Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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#systemsthinking Might humans higher intellect be the cause for the announced doom?

The Club of Rome and “Limits to Growth” book have warned us since when I was born that without a drastic change, humanity is doomed. Indeed, a point of non-return was passed over in the 80s, so we I guess we all have to cross fingers and hope for an innovation to save us all.

Meanwhile, I was thinking out loud on LinkedIn/Systems Thinking World and happened to have posted the following, which I think might be of interest to readers of this blog.

I think there’s a system at play in humans on a second level that is absent in animals (and insects) [the discussion was about Insect Economies]

Animals interact on a ground level with their environment and are structurally coupled with it (Maturana). When there’s food available, they use it. When the resource is exhausted or below a *practical* level corresponding to their natural ability to gather/use it, they just stop, either through migrating to better places, which indeed let time for nature to rebuild itself or they breed less, or even they disappear altogether.

Humans on the contrary are able to adapt themselves to a higher level to their environment. When their usual way of using resources isn’t sufficient enough, they invent/innovate a new/different/better way of doing it, and exploit the resources further (usually through tools). The result is that nature goes beyond a point of being able to regenerate itself (overshoot and collapse? Mentioned here). When we achieve this point, we usually either move elsewhere (find a new oil natural tank) or innovate to use another kind of resource.

Indeed, it’s always a search for more, with (as far as I noted for now) more and more negative longer term consequences.

So, from a systemic perspective, I’d say that what allowed humanity to prosper up to now is its capacity to think at “upper” levels and have a new kind of adaptation to change, where animals are more limited. It might well be what will put humanity at risk in the longer term, unless we evolve one layer further up.

I thus see 3 tendencies for now:

  • continue humankind as usual (the 90%)
  • embrace decrease/frugal economy (ie, consume less and less, the 9%) – in which I place initiatives such as The Commons
  • embrace thinking to a higher level (the 1%?): systems thinking, the human project ( and similar.

Despite being attracted with the third option, I’m wondering whether this direction is the good one given that it showed such poor results to date (incredible progress but with an exhausted planet in the end).


#NoProjects – why projects (in IT) don’t make sense via @allankellynet

July 9th, 2014 Posted in Change Tags: , , , , ,

I just stumbled upon this marvelous piece of read: Why projects don’t make sense.

Just spot on, I love this!

Moreover, when Allan says

Destroying team destroys knowledge – knowledge has value, knowledge exists in heads not documents

I would further add that knowledge exists in the interactions too (social constructionism). Destroy relationships, destroy knowledge.

How to break the first rule of #systemsthinking via thinkpurpose

Here’s a nice blog post about the Vanguard Method (it calls itself “systems thinking” which I don’t quite agree, but hell, the result’s good, so who really cares? Besides, nobody really knows or can define what ST *is*)

How to break the first rule of systems thinking | thinkpurpose.

Next time people in your organization complains about a lack of time, have them count the marbles!


#SystemsThinking Usage survey results of 2013

May 30th, 2014 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: ,

I missed this one, but the results are interesting :

I’m puzzled by the top 3 reasons people are not learning about Systems Thinking:

1. Not enough time. Being deep into Time management and productivity, I can safely say this is the worst excuse people are most often giving. People have the time for a zillions different things in their life, like playing with their kids or reading a good old book. Not enough time usually means “I’m not interested enough to give it the required time to learn it”. Duh.

2. Poor quality of learning material. This one is highly subjective, and it mostly depends on the person and the material they find. Yet, when you don’t like something, you often tag it of being inappropriate when in fact you just don’t want to give it the required time. Back to the preceding point it seems. Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline is an acclaimed book on Systems Thinking (although it tackles only a small aspect of the subject), so there indeed are good materials available. If you don’t want to invest the necessary money (expensive books or courses), chances are you’ll only find lousy material. Definitely back to #1: “I don’t find it interesting enough to invest the necessary money”.

3. ST has no process or framework so it becomes too abstract and philosophical. Quick note: this question was asked on the Systems Thinking World LinkedIn forum and so the debates here are… well often abstract and philosophical. Back to #2 about lousy materials if you don’t invest a minimum of money. When you have a (deep) look at Systems Dynamics, SSM, SODA, CSH, or whatever else Systems Thinking method the group appears to talk of, you’ll find processes and frameworks. Moreover, the way ST is practiced is quite different from causal and linear thinking, ideas often going is many different directions. If you seek in ST what you’re reproaching in classical thinking, you won’t find it. But if you reproach ST what you don’t have in classical thinking, then of course, you won’t like it. This one boils down to me to “this ain’t like what I’m used to, so I don’t like it… so I won’t invest money nor time learning it”.

In coaching, it’s often the case that what a client asks is not what a client wants. It looks like to me we’re in the same case here: don’t ask people what they want in ST, since they don’t know their need or can’t explain it, or can’t see the point in using ST.

That was a very nice survey nonetheless, and the part about people who say of themselves they are systems thinkers is more interesting, IMHO… Go check it 🙂


Michael BallĂ©’s @thegembacoach #Lean column: “what is a root cause?” Excellent!

May 30th, 2014 Posted in Lean Tags: , , ,

Michael BallĂ©’s Gemba Coach Column is about trying to define 1) what is a root cause and 2) how to do 5-Why’s analysis properly.

Very good article and this is a topic barely tackled clearly. I have yet to find root cause analysis being done right (well, apart from those in Lean books of course).



People resist #change: bullsh*t!

May 30th, 2014 Posted in Change Tags: , ,

This is an affirmation and my own experience is totally opposite of it (well, if I focus on some specific aspects).

A more acceptable affirmation would be for me: “people like or dislike change depending on the situation, but disliked changes seem to be more memorable and thus people speak more of them“.

Think of any day or your life and how things were different from the previous day: there were probably a zillions things different. Can you really say you disliked them all?

Most went unnoticed. Some were disliked, and some were liked.

I work in change management, and I can tell you that when entering Dialogues with people (not discussions where we throw ideas at our heads), people LOVE change, even thrive on change.

Provided it’s a change they want.

Now think about the change people resisted and the one they happily followed: what were the differences?

I’m rarely definitive in my statements, but “people resist change” is the most ridiculous sentence I just keep listening all day long since I happen to see just the opposite again and again. At least this sentence is wrong stated that way.

And of course, believing the sentence is the very start of a self fulfilling prophecy… I believe “People resist change”, so I don’t bother exchanging with them and I just force my changes onto them and hire change management to handle whatever dissatisfaction and resistance will happen, and since it does happen, I was right acting that way from the beginning.

One of the saddiest thing in life, mind you…

How I moved beyond #SystemsThinking methods…

This, I posted on the Systems Thinking World LinkedIn group:

I feel like I moved beyond ST methods (the one I cited in a previous blogpost). I was swallowed by Complexity and Ashby‘s law of requisite variety was the crack through which I came on the other side of the mirror.

What this means is: I recognize the complexity of the world and our (recent) capacity to acknowledge it. I recognize my own limitation to understand that complexity in a decent (short time) way: I simply acknowledged that I don’t have the requisite variety.

I also do recognize that people are structurally coupled to their own conditions and their own understanding of them, far better than I will ever be capable of.

So, my own ST way of approaching life is now to help people weave their own mental models with that of others (when they’re supposed to interact successfully) so they can co-build (ie, influence each other) a new one that work for both of them.

In any situation, the best strengths to use and the one of the people inside that very situation. So I help people weave themselves and make their co-intelligence emerge and address the situation.

The generic term for that is “strength-based approaches to change”, but, to me, it goes way beyond just identifying people skills and traits and using them…

Social constructionism is to #Lean what lecturing is to #Taylorism

I just invented this one…

Of course, that Lean promotes cooperation and co-improvement of the organization (through nemawashi) makes the sentence all the more interesting 😉

All those consultants that try to force Lean down the throat of the managers that, according to them, are too dumb to “get it” are just, IMHO, plain wrong. This is the surest path to “change resistance“. Of course, telling is quicker than letting people experiment and trying to understand things from the perspective of the people.

Yet, if management is supposed to learn how to have their people conduct experiments, and then learn from them, then share them with their colleagues throughout the organization, why on earth are they lecturing and teaching them Lean?! If managers learn anything, that will be to continue in command-and-control mode and impose Lean tools and processes onto employees that won’t necessarily understand the purpose of them. And since the managers don’t know exactly how things happens on the Gemba (of many managers do “standing in the circle” for hours ?), they commands will be just resented as unsuited at best by employees, further decreasing their engagement levels, and the few trust left they might have had in their managers.

Is that really what’s wanted?

Of course, putting on my “Systems Dynamics” hat, I can see that the more consultants do it that way, the less organizations really improve on the long-term, and the more need will be felt for more Lean consulting.

I am not saying that consultants want the situation to be that way. I’m just saying that doing more of the same Lean teaching method will just produce more of the same long-term failed results.

Doing more of the same and expecting different results is the definition of insanity according to Einstein

Why do people don’t adopt #systemsthinking?

This is a recurring question in the LinkedIn forum “Systems Thinking World” hosted by Gene Bellinger. And one that haven’t had any satisfactorily answer so far.

Indeed, I think that the opposite question is valid too and even provides a hint as to one possible answer: “why do people using systems thinking don’t reverse to another way of thinking?

A more general question might be “why do people think the way they think?

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