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Practicing the #change you’re advocating: beware of the hidden risk!

January 7th, 2011 Posted in Change Tags: ,

During a coaching session (I was the coachee), my coach someday insisted on the concept of Integrity: you shouldn’t preach something that you don’t do perfectly yourself because you’re not deeply credible. That might be on an unconscious level of yourself and others, but still, she said lip service, even unknown to others, is a sure way to fail.

I tend to agree with that, though I envision a case where, being fully convinced about something because you pratice it well, you run a high risk of creating even more resistance about that you want others to adopt: the more you push, the more they resist. That’s classical change resistance of course: people will want to show you that they know better than you think and that they can continue with their way rather than your way. Also called the NIH syndrome (Not Invented Here).

Simple exercise for you: next time you come to an elevator, please notice:

  • how you press the calling button despite it’s already lighted (you being the victim of the NIH symdrome)
  • others pressing the button you’ve just pressed before, possibly before their eyes!

So, practising what you’re advocating others to do is surely necessary, but I feel you also need to refrain yourself enough so that they come to you to pull knowledge rather than you trying to push it on to them.

Now, with this paragraph, I’m just pushing my own knowledge onto you and not practicing what I’m preaching! 🙂

Can Chris Argyris theories relate to double-bind and provoke avoiding behaviors related to #Change?

Few! What kind of title is this?

Chris Argyris is a renown expert on Organizational Learning and he developed an explanation of change resistance as a difference existing between what he calls the “espoused theories” of people and their “theory in use”. You can read more about that on

Espoused theories can be anything that got the interest of a manager (for the purpose of this post). An acknowledged need for change is a form of espoused theory. There may be different methods for conducting the change but I’m not going to talk about the ones where all the change management burden is shifted on some dedicated people, maybe external to the company (consultants). It’s known that few of them succeed at bringing the change to an end. I’m more interested in those (few) cases where a manager espoused the theory that he needs to lead the change himself. Indeed, although that looks like the best way to conduct a change, my thinking led me to discover what appears to be a risk of things not going that well (the so-called “change resistance”).

Argyris told us is that despite espoused-theories are numerous, the theory-in-use always is quite the same, of the Model I kind (see article on, which is governed by four main values:

  • Achieve the purpose as the actor defines it (ie. “stick to the letter”)
  • Win, do not lose
  • Suppress negative feelings
  • Emphasize rationality

The main consequences of these values (again, according to Argyris) are:

  • Defensive relationships
  • Low freedom of choice
  • Reduced production of valid information
  • Little public testing of ideas

(you can read all of that on the excellent page about Chris Argyris alongside with the Model II governing values that would prevent these consequences and benefit to the organization).

So, what is the point of view of the people impacted by the change (employees mainly, subordinates to the manager that espoused the change)?

Read more »

Don’t Try This At Home! Top 5 #SystemsThinking Target Areas At Work

January 6th, 2011 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags:

Time for new years resolutions (for those that do them – I don’t).

Anyway, here are some nice places where you can use your Systems Thinking skills (on the Work Systems Affiliates blog).

They propose to use ST on:

  • Customer Experience
  • Cross-Functional Cooperation
  • Project Management Offices
  • Field Services Offices
  • Solution Sales Shift

Don’t Try This At Home! Top 5 Systems Thinking Target Areas At Work.

Personally, I tried to apply my newly acquirred ST skills at work to model IT Capacity Management and the corresponding pieces of the organization I work in. I used Viable Systems Model and Systems Dynamics for that. I found the exercise really interesting, but I’m still waiting for a reaction from my management (apart from “Hmm, this is interesting…”).

Funnily, WSA also advocates NOT using ST skills at home with spouses. I’ve been told the same for Lean!

Which makes me wonder what systemic situation is probably at play underneath… Hmmm

Modelling at home > increase own passion for ST > spouse feel less passion for him/herself in comparison > more resentment > more problems > more desire to model these problems > More modelling at home.

Yeeks! Reinforcing loop!

Don’t use Systems Thinking at home!

Franck George Woolard: forgotten pioneer of flow production (#Lean history)

January 4th, 2011 Posted in Lean Tags: , , ,

Bob Emiliani, famous Lean expert, seemed to have uncovered the work of a certain Franck George Woolard who lived from 1883 to 1957 and created some Flow production in car manufacturing, long before Taiichi Ohno did the same in Japan at Toyota.

The abstract of Emiliani’s paper is as follow:

The purpose of this paper is to introduce management historians to the long-forgotten work of Frank George Woollard (1883-1957), who in the mid-1920s established flow production in the British motor industry, and its remarkable similarity to current-day production principles and practices used by Toyota Motor Corporation, also known as lean production.

Later on, the paper states the important findings:

One of Woollard’s distinctive contributions was to prove that achieving flow for engineered goods in low volume production (compared to Ford in the USA) resulted in costs that were as low or lower than that which could be achieved by large-scale mass production. Thus, a small- or medium-sized automaker producing a few thousand or tens of thousands of automobiles annually could compete against large foreign auto companies that produced much greater volumes of automobiles and who relied on economies of scale to reduce costs (Maxcy and Silberston, 1959). Woollard’s work reversed the commonly held view that flow was only useful as a production method when the volume of goods was very large, such as in the production of Ford Model T cars.

And finally (for this blog article – you’ll need to read the paper yourself is you want the whole story!), what’s really important in these findings:

The founder of Toyota Motor Corporation, Kiichiro Toyoda would have these same insights about flow in 1937, some 12 years after Woollard reduced it to practice, but it would be 1955 before Toyota was able to achieve flow in its engine shop. In addition, it took the legendary Taiichi Ohno (1912-1990), the principal architect of Toyota Motor Corporation’s production system, six years to do what Woollard did in less than two years, and at half the engine volume of Morris – 22,786 engines at Toyota in 1955  compared to 55,582 engines at Morris in 1925. Woollard’s contribution to progressive manufacturing management practices is substantial and comparable to Mr Ohno’s work.

(Emphasis mine)

There is the paper (PDF) that explains eveything. Enjoy!

RB: 20 Reasons Your Company Won’t #Change

December 20th, 2010 Posted in Change Tags: ,

Here’s a great article from Matthew E. May: 20 Reasons Your Company Won’t Change : The World :: American Express OPEN Forum.

So, what’s the solution? Just do it?

My answer: probably 🙂 But it may be a bit more difficult.

I have a nice change methodology I’ve read about somewhere on the web. 3 steps.

There’s a perfect way to prepare and drink tea, according to ancient canons:

  1. heat water
  2. pour on tea
  3. drink

Only it has to be the exact kind of water, precise temperature and mindful attention to drinking.

I have the same recipe for change:

  1. Establish Vision
  2. Foster Dialogue
  3. Praise Quick Results

What questions do we need to ask to raise awareness of #SystemsThinking?

I recently asked this question on the LinkedIn group Systems Thinking World.

My objective was to try to conduct an Appreciative Inquiry into what works for successfully explaining and making people use Systems Thinking. Few people connected to that initial inquiry, so I went for the question above (blog post title).

I got some interesting answers that I grouped by topic and assembled into a SurveyMonkey survey.

You’re invited to participate in the survey by clicking here.

I plan to publish the results by the beginning of 2011.

Meanwhile, I wish you some happy Christmas and end of year holidays!

#Change, #Lean or #SystemsThinking avoidance, a response to double-bind situations?

December 20th, 2010 Posted in Change, Lean, Systems Thinking Tags: , , , ,

I wanted to give you a few words on an interesting paper I’ve read some time ago (in french only) that postulates that change resistance and avoidance behaviors with regard to change may be the emergent result of a double bind situation. I then below elaborate on the possibility that it’s a reason for resistance to the use of Systems Thinking in favor of the more traditional Analytical Thinking (AT).

The paper was available on (titled: “Les comportements d’Ă©vitement : opportunitĂ© ou flĂ©au pour l’apprentissage organisationnel”), a site dedicated to systemic approach as devised by the Palo Alto school (Mental Research Institute, works from D. Johnson, G. Bateson, P. Watzlawick mainly) applied to organizations. It has disappeared, that’s why I’m republishing it here.

The paper elaborates on the idea that avoidance behaviors may be the emergent “qualities” of a double bind context. That avoidance behavior may result from a situation in which some people (the person(s) resisting change) are trapped in a double bind as a result of a context of search for efficiency and permanent, accelerated calling into question of work conditions. This context may be generating anxiety for impacted people that it binds. When meta-communication is not possible in this context, then appears the double bind situation.

Read more »

#Lean stalled? Back to #TWI basics!

December 15th, 2010 Posted in Lean Tags:

Looking around for some Training Within Industry material, I stumbled upon this article which clearly addresses the problem of Lean turnovers that fail: TWI: Training Within Industry.

The article addresses the lack of follow-through actions after an improvement have been done. Of the four-steps methods devised by Charles Allen (Preparation, Presentation, Application and Testing; this method is at the origin of Job Instruction, Methods and Relations Training), only the second step (Presentation) is usually done in companies.

People are told what to do and expected to comply. No wonder there’s “change resistance”!

  • No preparation: management does not inquire into what employees know about the job and the reasons for change or improvement. The underlying assumption is that they’re not working properly without being explained why!
  • No application: no assurance is secured of the way the job or new method is going to be applied (or whether is fit the job anyway!) or whether it’s been understood.
  • and No testing: which means that people can almost safely go back to work as usual since nobody is going to check on them (not in a spirit of control but just to be sure that no other problem occurred and that the method is indeed well suited for the job).

Of this article, I’d add another mandatory step, that goes way before improvements are done: before everything starts, actually. Which brings me back to my previous article about coaching. You need to secure top management involvement in deploying Lean for it to succeed. And that securing includes Checking that improvements are indeed coming in (among other things)!

Sheesh. The Lean deployment problems we’re experiencing today were already known (at least!) in 1913 (date of Charles Allen book on his four-step instruction method).

Didn’t we learn anything since then? In a spirit of Appreciative Inquiry, should we ask about “what worked” in deploying Lean, I guess TWI would come top of the list with a huge list of successes. Of course, Toyota really improved on TWI, especially regarding Job Methods (the improvement part). But should you only do JMT properly, you’d outwin your competitors, for sure.

#Lean may need real coaches at the beginning

December 14th, 2010 Posted in Change, Lean Tags: , , ,

There are things that we just do more easily when someone is doing them with us or accompanying us in order for us to do them. These are generally the not-so-sexy-things-to-do: fat-loosing-sports, medical appointment, and on a more general scale, anything that is not bringing us satisfaction on the short term. Like continuous improvement.

If it doesn’t hurt enough, you won’t change.

So you really need to be in a catastrophic situation to ponder the possibility to change (and even then… but that’s for another article).

What’s the problem?

I think we have some very experienced Lean senseĂŻs or Lean consultants. A whole bunch of them can be seen on The Lean Edge. I know some of them and I wouldn’t call them… gentle. Experienced? Efficient? Right to the point? Definitely! But not that pushy for clients not ready to commit deeply to what Lean requires from them. These consultants are more on the style of “either you badly want it or I leave”. Which is somewhat fine since there are quite a number of people wanting to embark on the Lean journey and there are indeed very few of these consultants. Which is a way for them to filter their clients, I guess (or a form of Lean efficiency: don’t accept bad products from the preceding step in the process – the defects there being a lack of motivation to do Lean).

What we have here is a self reinforcing loop whose limit is the maximum number of clients the consultant can handle:

Lean consultant fame system dynamics diagram

Lean consultant fame system dynamics diagram

Like all growing loop, this one exhibit an exponential growth behavior:

Lean consultants fame graphic

Lean consultants fame graphic

Of course, there’s an increasing stock outside of frustrated clients that can’t be served by the famous consultants.

We also know that there are a whole lot of clients that tried Lean and failed to continue with it. We can blame the clients for not doing what Lean required of them (deep commitment). And this is in some way true and the underlying assumtion done by the famous consultants I spoke of just above (or the easy way for them to select clients). And, by coming to this conclusion, this is also the underlying assumtions of the (not as famous but still skillful) other consultants. Indeed, by accepting unmotivated clients, you get fewer results, which confirms you that your clients were unmotivated. This is indeed a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But what would happen if we’d take the assumption that the clients are willing to do Lean but need some motivation to do it before doing the real stuff?

Read more »

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