Execution is implementing the mining strategy – strengthen robustness and build resilience. Stability + Agility. The classical change management chart below suggests that deep paradigm changes are most difficult. Classical in the sense that people must be managed because they will resist change and behave badly. But we’re not classical; we’re different.
We are not social scientists. We do not attempt to change human behaviour. We rely on complexity, cognitive, and natural science. Our focus is to shape the system conditions humans face everyday. Conditions include business policies, standards, processes, rules, and so on that impact humans. Reinforcing or relaxing human-imposed constraints will influence relationships and interactions and thus behaviour. Our factual data are stories – thick data. Stories provide the context why a person decided to behave in a particular way. Because stories are emotional experiences they give us insights into attitudes and mindsets, the core centre of personal change and being unlocked from the shackles of an old paradigm.
Stability – Theory of Constraints
Goldratt’s TOC is a well-known concept and extremely effective tool in the Order system. Our Productivity Platform tool is typically deployed by experts so it resides in the Cynefin Complicated domain. We’ve chosen “Platform” to differentiate what we’re offering from:
• A methodology, which suggests a series of rigid, sequential, non-negotiable steps.
• A program, which indicates a methodology wrapped up in some form of time-bound structure.
• An intervention, which implies dependence on outside expertise, particularly if the aim of the interventionists is to prolong your dependence on their expertise.
The Productivity Platform provides Stability, the highly desired property of a robust Order system.
From 15 years of experience gained on 70+ projects, 2 key pragmatic learnings are embedded:
- Challenge misguided restrictions imposed by a head office centralized desire to optimize end-to-end cost and efficiency using only ERP and budget control systems. A TOC analysis will identify the production chain of a complicated system requires slack and buffers to handle day-to-day normal deviations. Adjustment to the ERP business rules will yield the financial results desired by Top management.
- Disrupt the notion TOC consultants are the experts who make the definitive diagnoses and offer the definitive solutions. In the Ecology Age, humans are appreciated as diverse, autonomous thinkers. They know what’s going on in a coherent production unit because they work at the mining site day in day out.
Stability actions in the Order System are supported by Classic Science. Agility is necessary to deal with the disruption of the Chaotic system and the uncertainty and unpredictability of the Complex system.
The anthro-complexity approach is naturalizing sense-making. It is based on natural science, in this case the understanding of current cognitive science on how humans make decisions. This allows us to see biases and blind spots. In complex systems we search for explanations in terms of narrative patterns, the key to finding potential disabling system constraints.
Pattern-discovery experiments are purposely kept small; big change interventions are avoided. This is because all actions in the complex system have unforeseeable consequences and often we don’t know for sure what the result of our actions will be. Furthermore, consequences can happen very quickly. This is the complexity phenomenon known as the Butterfly effect or in social media speak, “going viral”.
Smaller interventions are “safe-to-fail” whereas big ones increase the risk of runaway disaster.
Stories are powerful in another way. Using data visualization techniques, we now have the capability to generate a map of the unknown complex environment. This online 2D contour map has an unique feature; if you click on a dot, the story pops up and can be read. This map is akin to an Order system dashboard to gauge progress. The execution question now becomes: What system constraint might we change to get more stories like these and fewer like those?
Our operating philosophy is to intervene with a very light consultant footprint. An engagement does not require an infestation of consultants for excessive periods of time. Behind this philosophy is clear recognition that we need to empower the workforce, not render them dependent on us.
Not lost on us is the disturbing news about employee engagement. According to Gallup, the worldwide percentage of adults who work full time for an employer and are engaged at work (highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace) is just 15%. The anthro-complexity approach engages workers in an entirely different manner. Humans are natural storytellers and more than willing to share their experiences with anyone who will listen.
SenseMaker™ projects show that workers will actively engage knowing their unfiltered stories collectively produce a navigating map that leadership will access to make informed decisions.
Different systems require different problem-solving approaches. Classical problem-solving has been taught for many generations and its methods fill the Order system toolkit. As people become familiar and accustomed with a certain process, beneficial habits are created. The downside is that habits can become autonomic responses.
Imagine that a hammer is an Order system tool. Proficiency is gained over time hammering nails. Common sense says do not even think of using a hammer to nail a screw. The obvious step is adding a screwdriver (a complex system tool in the analogy) to the toolkit. Yet some would automatically grab a hammer and bang away because they can’t see that screws are different than nails.
The following table describes the differences between classical and complex problem-solving.
Complex Adaptive Leadership
An organization would be remiss to invest in complex problem-solving skills to build Agility at the operational level and neglect the needs of directors, executives, and managers. Agile leaders must be developed who can detect weak signals in the external environment, adapt to rapidly changing contexts, and thrive in uncertainty while adhering to their moral and ethical values. Leaders need to be resilient in terms of being emotionally intelligent and capable of making sense of emergent situations and knowing how to act.
Self-awareness is raised for leaders who by habit follow Classic Management theory practices. They learn from collected stories if system constraints they have approved are actually helping or inadvertently hindering the workforce. By examining the system and not the individual, “eco” learning rather than “ego” blaming is ensured.
In the Age of Ecology, rude awakenings and expressions of shock are welcomed as positive signs that a personal paradigm shift is taking place.