Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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#Lean and @simonsinek’s Golden Circle : there’s hope for you, yet…

February 24th, 2014 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I had a sort of epiphany this morning during commute.

Lean isn’t, or shouldn’t, be transmitted or taught about improving performance or best to achieve performance.

The recent history of Lean seems to me to have gone through the following steps, which, in my mind, mirror the approaching of the WHY center circle of Simon Sinek.

Whats of Lean were the first to be taught (probably because they were the easiest to spot and understand inside Toyota plants) – and is still probably the main line of teaching Lean. Incidentally, these were those Taiichi Ohno warned us against:

  • Results: is orientated toward increasing performance of the company
  • Teaching of Lean: based mostly on using tools

Hows of Lean saw the beginning of a change in how Lean is transmitted:

  • Results: are sought through people and therefore “Respect” comes again to the fore (which it should never have left anyway)
  • Teaching of Lean: centered on how you achieve results (through people), that solutions come from them, not from the sensei. I think the epitome for this is the great “Toyota Kata” approach to teach Lean from Mike Rother.

Whys of Lean is when executives understand there’s really something more to improving a company, and that “respect for people” really is meant for more than mere words:

  • Results: are about contributing to something bigger than the company
  • Teaching of Lean: Lean is about making people flourish both inside and outside the company

Funnily, the more you advance in how you see Lean (according to the preceding three steps), the less you speak about Lean stuff and more about personal and organizational purpose.

Of course, I can’t end this post without this famous quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Simon, I bow before you…

Build a #school in the #cloud by @sugatam, a @TED #video

I finally took the time to view this wonderful video. Mr Mitra experimented with remote villages in India, where children don’t speak english nor are used to computers, and see what would happen in a few months. Guess what? The children were able to 1) learn english and 2) understand scientific concept far advanced for their ages. All on their own, without any kind of help at all.

His wish is thus to build a school in the cloud where children could learn on their own (he calls this SOLE: Self-Organized Learning Environments (go to that link, there’s a PDF toolkit to download for free) with the help of, for instance, remote retired teachers, through Skype.

I’m not into teaching, but I can’t help make the connection with what happens in organizations. Lean was known as TPS (Toyota Production System) in the beginning, although Taiichi Ohno insisted for it to be called Thinking Production System, meaning by this that it was meant to make people think and really learn about their organization so as to improve it. I guess the concept of a Learning Organization comes from the same desires, too.

In order to improve an organization, people need to learn and innovate in the fields of technology, facilitation, psychology (whether to convince other of the importance of their findings, or to better market whatever it is they’re selling, etc.)

Do our organizations really facilitate this learning? I’m afraid not. Mr Mitra tells us that tests and punishments are seen as threats by the brain and stop all learning and innovating activity. Only appreciation and encouragement liberate those.

Isn’t this a really good praise for Appreciative Inquiry or Solution Focus?!

I think the best way to have organizations improve is not to put up new training or innovation programs, but rather to remote all barriers to self-organization. Let people connect to one another, teach one to another, discussion, exchange and experiment! It’s not just stuff for children. Adults can benefit from it too!

Indeed, lots of companies are starting to liberate themselves in these ways. See the french companies Favi, Poult or others such as Zappos (who just announced they will get rid of all their managers and just function with their 1500 productive employees).

Have you read “Freedom, Inc” from Isaac Getz? Do it now! :-) I think it just the same kind of principles for a new way to organize organizations…

 

@NancyDuarte #resonate #free #book on making presentations: what if you could *really* turn your audience into a hero?

I’m reading the beginning of this great book from Nancy Duarte she just released for free in beautiful HTML 5: Resonate. The book’s (or the beginning of it at least) is about the Monomyth as it’s been described by Joseph Campbell in “A Hero’s Journey”.

The purpose of a presentation should be to tell a story and make your audience like it is the hero of it, by making it visualize “what could be” in comparison to “what is“. The intent is to “sell” your proposal of how to achieve the “what could be” part of your message.

Yet, I’m thinking of all these strength-based approaches to change I’ve learned these recent years. For instance:

  • Appreciative Inquiry could be used to have people remember of personal situations where they lived the opposite of the problem (that is a strongly positive situation, that is, an experience of “what could be”). Combined with the social constructionist principle of AI, this could help people co-create their journey rights when you’re presenting (instead of waiting for the “call to action” to start it at the end of the presentation)
  • Solution Focus is explicitly based on the premise that the Future Perfect has already happened, at least partially,and to find again what behavior supported it at that time that could be amplified and done again.

So, instead of just encouraging your audience to just imagine them being a hero, what about having them remember they’ve already been the hero, and probably more than once?

Indeed, the story has already begun albeit in a masqueraded way. The real threshold would then be to have them commit to it and reveal it to the world.

Instead of holding the mirror where the audience can see itself in, what about giving them the mirror to play with? To discover sides of themselves they’ve never imagined they had? And then let them experiment with it right away?

This, I will ponder. I will continue reading the book, because it’s just excellent so far!

 

#Systemsthinking and #DSRP questions to improve systemic view of processes (Ref @iDSRP)

April 25th, 2013 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: , , ,

Although I love methods, standards (hey, I’m from Lean!) and the like, I also like when people come up with ways to look at their work and their company in perspectives that external people (us here) might not have imagined.

So, also to keep things simple, I would consider teaching people (and making corresponding “templates”) about DSRP as a way to learn differently than only linear thinking. See http://www.thinkingateverydesk.com/ to know more on that systems thinking approach or method.

Faced with a problem (a process to be improved for instance), DSRP would allow to ask broader-view questions such as:

  • Distinctions: what are we looking at? What’s missing from the picture? Who could provide for other distinctions?
  • Systems: what systems (notice the plural here) does this process contribute to? What sub-systems is it composed of?
  • Relationships: how are parts of the process interacting with each others, especially differently than from what’s written on paper (possible ISO 9001 documentation)? What relationships are we blind to? How could we know best? How is this process related to other processes (both formally AND informally)?
  • Perspectives: what assumptions are we making regarding this process and how it is supposed to function? What assumptions make it (dys)function the way it does? What other perspective might we take to enlight the process differently? What might we learn, then?

And of course, there’s the possibility to use DSRP to craft positive and appreciative questions. I haven’t much given thoughts to this, but I will surely address the topic in my book “The Colors of Change“.

@kickstarter project: a new kind of #systemsthinking book, please support @systemswiki!

Gene Bellinger and Scott Fortmann-Roe have started a kickstarter project called “Beyond Connecting the Dots” to create a new kind of eBook where the systems thinking (systems dynamics) models will be directly editable and playable with inside the book!

Please support them by donating!

Reblog: How Do You Get Leaders to #Change? – Chief Learning Officer, Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

Here’s a nice article on How Do You Get Leaders to Change? – Chief Learning Officer, Solutions for Enterprise Productivity.

I especially like the end of the paper about coaching and asking questions.

Indeed, when we’re told something, there are high chances that it comes to collide with some of our beliefs or mental model (because we make sense of what we’re told with our own past experience, and that often means we mis-interpret what others are saying).

On the other hand, when asked question, we are forced to bridge the gap between where we stand (our current mental model) and what the other is trying to say. A question isn’t as explicit as a statement when it comes to expressing a perspective. So when asked a question, although we feel that some perspective is at play behind the question, we’re let with space which we can feel however we want, thus bridging the gap between our own mental model and that of the questioner.

Whatever your conviction when it comes to how people resist to change, I think we all admit that it’s hard to resist to a question (though, sometimes we might end up affirming that a question is meaningless. Yet, this is an opportunity for dialogue and explaining why we think so. So even in this case, the exchange and gap-bridging occurs, from the askee or asker).

No wonder Socrates asked questions! :)

 

My GTD documents on SlideShare

I just uploaded my GTD documents (mostly in french, sorry) on Slideshare here: My GTD documents on SlideShare.

You’ll be able to find:

  • presentations (slides)
  • coaching questions (excerpted from online sources, referenced)
  • Job Breakdown Sheets for those willing to coach or train others (à la TWI)
  • summary leaflets
  • etc.

Enjoy!

 

CLE Newsletter – fall 2012: #systemsthinking (Christmas) Tree Game simulation for your kids!

So, you’re interested in Systems Thinking but don’t know how or where to start? ST is a wild beast, but I found that starting with Systems Dynamics is easier. Don’t assume that all there is in ST!

So, here we go, the latest issue of the Creative Learning Exchange newsletter where there’s all the necessary toolkit to teach Systems to your kids… or yourself!

CLE is an organization that publishes content to teach systems thinking to kids, mostly up to K-12 level.

It’s Christmas season, with the popular harvesting of Christmas Trees. A nice opportunity to play the game!

Have a look at the newsletter here (PDF). You can test the Tree game online using a simulator here.

Hmm, while I’m at it, The Lorax (IMDB, Wikipedia page here) has only been released recently in France, but CLE has published a ST studying course for it here: Studying The Lorax with Feedback Loops (PDF as well).

Finding the perfect #systemsthinking method: is that what you really want?

There’s this discussion on LinkedIn about finding a Systems Thinking “Theory of Everything”.

I don’t know why, but it triggered something in myself that I would like to share here as well.

Let me again come back to constructivism: all these approaches and methods reflect the mental models of their conceptors. As such, they’re perfectly adapted to whoever created them along with the context in which they were primarily intended for.

Biomatrix seems the more systeMAtic of all those I’ve encountered, with this respect.

Now, I question the practicality of such highly sophisticated approaches. How do you teach them to people?

I don’t question their usefulness in bringing further understanding of a situation and consequently improving if with less unintended consequences than if no approach would have been used instead. But the more sophisticated an approach is, the more difficult it will me, IMO to “sell” it to some organization, either externally from a consultancy perspective or internally.

All these approaches try to do is help creating a model of a problem or situation in order to improve it. From basic principles (causal loops diagrams, DSRP…) to more sophisticated ones (Biomatrix, SoSM (System of Systems Methodology), etc.) they try to be as close as possible to reality, yet without fully embracing it (for it would be reality itself, not a map of it!) So, here again, we’re in constructivism: that of the creators of the aforementioned methods, and that of the people making up a system we would like to study/improve using one of those methods.

I have two personal convictions.

  1. The first one is that a system is its best map and that the (future) solution to its problems is already embedded i it, even if invisible for now.
  2. The second one is that you have to make a tradeoff somewhere between having a very good (ie matching the variety of the system) method to help a system see what solution would work for it, and a simple enough method that can be taught and explain to people making up the system. Too simple, it might not bring any insight, too complicated, it will be dismissed before even using it.

I personally turned to strength-based approaches to change such as Appreciative Inquiry (part of the “whole-system” change methods) or Solution Focus where the system itself is helped deliver what would work for itself.

If really needed, I can revert to some very simple models (that I use as a checklist) to help ensure some basic elements of an organization have been considered. For instance, McKinsey’s 7S might be helpful sometimes (and I don’t go further than what Wikipedia).

The fact is that a system is what it is, composed of most importantly (to me) its autonomous (sub)parts: humans. And humans construct their own reality, so instead of trying to box them into some different reality, I think we need to help them see their own boxes and help them connect them all so that they do something that matters and makes sense to themselves.

Don’t try to understand in too much details what they mean of what they want. Trust them to know better than you’d ever could. Lead them in the trouble waters of where they are to the clarity of where they would like to be. Let them identify the impediments on the way. Let them identify their strengths. Let them identify their own solutions (most of them they have *already* experimented to some extent – solution focus!). Then let them decide what path would work best for them and help them maintain the direction they chose. And then help them identify when they arrived at their destination so they can congratulate themselves.

And don’t even get me into change resistance, because that’s what a sophisticated method will probably trigger anyway!