(This is part 2 of a 5 part series that starts here)
So, it’s an average day on Dagobah, rainy, hot, humid. Luke Skywalker has just finished some fitness exercises with Yoda and they come across a cave. It creeps Luke out and Yoda says, in essence, “Dude, skip the cave.”
But Luke feels the dark side of the force in the cave and feels compelled to check it out. Yoda is then all, like, “Hey knock yourself out, I’m just hundreds of years old and really smart, you want to ignore my wisdom and go into the cave … by all means.”
So, Luke goes into the cave and runs into Darth Vader, or some Darth Vadery thing, and they have a little light saber duel and Luke cuts Vader’s head off, only to find his own face behind Vader’s mask.
Luke’s own impetuous recklessness is staring him in the face.
This wigs Luke out.
Systems Thinking is Awesome Here Because Most Often We Are Battling Ourselves
When we use systems thinking, we are actively asking ourselves “Why is this working as it does?” If we are good systems thinkers, we open ourselves to all possibilities and expect to be surprised. Systems thinking is all about how to turn normal operations upside-down and see the unexpected reasons for both success and failure.
Therefore, systems thinking is often about our own self-exploration. How was the system I created yesterday wrong? What is my impetuous recklessness?
Systems Thinking is a Trap Here Because We Still Expect to “Win” at Continuous Improvement
As mentioned in the previous Quote, our world-views get in our way all the time. We unconsciously constantly build systems in our heads to explain why things happened. Unfortunately, for us, we build these models at such a rate that we rarely have them disproved. So we feel we are most always right in our decisions and beliefs. Psychologists call this “subjective validation”.
In systems thinking, we have to operate in the real-world. This means we are often asked to work towards some set of end-goals. While we would like to be ideological purists, those who hire systems thinkers would like to actually do something. So they need actionable items that they can understand.
The trap here lies in describing an end-state for the systems thinking effort that is somehow permanent. If people want a set of processes that will not change in the future, that is a trap. If they want a group of people “fixed”, so they will do their jobs better, that is a trap.
I have been to many web sites of many people who claim to be systems thinkers who specifically promise explicitly to map out the real processes of a company and then create new processes that will remain permanent. This limits systems thinking to what Dave Snowden’s Cynefin Model calls the complicated domain. (I will go into detail about Cynefin at Quote #5, until then, check out the wikipedia page).
In most human endeavor today, certainly in knowledge work, but increasingly in manufacturing, we do not operate in the complicated domain, we operate in the complex domain. This is a domain where business process or team process can change from moment to moment. The speed at which new products can come to market, the decoupling of the production of an object from its design and sales, and the rate at which the markets and technologies change make any stolid process unsustainable and dangerous.
Continuous improvement, therefore, becomes a constant effort to be the best that you can be at the design, creation, sales, and re-creation of your product. You don’t “win” at it by completing a final process. You “win” by remaining vigilant.
Tomorrow’s Quote is a long one from Annie Hall
Photo by Tonianne
Post collaborators: Jabe Bloom and Tonianne