Appreciating Systems

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The happy complexity of organizational productivity (#lean #solutionfocus #appreciativeinquiry #systemsthinking #positive #psychology)

I’ve been reading that article in Havard Business Review about “The power of small wins” (paying article) and somehow some things felt down together in place:

  • Lean management and any continuous productivity improvement approach for that matter
  • Solution Focus
  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • Positive Psychology
  • Happiness (at work)

Read more »

Increasing your change management skills with Motivational Interviewing (a new #mindmap on @biggerplate)

I just uploaded this mindmap on BiggerPlate here.

MI is an ecological way to elicit change motivation and action in people that may have been resisting it in the first place. A perfect skill to master, IMHO, for any change leader or change agent (including Lean management!).

Best of all, it fits very well with Solution Focus, as I have already said previously.

What have you done recently to help people around you accept change?

Redirecting attention from negative to positive in 3 small steps (P->C->O) (a @doingwhatworks blogpost, useful for #Lean change?)

Another great article from Coert Visser about overcoming the so-called “resistance to change”:

Doing What Works in Solution-Focused Change: Redirecting attention from negative to positive in 3 small steps (P->C->O).

Often, a Lean program (or any change program for that matter) is being imposed on people by upper management. Hopefully, most of the time, management asks what need to be achieved, but not necessarily how it needs to be done.

That P>C>O method looks useful when people don’t want the change being imposed on them (Lean for that matter). It indeed means that they want something to change: the contraint being imposed on them!

So that a nice way to reframe their “resistance” and transform it into something they want more of.

As I’ve read elsewhere on contrained change: rather than work on the imposed change when the person needing to change does not want to, work on the contraint itself: “what can we do to get some relief from this imposed changed on you?”.

And then the talk can go into another direction.


Can #Lean be helped by Self-Determination Theory and #SolutionFocus? (a @doingwhatworks paper)

From that very interesting (as is most often the case from Coert Visser!) paper here, I derive the following insights:

Lean on the motivation continuum

Self -Determination Theory (SDT) has is that motivation can be expressed on a continuum from “amotivation” to “intrinsic motivation” with three basic human needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness (all things that are also found in Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs and the notion of Flow from Mihaly_Csikszentmihalyi).

Lean appears to be well on these three pillars of motivation:

  • autonomy is high in an environment where management does not solve the problem of their collaborators, but instead coach them to resolution.
  • this coaching leads to increased competence on the work and on the process of continuous improvement itself, along with a better knowledge of how the organization works (through A3 problem solving for instance which fosters nemawashi – japanese term for: go see all stakeholders and work with them)
  • by doing nemawashi with all stakeholders, people get their relatedness level increased!

On motivating people to do Lean

Visser’s paper continues, on page 13, on the way Motivational Interviewing can help a professionnal helper (!) with their client, as would be the case of a Lean coach in any organization (please bear in mind that I talk of a coach, not a consultant whose approach is different). In this regard, MI is based on 4 general principles:

  • the expression of empathy
  • the development of discrepancy
  • rolling with resistance and
  • support for self-efficacy

Considering what I often saw in organizations with respect to Change and Lean more specifically, I’d say that:

  • Lean change approaches are often law on empathy: “all your problems are belong to us, we’ll you help solve them”,
  • with a development of discrepancy that more than often consist in management or co-called coaches finger pointing faults in those running the processes,
  • a rolling with resistance that consists of stomping it for it’s the proof of ignorance in Lean matters and that so-called Lean coaches and experts know better (which is indeed true as for Lean things, but blatantly false  with respect to people’s own Gemba),
  • and support of efficacy is most of the time seen as Lean consultants (whoops I should have said ‘coaches’ 😉 doing most of the job themselves (deciding on what the Future State Map for instance should look like) with only partial accounting for people’s ideas.

What I described above, though caricatural (or is it?) is still what’s even been given a name: L.A.M.E. (Lean As Misguidedly Executed).

The paper goes on starting from page 14 on some suggested questions to addresse the four principles above to move someone in the needed change direction, but with proper respect for their motivation and of them as people, by helping find how they could be engaged with the change initiative.

Reflection questions:

  • As a CEO, how engaged are your collaborators in the Lean initiative? What have you done to motivate them and engage them, as persons, in it?
  • As a Lean coach, how have you addressed management’s willing to do Lean? What questions did you asked them as for their own needed change with respect to Lean (that is, Lean should be done by management with collaborators, not to collaborators)?

“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.


Reblog: DOING WHAT WORKS: Results of the mini-survey on #solutionfocus assumptions

May 30th, 2011 Posted in Change, Solution Focus Tags: , , , ,

Coert Visser, solution Focus practitioner, recently did a survey on the topic of change. Though the survey was probably answered by people with the same center of interests as him, I find it interesting nonetheless. Or should I given that hypothesis?

Each proposition is linked to a more comprehensive explanation of the answer and what was meant beinh the question. Very interesting!

DOING WHAT WORKS: Results of the mini-survey on solution-focused assumptions.


#SolutionFocus approach to continuous improvement in #Lean

To my readers, it’s no news that so-called “kaizen events” (or more precisely, kaikaku) work.

It’s also no news that continuous improvement (CI) after such events is hard to sustain.

That’s where Solution Focus comes into play. Reading the excellent blog of Coert Visser the other day, it occurred to me that I had misunderstood something in the SF approach. That of the type of solution being searched for.


Yes. SF does not look for a concrete solution such as a new method of doing things, a new tool or a new widget. It’s even stated in the underlying principles: S.I.M.P.L.E:

  • Solutions – not problems
  • In-between – the solution is in the interaction
  • Make use of what’s there, not what isn’t
  • Possibilities – past, present and Future
  • Language – simply said
  • Every case is different

My insight occurred in the “I“: solutions are in the interaction between people. I should have read the book more carefully. Moreover, SF comes from psychotherapy and is rooted in social constructionism, that should have raised my awareness… A psychoanalysis would probably link that to my IT engineering education… Well, whatever:)

A Solution Focus Approach to Continuous Improvement

Solution Focus framework

Solution Focus framework

So, what would a Solution Focus approach to “continuous improvement not working” be?

Well, let’s turn to the framework (see side picture).

  1. Move from Problem to Platform. What we have is people not taking care of continuous improvement, so what we do want is people constantly taking care of CI.
  2. What’s the Future Perfect? An ideal outcome would be that the team manager takes the CI as a way of life (or at least managing his team) and do it all the time in all situations.
  3. Scaling: where are we today? Well, it depends on the team!
  4. Counters / Know-How: what are the resources, skills, know-how and expertise that will count in getting us toward the solution (I’m quoting here the excellent and foundational book “The Solution Focus” that brought SF to organizations). Please mind the underlying part, which corresponds to the “In-between” of SIMPLE above.
  5. Affirm whatever the people are already doing toward the solution: recognize and value it.
  6. What Small Actions could you do right now to move up one level on the scale toward the Future Perfect?

Again, my insight regarding CI is in step 4 that deals with:

  • resources brought to a situation (that is, put in the interaction between people)
  • skills put to the service of the desired outcome / future perfect
  • know-how which also relates to behaviors
  • and expertise, also put to use in the situation

So, the learning here for me is that we should not be looking at new tools or some fancy visual management (though it might helps sometimes) to sustain continuous improvement, but really look after the way the manager is enacting CI in her behavior and her interactions with her team.

I’ve all too often seen visual performance management not being acted upon and slowly disappearing under dust because management was lacking the proper behavior toward it.

You can improve without visual management, but you can’t improve without doing things and displaying some improvement related behavior. Of course, when the two are used together, their effectiveness is far more powerful than used alone.

So, what is the solution?

Ok, so we know what team leaders must do: show, in their interactions, that they care about CI. What help does this solution gives us? My answer is:

Absolutely none.

Yes, you’ve read it properly. This solution at which we arrived is of no help for at least two reasons:

  • It doesn’t gives us details at what, precisely, needs to be done.
  • It’s been devised out of the gemba, so it’s worthless because it’s deconnected to the real reality (speaking in systems thinking terms, one would say that it does not have requisite variety)

The real solution is that we need to pass team leaders through the Solution Focus framework and have them come to the same kind of solution. They need to find their own answers to questions such as:

  • What, for you, works for keeping people interested to continuous improvement?
  • What worked before (or is working now) for keeping people working on a specific topic?
  • What worked before (or is working now) for keeping yourself working on a specific topic?

Please beware: the last question is a treacherous one as the team leader will probably reply that her manager constantly reminded her of that very topic to be kept on top on the priority list…

We, as Lean coaches or consultants, need to constantly remind ourselves that team leaders not only need to grow their own visual performance management board, but also their own way of acting and enacting a behavior that fosters continuous improvement. Although it’s longer and sometimes tougher than to decide that in place of them, it’s also the only way that does not raise the so-called “change resistance” that we always find on our (and their’s) path.

What’s next?

Well, now, we know what needs to be done on the part of team leaders. To be more precise, we knew it before, but I feel it’s a new way to go look for ways to finally achieve improvements that are really continuous.



Some thoughts about what #positive #lean could be by mixing #AppreciativeInquiry and #SolutionFocus

I’ve been thinking lately of what some less deficit-based or more positive-based Lean could be. I know three kind of positive approaches:

  • Appreciative Inquiry, more geared toward identifying what gives life to people, what interests them;
  • Solution Focus, which tries to identify what works or has worked and do more of it;
  • Positive Deviance, which allow a group to identify people (the positive deviant) that achieve a definite purpose in the same condition as others who do not.

What I find interesting in these approaches is that I find them far more powerful when it comes to motivating people to change. Because they appeal to what people really want or like to do. Surely enough, epople do want to solve problems, but only to the extent that it allows them to move toward something that they feel interested in, something that serves them in one way or the other.

Read more »

#AppreciativeInquiry with Teams: an article by Gervase Bushe – use it for #Lean

Here is a very interesting article I stumbled upon from Gervase Bushe: Appreciative Inquiry with Teams.

The article gives different way of using Appreciative Inquiry with teams to help them solve issues and perform more rapidly (in the case of a newly formed team). Both dos and don’ts are proposed.

I find this paper really interesting in the context of introducing teams to Lean and using some appreciative or positive approach for that purpose (the paper also mentioned some Solution Focused approach, though without naming it).

This is the kind of straightforward and very operational paper that lights your mind and that you know how you could put is to its best use (or give it your best try in order to learn by doing).

Thanks Mr Bushe!


#GTD is easy! Here are the three habits you already knew how to do

April 1st, 2011 Posted in GTD, Solution Focus Tags: , ,


Getting Things Done book

Getting Things Done book

GTD – Getting Things Done- is a personal productivity method that helps you get things done and relieve the often associated stress. It’s been created by David Allen in his book “Getting Things Done, the art of stress-free productivity“.

This might surprise a number of you, but I’m a firm believer that GTD, in all its bells and whistles is easy to implement, because you already know how to do GTD and when you think about it, that basically comes down to only three habits.

Surprise! Who would have thought that? People often complain that GTD is tricky and complicated to setup and use, that they get lost in too many lists and that they don’t know how to deal with such a complicated system. To which is often replied that it would be worst without any system.

But do people really have no system to manage their todos prior to GTD? I doubt it and here is why.

First habit: write stuff down

What do you do when you’re stress because you have lots of stuff to do?

You write it down.

And what does GTD tell you to do? Suspense… Exactly the same: write stuff down!

So, basically, we all already know that to relieve stress regarding stuff to be done, the best way is to write it down so as not to forget any of it.

That’s all. The very basic of GTD is to write stuff down to:

  • Empty your head instead of trying to memorize it, so that you can think clearly afterwards to concentrate on getting things done.
  • Remember it later.

Is this black magic? I doubt it…

What GTD tells you to do is to write stuff down all the time. We had a working solution to kill stress, so all we have to do is to apply it continuously. Hey, you had a thought just right now! Write it down. And that one too: write it down as well! This is how your inbox fills up which brings me to the second GTD habit.

Second habit: identify the desired outcome

Ok, this one may be less intuitive, yet you do it all the time when you really want something: you describe it in as much details as possible. You create a powerful vision that’s so compelling to you that you can’t help but go for it and do the necessary tasks that are required for it to occur.

I agree that most of the time, these powerful visions result from some exchange with a friend or partner and you rarely construct them in your mind on your own. Yet, this is the way humans are: we move in the direction of our most powerful visions of the future.

What GTD tells you to do is to ask yourself, for each stuff that you’ve written down: What’s the desired outcome? You need to do this when you take a thing from your inbox and think about it. You need to turn that “stuff” into a “desired outcome”.

As for the technical background, a desired outcome is something expressed in a positive way (something you want rather than something you don’t want) and in the present tense “as if” it had already occurred. Both these criteria are necessary for a well crafted “desired outcome” that will ensure you the best results.

Which leads us to our third and last habit…

Third habit: identify the Next Action

Who needs an MBA to understand that “Call sister to book her garden for mom’s birthday” is easier to deal with than “Mom’s birthday party”? Clear and detailed next physical actions are easier to deal with than vague “stuff”. Oh that was difficult to come with, for sure!

What GTD tells you to do is to do that consistently, for all the “stuff” that came into your world that you probably have jotted down on paper or in your smartphone: first identify the desired outcome and then what the Next Action is.

Putting it all together

This is all about GTD! When you put it all together, it looks like what follows.

Write, Outcome, Next Action

So, here we are:

  • Write down everything that cross your mind in order not to forget about it and keep an clear mind
  • Identify the corresponding desired outcome
  • Write down the Next physical Action(s) required to move the original “thing” to completion.

What do you need to do that for? Well…

What GTD tells you to do is to apply this model of “write>outcome>action” to all your life (or more precisely to all of your altitudes). That means:

  • To your Actions
  • To your Projects
  • To your life altogether: Personal values, 3 to 5 years Vision, 1-2 years Objectives and Areas of responsibility.


What do you do when you have lots and lots of stuff? Again, real magic here… you sort them!

That’s just what GTD lists are: a way to sort all of this stuff and Projects and Actions you’ve come about into different “Contexts”.

What GTD tells you to do is to:

  • Move Actions to different Contexts so as to avoid looking at Actions to which you can’t do anything because you’re just not in the right place or have the right tools or are with the right persons to do them (these last lists are called Agendas).
  • Move stuff you’re not sure you’re really willing to do or you’re not sure when you’re going to do them, to a Someday/Maybe list.
  • Move stuff you need to check about later in a Waiting For list.
  • Move date or hour specific actions to your Calendar (yes, this is also a form of context in GTD, dependent on Time and Place: that of the meeting!)
  • Move all your projects to a Project List so that you also don’t lose track of them
  • Move all your project related information to Project specific folders so that they are all in one place.

So, here is how you come about to having a whole GTD system in place. Of course, viewed from the end, it’s a lot of lists. That’s why GTD tells us to do a Weekly Review just to maintain that system under control: go through all of your lists and mark what have been done. And during the review, write down stuff that might pop up in your head. And to help you further your emptying of your head, GTD provides you with Incompletion Trigger lists (both personal and professional).

That’s it! So, do you still think GTD is difficult?


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