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Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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Nice website about #Deming : DemingCollaboration.com (#lean #systemsthinking #change)

I’ve stumbled on this nice websiote with lots of advocacy for Deming’s work (yes, the quality movement initiator). Have a look at www.demingcollaboration.com.

Moreover, the site also makes the link with Lean and Systems Thinking and advocates for a change in management techniques.

Have a good reading!

When is the last time you reflected on your own management behaviors?

A #systemsthinking explanation of lack of respect for people (fundamental #lean pillar)

I have recently finished reading this excellent paper from Raul Espejo regarding the law of requisite variety: “Giving Requisite Variety to Strategic and Implementation Processes: Theory and Practice“. Espejo is a person to read if you’re interested in the Viable System Model (see corresponding articles on this blog and my delicious bookmarks on VSM) as created by Stafford Beer.

In this paper, Espejo make the stunning comment that (I quote, emphasis mine, excerpted from page 3):

“[…] many organisations are still driven by the hierarchical paradigm that assumes the distinctions made at the top are the only relevant ones, which implies that people at lower levels are there only to implement them, but not to make distinctions of their own. Therefore the assumption is that the complexity of a senior manager is much greater than that of a professional in the production line. Somehow it is assumed that people at the top have much bigger brains than those working at ‘lower’ levels. Since they don’t, the space of creative action at ‘lower levels has had to be reduced. The assumption becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. This becomes manifest when power is exercised by enforcing distinctions made at corporate levels to construct a limited context of action for the majority in the organisation.”

The last emphasized sentence is insightful for me: “The assumption becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy”. What is meant is that with top management having a mental model of having bigger brains than people at lower hierarchical levels, they take on more decisions than people below them. This mental model then hinders learning from the very people that top management would probably want to have bigger brain but that they prevent them from developing… Management complains about employees being cogs in the machine, but, because they think they are, they remove every opportunity for them to turn back to being human and use their brain, which makes them further into cogs.

Another case of espoused-theory vs. theory-in-use, I guess.

In Lean, we say that management should act as coaches to their reporting collaborators and don’t give them answers (we even encourage management to let their employees fail in order to learn). It may be slower on the short-term, but probably the best way to grow them and increase productivity and morale in the longer term.

How many times today have you solved someone else’s problem?

I hope you’ll solve less tomorrow…

“The collapse of belief” a #systemsthinking and mental models explanatory ebook

I’ve stumbled upon this very nice booklet that explains all that there is to know about mental models or beliefs: how they constrain us, how they are difficult to identify and how we can change them or just get rid of them.

A very nice read for anybody in the change business (Lean, Appreciative Inquiry, Solution Focus, Systems Thinking…)

“The Collapse of Belief – Rethinking Your Thinking Within a Different Tomorrow” by Kurt and Barbara Hanks.

Through what lens (belief) do you see the world?

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.

 

Carl Rogers concepts #mindmap: a reminder of coaching attitude for #change and #Lean #management

I’ve just uploaded a mindmap out of material I’ve scouted on the net: Carl Rogers concepts MindManager Map.

I find Carl Rogers position toward people very interesting and something terribly necessary to have in mind when considering changing organizations (either using Lean or Systems Thinking), because it reminds us that:

  • things did not occurred out of nothing
  • the system (organization) is perfectly adapted to do what it does (hence the difficulty of changing it)
  • everything currently being done makes sense to the people working inside the system

It reminds me of that Socrates quote: “All I know is that I know nothing“.

All of this is highly impregnated of Systems Thinking stuff: people adapt to their environment (the system around them), which allows them to change it for their own purpose, which will retro-act on themselves. It concludes that people are adapted to the variety of the system around them and, corolarly, that someone outside of the system can’t have the requisite variety. So it’s a necessity to be unconditionnally accepting of the collaborators.

Also, because a change is perceived as a threat (whether consciously or not), a perfectly safe environment must be set up (between the coach and the manager or the manager and the employees) for the new experience to be integrated and make sense of. This environment mwill be in the relationships established between employees and their management.

 

#Change Resistance as viewed from a #systemsthinking point of view

Thinking to that well talked about subject (232,000 results in google for “Chance Resistance” – quoted included), I decided to give it a shot… The result if the image below (click on it to zoom it).

Systems Dynamics view of Change resistance

Systems Dynamics view of Change resistance

You start in the upper right corner: there a change needed and a suspected resistance to change from the system that needs to be changed. So, the change plan is devised without too much involving the soon-to-be impacted people, to avoid raising their resistance to change. The result, once the change plan is rolled on, is double: a lack of requisite variety of the plan to the impacted people and their local situation and a feeling that everything’s been already decided. Both feelings generate some form of resistance (active in the first case, passive in the second, a form of hopelessness). They add up to form an actual change resistance. This actual resistance then confirms the supposed change resistance and also the measures taken to prevent further resistance.

In the end, this is a nice reinforcing loop or self-fulfilling prophecy.

What can be done to it? Well, a short answer could be to kill the loop by not assuming that there is resistance to change AND do whatever is necessary not to raise this resistance:

  • involve soon-to-be impacted people as early as possible so they can own the process
  • and involve them so they can adapt the required change to their specific variety so that the change is assured to be will fitted to the system to be change

Don’t be afraid of change resistance: just don’t awake it yourself!

 

The Macroscope by Joël de Rosnay : a book about #systemsthinking

May 18th, 2011 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: , , ,

The Macroscope, written by Joël de Rosnay is a high level introduction to Systems Thinking. It can be read in english on the Principia Cybernetica web site in HTML version.

As this was not convenient for me, I copied everything in Word and then converted it to PDF for better offline reading (should work in any ebook reader). Here is the link to the file: The Macroscope by Joël de Rosnay.

 

Kurt Lewin model of #change and #Lean management

Traditional change models

Kurt Lewin has devised a change model known as “unfreeze-change-freeze“: clever as it is (by highlighting the fact that before changing, there’s a necessary step required to unlock the current status quo), it may not be quite adapted to Lean management as people need to indeed be in constant change when doing Lean and constantly identify new ways of improving things: so the “freeze” part is not what is expected from people in a Lean environment. Initiating a change approach would mean to start to “unfreeze-change-change-change-change-…” or, as most Lean expert would tell you: “unfreeze-change-unfreeze-change-unfreeze-change-…”

The ADKAR model of change is better to this respect because it insists on the need to reinforce the new behavior. Yet, the aspect of diffusing the change throughout the company where it could apply (process known in Lean under the name “yokoten“) and constantly improving upon it (through constant change to the “standard”) is not addressed.

Underlying mental models

There has been some implicit mental models at play in these two kind of change models (other change models feature the same underlying mental models):

  • that you can decide of a change and impose it on collaborators (lack of respect for people) or worse, on a system (worse because the system will resist it) – the Lewin model may be the worst with this respect;
  • that you can invest in the change and once it’s done, you can move on to something else: some change models even advocate for burning the bridges to move back to before (again, flagrant lack of respect for people).
  • and, worse of all (in my mind at least!) that people are dumbly resistant to any change.

For this last point, the ADKAR model tries to address this by Describing the change to impacted people: better than nothing, but still a form of coercion (or intellectual extorsion).

Changing one’s own mental models about change

When you get rid of clinging to these mental bonds, you can discover a whole new world where people are indeed attracted to change, provided it helps them and their customers. The key word here may well be “and“. Moreover, to ensure that the change is indeed what is really needed, management also has to get rid of its role of general problem solver in place of collaborators: that just removes the fun out of the work from those doing it and deprives them from any intellectual challenge, again, a lack of respect of people.

 

Scientific method illustration

Scientific method from http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/scientific-experiments/scientific-method6.htm

 

In this sense, Lean is very postmodern in its approach to change in that it moves well away from Taylorism and gives back the key to change to the very people doing the work. Even the need to change is given back to collaborators: one would not change something that needn’t; again, only those doing the work can decide about the necessity to change. I’d even dare to say that Lean may well be post-postmodern in its approach to collaborators and change in that it just doesn’t move from a blissful consideration of collaborators (as I’m sure some see postmodernism in organizations) but keeps the link with the modern approach and use of the scientific method (through the rigorous use of Plan-Do-Check-Act and fact based approach to improvements). A very nice blend of modernism and post-modernism.

What’s required for postmodern changes

Last point, this new way of seeing change is very different in that it requires constant monitoring of the need to change and the application of the scientific method to assess the effect of current change. And, the big learning here is: without constant investment in continuous improvement, it just won’t be… well continuous. That means that management, at all levels of the organization, needs to constantly invest time and efforts in challenging current status quo and encourages their collaborators to look for the need to change and what to change to, for the triple benefit of the customers, themselves and the company (a result of the two preceding benefits).

If one would look to the (unactionable) root cause of inertia, it would probably be found in the “bounded rationality” of human mind. Yet, knowing this, one has to constantly invest in fighting it, using the most intelligent means for that: constant monitoring of the environment and whether the organization is well adapted to it and, counterpart, whether it needs to change to adapt to it or not. By now, you’ve probably see where I end up: with the concept of requisite variety and the proper design of viable organizations. Topic for another article…

Some old wise man said that’s it’s a shame to see so many people wanting others to change and so few willing to change themselves. Gandhi himself told us that we need to be the change we want to see in the world.

Managers need to embody the change they want to see in their teams. First.

 

 

Reblog: How do I change the culture? (#Lean)

May 4th, 2011 Posted in Lean, Systems Thinking Tags: , , , ,

Michael Ballé has an interesting  (but long) post about his views regarding changing a company culture in order to sustain Lean management. Included at the beginning is some background about him that might light up his stance on Lean that can be read in his two excellent books: The Gold Mine (which got the Shingo Prize) and The Lean Manager.

While I’m talking about Michael, here is the book that got me started on Systems Thinking (written by the guy, of course): Managing with Systems Thinking.

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