean paraphernalia (management practices, coaching Katas, Tools, etc.) helps collaborators of an organization build a better systemic view of that organization and its links with suppliers and clients.

Most if not everything done in Lean is multidimensional.

For instance, pulling processes is:

  • first and foremost in order to make problems visible
  • improves efficiency

Making problems visible helps:

  • seeing them in order to solve them
  • develop people

Developing people will:

  • make them happier at work
  • which makes them more efficient
  • which will further improve the processes (go back to first list above)

Other tools are more dedicated (IMHO) to knitting the systemic view of the company into people’s head and therefore raise their motivation by clarifying the big picture for them, forces everybody to clarify and participate in what this big picture is, and challenge all that may be deviant to it.

For instance: A3 Thinking is about having a description of a problem circulated around that:

  • have the whole of the problem (description, cause hypotheses, solutions ideas, action plans, results) under the eyes: a sort of systemic rich picture in itself
  • the circulation helps everybody build that systemic understanding in his own mind
  • help break down the barriers between organizational silos, which further reinforce the connectivity/relationships among employees, thereby facilitating further improvement initiatives

Nemawashi is the name of that process of circulating A3s during preparation, testing of hypotheses, standardisation of results, and later, Yokoten is the process of proposing the solutions for everybody in the organization to apply and further improve it.

As renown twice Shingo Prized author Michael Ballé said : Lean is systems thinking applied and working.

To make the connection with what @David said: you start by pulling the main production processes, then you pull other supplying processes whose TAKT is that of production. Then you pull administrative processes (HR, finance, etc.)

In the end (10 years from the beginning!), all really is connected and not in silo anymore and the whole organization is really functioning in a systemic, dense network [a system!], as opposed to loosely singly connected silos at the start of the Lean turnover.

Stop investigate solutions, start to gather the world! #stwg #systemsthinking

Stop looking for solutions, start to gather the worldThe problem situation

I love solving problems. Moreover, I also love finding solutions and making scaffolding theories. Yet, I feel there’s a big problem behind such tendencies: the more you work at a solution on your own, the more prefect it seems to be, then the more resistance you’re probably going to generate when you go out to the world for implementing your solution. Here’s why.

On the diagram on the right, start at the “Pressing problem” part and follow the arrows.

  • First the R1 loop (for Reinforcing). This really looks like what you’re all trying to do: you have (good!) solutions, and try to make people adhere to them. I think it’s mostly doomed to fail. The problem entices you to think about a solution which you will mostly want to advocate, thereby triggering a conflict with people’s different world views (because they haven’t got a change to think to your problem themselves), which more probably will result in others rejecting the solution you pushed onto them, thereby lowering the chances that actions are taken to solve the initial problem, in the end, making the problem all the more pressing.
  • The R2 loop is similar, only that is goes through your working out the solution increasing your own conviction that it’s a good one (because you’re adapting your mind to it).
  • The R3 loop is what prevents the whole system to come to a solution that would suit each and every one of us. continuing from the conviction that your solution is a good one, you (maybe unconsciously) decrease your willingness to give time to others to contribute to your building a solution, meaning that they indeed won’t work in a commonly built solution, indeed decreasing the chances (or number) of commonly built solutions, which adds up to the lack of actions taken to solve the problem, thereby making the problem a pressing one.

How to change that situation?

My intuition is that we should redirect energy flowing from the “pressing problem” to “thinking about a solution” (dotted blue arrow) directly to “others participate in a commonly built solution” (the green dotted arrow, mostly non existent at the time, or so it seems to me?). Doing such an action would suppress R1 and R2 loops and R3 would be shortened and more importantly replaced by a Balancing loop, meaning the more you work on a commonly built solution, the less there will be pressing problems.

A global organization to support commonly built solutions

The reflection above came out of a context related to finding global solutions to world pressing problem (mostly in the SEE fields: Social, Economical and Ecological). The Commons is all but one of the concepts meant at addressing these global issues. I’m not saying Management of the Commons is a bad solution. Indeed I even think of the opposite. But I think people working on such a solution should also start worrying about how they would have their solution adopted by lay people at a global level.

Here’s one of many web pages discussing the concept of the commons: Growing the Commons as Meta-narrative?

So, how to create that green dotted arrow, for me, is through a worldwide helping/supporting organization (be it the United Nations or else) that would facilitate concrete resolution of problems locally, regionally and globally. That would necessitate some efficient and practical means of communication between all levels top down and also on horizontal levels, between different fields: for instance, you need the ecologists trying to preserve some local pond to exchange with the nearest city officials, with business shareholders that want to build their industries near the pond, some people representatives that want both a green environment and some work to live decently, etc.

Fortunately, principles on how to organize such an organization do exist in the form of the Viable System Model for organizations as presented by Stafford Beer. What’s still lacking is an efficient model of communication, though in bootstrapping such an organization, currently existing forums, Facebook pages, Wikis and syndicated blogs would probably be do the trick.

To put it shortly and bluntly: the more people will think of a solution, the less chances are that it will become a reality.
(unless you can fund and implement it without the help of others, of course, but since we’re talking of a world-wide problem, it’s just impossible).

#Napkin Introduction to #SystemsThinking (thanks to @dan_roam!)

February 25th, 2013 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: , , , , ,

system nature qualitativeWith the huge threads on the LinkedIn group “Systems Thinking World” about “what is systems thinking?” or “how to teach systems thinking?”, I thought something ought to be done. Yet, I found most introductions to ST to be quite daunting, so, equipped with my new knowledge of Dan Roam‘s Napkin Academy, I decided to give it a shot.

What follow are three slide decks introducing Systems Thinking using small drawings. Having been impressed by the “DSRP framework” by Dr Calbrera and Dr Colosi, I decided to use that as building blocks to introduce systems thinking.

If you’re interested enough to know more on the field, then there are a vast amount of literature in the field, although finding your own path is as much a learning journey as walking that path.

Should I be pressed to give names, I would recommend the following to go further:

  • If you’re a bit short on money but have quite some time to spend because of the size of the beast, then Systems Wiki is Gene Bellinger‘s constant striving to make ST clearer and more accessible from a wide variety of perspectives. The web site comes with a lot of text, videos, diagrams & simulation : it’s free and very wide in its addressing of Systems Thinking, no counting its daily updates of course. If you’re looking to other courses on the net, it’s the place where to start as well.
  • Peter Senge’s “The Fifth Discipline” is the book that is most often cited as to what set people in motion on the path to being a systems thinker. Just beware that it mostly reflects one “school” of systems thinking (systems dynamics), out of a huge number of them. It’s really one of the most actionable though, especially if you go with the companion book “The Fifth Fiscipline Fieldbook” (a masterwork!).
  • Second to this is Donella Meadows’ “Thinking in Systems“. Mostly about Systems Dynamics (a bit like Senge’s book), it’s also a simpler introductory book to the field than Senge’s. More focused than the preceding book, it might be a simpler read without being simplistic at all.
  • Systems Thinkers” by Ramage & Shipp provides a really tasty appetizer on what the field’s landscape might be. That book could help you choose your path, but then you’ll have to resort to buying some more books (or scout the net). Beware!
  • If you like experiential learning, then I cannot not tell you about Booth Sweeney & Meadows “The Systems Thinking Playbook” which is just that: a ton of small exercises and games to nudge people’s assumptions about what they think of the world.

Enough references, here are my most three contributions (all decks are really short):

Napkin introduction to Systems Thinking : 1- What is ST?

Napkin introduction to Systems Thinking : 2- Why use ST?

Napkin introduction to Systems Thinking : 3- How to do ST?

Mail List

Join the mailing list

Check your email and confirm the subscription