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Mindmap: Solution Focus

November 4th, 2010 Posted in Change Tags: , ,

Out of the strength-based approaches to change, there is one which is called “Solution Focus”. Out of a book written by Paul Z Jackson and Mark McKergow, the approach focuses on finding solutions that had, are and would work to solve the problem at hand.

The typical process goes something as follow:

  • Establish a platform: convert the problem or issue to an image of what already once worked (kind of similar to Discovery of Appreciative Inquiry)
  • Future Perfect: using the miracle question, imagine the perfect future in the case where the issue disappeared overnight.
  • Scale: if 10 is Future Perfect and 1 is the opposite, where are you now?
  • Look at counters: what resources, knowledge, skills and experience from the Future Perfect is already present today?
  • Affirm: affirm current & present counters that can help you move forward.
  • Small Actions: what can you do today to move to next step (+1) on the scale and collect more counters?

I did a mindmap out of the material I found on the net and uploaded it onto BiggerPlate. Go check it out!

Mindmap : Positive Deviance Approach

November 4th, 2010 Posted in Change Tags: , ,

Positive Deviance is a strength-based approach that tries to identify people which, despite the same conditions and limitations, get to strive in a particular context and then have the community replicate their successful behaviors. Very participative, the approach uses lots of open questions and whole system involvement to help communities fix their problems byidentifying and replicating on what some of their members (the so called “positive deviants”) are doing.

The PD Initiative has some very good guides (including a Basic starting guide) available to download along with stories and other interesting resources: go check by yourself!

I just created a mindmap out of the guides available on the Positive Deviance Initiative web site and uploaded it onto BiggerPlate.

Risk of Commoditization when deploying Lean

November 3rd, 2010 Posted in Change, Lean Tags: , , ,

I’ve been thinking lately about the very low success rate of Lean turnover. Rumors has it that it’s as low as only 2% of organizations trying to transform themselves into a Lean system to successfully achieve this. Why is it so?

Apart from putting this onto top managers and other collaborators’ change resistance, I’d be thinking that people trying to introduce Lean may be the very root cause of that failure (2% success is a failure for me and the approach should be changed!).

So, being interested in Systems Thinking (all because of Michaël Ballé as I’ve tried to follow what he wrote and writes; he notably wrote “Managing with Systems Thinking“) I started to investigate using that line of thought. Which threw me into the world of archetypes and frozen situations where “the more you change, the more it’s the same” (in french: “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose“). The archetype that kept coming back over and over in this case was “Shifting the Burden“.

Using consultants is a bad thing

First, the archetype appears in it’s most evident form: most consultants trying to introduce Lean in organizations do so from, well, that consultant posture which more than often triggers the “Shifting the Burden” systems archetype:

The archetype is the part delimited by the bold arrows. Other arrows are decorations (additions) of mine:

  • R3 shows what the organization is missing: collaborators development that allows them to become better at doing Lean. Should the top manager conduct the Lean transformation herself, she could learn as well.
  • R4 shows that the more someone else does the work, the less one can do it oneself (hence the less one learns and the less one will be able to do it later)
  • finally, R5 shows why organizations keep contracting consultants: because they get short term results!

The problem being that since nobody usually learns during the consultants’ contracting phase (often too short for people to have learned themselves), the transformation is not sustained after the contractors leave.

Commoditizing Lean is also a bad thing

The next appearance of our Shifting the Burden archetype may not be that evident (it wasn’t for me). We often see Lean advertised as a toolbox and/or a succession of so called “kaizen workshops”. That’s what I call “commoditizing Lean”. When you select a few parts of method and turn it into something easily usable, well, you’ll make people use it. Moreover, you allow for a manager to give that commodity (or tool, or package) to a team to use it and to deploy it in the company. The consequence is that the team may learn from applying the tool, but the manager doesn’t. The team becomes the “someone else does the work”, and because it gets results, it gets management support to continue using it. Yet, in the end, should the management leave and the Lean initiative be stopped, there’s nothing left, Lean won’t be sustained.

From a constructivism point of view (Wikipedia definition: Constructivism is a theory of knowledge (epistemology) which argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences) management has not learned (and the team probably has only learned to apply the tools).

What  works

So, given that two traps into which lots of people fall (I’ve been the “someone else” myself!), what works for deploying Lean? I’m not going to be original because it’s been said before: find a coach/senseï  you (as a top manager) can work with and do what he tells you to do. You’ll learn by doing, you’ll model behavior, your people will feel appreciated and motivation for “doing Lean” should raise as a consequence.

Of all the “lean workshops” I’ve done when being the “someone else”, only two had a lasting effect after me going away. These were the workshop where middle management participated and worked to improve things along with their collaborators. I guess they probably understood some Lean things since they continued during many monthes after the workshop to visually manage their performance and solve problems to continue improvements. A great lesson for me. Alone.

There’s obviously a lot more to say, I’ll come back to that topic in other articles. Meanwhile, I’m eager to listen to your opinions on that topic, below.

Viable Systems Model useful for Change Management

It just occurs to me that Ross Ashby’s law of requisite variety as operationally described in the Viable System Model (Checkland – See my delicious links about VSM here) might be a very good model for what consultants refer to as “Change Management”.

I’m talking here of “big changes”, the kind of which that mandates communication plans, sponsor involvement, a full blown CM toolbox… and of which it is usually expected a high resistance in reaction.

The fact is that most (if not all) organizations are both hierarchical and, well, big. By big, I refer to the capacity of anyone to devise ways of implementing the change in all of the impacted parts of the organization: if no one can hold that in their mind, then it’s “big”.

Now, I can see that most Change Management approaches (try Googling it to see for yourself!) try to deploy heavy guns for big changes. That encompasses talking and listening deeply to impacted people as well as driving out fear, devising very precise and specific agendas for change adapted to the part of the organization undergoing change, etc.

My question is: what’s the point of exhausting (paying) some consultants to imagine (necessarily incomplete and unadapted) actions plans for all impacted parts of the organization, when the very same work can be better done from these parts themselves? And with more engagement since they will be involved in the work and everybody knows that we’re more willing to engage with what we’ve helped design?

Now, when one’s looking at the VSM model (open up some external picture from these links), we can imagine the purpose of the change initiative being System 5 (policy), which informs relations between System 4 (external monitoring of change conditions for instance) and system 3 (management). Then system 3, management, has the role of taking care of relations between Operational Units (Systems 1) through information brought up by System 2 (conflict management).

Using the preceding model, one can envision Management (S3) being informed of the change to be done and then “configuring” dashboards (S2) to follow attainment of the change outcome as defined in S5. The way the outcome needs to be attained is then let up to each and every  OU (all of impacted S1s). As autonomous entities (as per the VSM model), they are the ones to know best what needs to be done and how it could be best done to achieve the expected outcome.

I understand that what I’m describing above is related to “complexity management” and post-modern approaches to change. It’s mentioned in a back issue of the AI Practitioner (Appreciative Inquiry online magazine): see november 2008 introduction. You can buy that issue on the AI Practitioner web site. Now, AI is a way to involve the whole system further than what can probably be done using more traditional “policy deployement” as suggested by the VSM. But that’s another story (I’ll write on this soon).

Do you have some stories to share of “cascading change management” as described here (probably without the VSM reference!) ?

AI Design phase is like setting objectives

October 27th, 2010 Posted in Appreciative Inquiry Tags: ,

Being new to AI and from a technical problem solving area (IT engineering), I’ve been struggling a bit around the Design phase. After reading some back issue of the AI Practitioner magazine (wonderful in the high quality of the articles it features!), it stroke me that the Design phase of an AI intervention might be explained as an objectives definition phase.

Of course, it’s far more powerful as any other objectives definition, because it builds on the previous Discovery and Dream steps. I do see them as steps on a stairway, because it allows participants in the AI workshop to be higher than what some other approach would have brought them, in terms of vision and positive hopes.

I’ve feared that when trying to introduce AI to people around me (especially management), they’d see it as some sort of utopian approach. Indeed, there is a logical progression from Discovery of current reality (as appreciatively inquired into its best moments) to Dream of a better future and then a stake in the ground is done of that Dream in the form of the bold and provocative propositions (what needs to be true for the Dream to occur). Then of course, the Destiny/Deliver phase is an action plan to achieve these propositions.

I see AI as a way to reverse cause and effect relationships. One usually live in a world where past and present causes effect a (planned, anticipated) future. Now with AI, envisionned future is not just mental imagery, it’s firmly grounded and, like a lighthouse, attracting us to it. Indeed, the (dreamed of) effect is creating the necessary causes for it to exist.

I might have  summarized too much of the intrinsic magic of the 4D process, but I was not trying to explain the whole AI approach in this article (maybe some other day, and in french as it’s not quite well know here…)

What’s your comments on this?

Change method: Vision, Dialogue, Results

In this very first article, I would like to introduce you to some change methodology that I have encountered while researching the topic on Internet. I find it blissfully simple, yet powerful and embedding concepts that root into strength-based approaches such as Appreciative Inquiry or The World Café.

That “change method”, should we give it a name is based on a simple approach:

  1. Establish a Vision of where you would like the organization to be
  2. Foster a Dialogue of what needs to be done to get to that vision
  3. Promote quick Results to sustain enthusiasm

Vision

By Vision, it is meant a powerful description of a highly desired state to be in. That vision should be given in the present tense, as if it were already attained. I’m not sure the original work I drew this mentioned it (I’ve lost the link), but I must add that a co-created vision seems to be a must. Indeed, a vision decided by top management only can only get you so far: people rarely feel motivated by others’ vision, unless maybe the vision holder is skilled enough to articulate it in vivid language. But the most effective way to transmit a vision is to let people co-build it themselves in their mind.

There are plenty of ways you can find on Internet which may help you co-build a vision. These methods usually also take the next point into consideration by involving the whole system (organization) in the co-design of it and have it emerge from the complexity of all stakeholders being present at the same time. The World Café, Theory U, Appreciative Inquiry just to name a few seem interesting to me!

Dialogue

By Dialogue, we’re referring to an exchange of ideas in the style of David Bohm. That way of exchanging with each others is also mentioned in Peter Senge seminal work on Systems Thinking “The Fifth Discipline”. That kind of Dialogue needs two conditions to occur:

  • deeply listening to others’ ideas to understand them ;
  • suspending one’s own judgement as one could suspend something to a rope, for others to consider and analyse

That way, people are able to non-judmentally consider each others’ opinions and enrich their own by them. There’s respect and humility in this, for sure.

Results

By praising quick results, one encourages the continuation of the work that would lead to realization of the vision. I’d personally link this strength-based approaches (such as Appreciative Inquiry of which I’ll talk more on this blog) which tries to inquire into what works and ways of doing more of it. To prevent exhaustion of people working toward the vision, it is necessary to maintain their enthusiasm, and Vision associated with results is a must for this. Plus, it requires personal involvement of top management for this, which is a motivation in itself for employees.

Welcome !

October 23rd, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

Hello,

It’s been a long time since I had a blog (computer security it was about).

In this blog, I’ll try to give my thoughts on the subject of organizations as Systems and ways to improve them (Appreciate them). I’ve recently discovered systems thinking and been trained in fundamentals of Appreciative Inquiry. I hope to speak on all of that and hope not to say too much errors 🙂

For the rest, I’m a big proponent of Lean as a way to manage organization to improve it for the benefits of its employees, customers and other stakeholders. I’ll very probably blog about that too.

Feel free to leave a comment should you agree, disagree of just want to say hi!

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