FACTUAL Consulting LLC

Enabling Success in Leading Digital Business Transformation (TM)

Archives September 2016

© 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation

FACTUAL Observations – What Type of System Is Your Organization?

© 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation

© 2010 Jupiter Images Corporation

This week I’ve taken some time to reflect on several interesting conversations I’ve had with other Enterprise Lean-Agile Coaches during the past few months as well as to reflect on additional reading and video viewing I’ve done in support of building out the FACTUAL Framework.  This reflection has provided me some insight into what people are teaching and coaching and what they see as the current state of the union in the evolution of thinking around modern organizations being living systems.

It’s nice to see the thinking from the Lean and Agile Coaching Community and Organizational Development camp begin to shift some leadership and management thinking regarding an organization being a complicated machine to that of it being a complex, living system, existing in a larger ecosystem.  I’ve been a fan of David Anderson’s work with his Kanban method as an approach for evolving organizations and I am excited to see the evolution in his thinking and offerings to provide an Services-Oriented perspective to help folks understand the living systems perspective of a modern human enterprise.  See Enterprise Services Planning (ESP)

The challenge is that the adoption of this perspective still seems to mostly exist at leadership levels serving at best groups or subsystems within the organization.  In other words, we still have a long way to go.  Also, when you look at where this perspective stops in a leadership hierarchy, it gives you a pretty good idea of where a transformation will ‘hit the ceiling’ and go no further.  ESP approach that Anderson is putting forth demonstrates to me the clear understanding that this evolution will take time, but progress can be made one Enterprise Services Group at a time.

Since the early 1990s, I’ve viewed the modern organization as an interconnected, complex system of individuals and groups of individuals. This arose from my study of and fascination with object-oriented patterns and their abstraction from biological systems,

My perception was and is that each individual and group is a system in itself.  Each subsystem carries out its processes to deliver its services which integrate / collaborate to deliver value to other dependent systems (customers) in pursuit of (hopefully) a meaningful mission while continually evolving and hopefully improving.

The beauty is in the concept of encapsulation. This allows a larger system to evolve because its subsystems can continually improve their processes, tooling and competency while still providing the services and quality of service they are ‘contracted’ to provide to the larger system, by design. I have found that the encapsulation pattern of thinking applied to transformation strategy planning to be very beneficial, partly because it can be expressed in a very visual way, but mostly because of the flexibility with what can be logically encapsulated.

The degree of improvement that can be realized in a human systems in an organization is heavily dependent on how fertile the human behavioral ecosystem is within that system. By fertile, I mean conducive to the Lean-Agile Mindset. For example, the knowledge-worker agents in a human system strive for autonomy, mastery and purpose which can only be realized if the human behavioral ecosystem is in balance to foster a lean-agile mindset.  This balance is what the FACTUAL Framework enables leadership to understand, establish and maintain in their evolving system. The scope of achieving this balance doesn’t have to be at the organizational system boundary, in fact, that is rarely the case, except perhaps for some start ups.

Larger organizations seeking to transform can design the transformation to provide this balance a subsystem at a time.  As more subsystems transform the larger system’s behavioral ecosystemJenga Sabatog feels the pressure to evolve. Hopefully there can be leaders promoted from within the ranks of the subsystems that have achieved a fertile behavioral ecosystem to effect a similar change at a larger scale in the organization.

Be aware of those with leadership tendencies for fiefdom building and or a fixed mindset. These agents of can become the saboteurs of your transformation by triggering the ever popular reorganization to derail the effort that is causing their discomfort.

Conflict Forges Innovation

How Collaborative Is Your Knowledge-worker Ecosystem?

Enabling effective collaboration in its work environment is essential if an organization wishes to operate as a Lean-Agile Enterprise. I refer to this environment more specifically as the value stream knowledge-worker ecosystem.  Collaboration is a key characteristic that enables speed, fast learning, and scaling the Lean-Agile Mindset in this ecosystem. The benefits to be had are great: a unified face to customers, faster internal decision making, the ability to reduce costs by effectively sharing resources, and the development of more innovative products.

Companies spend billions of dollars on initiatives to improve collaboration, yet few have realized the desired results. Why?  Because management most often does not take a systems perspective when examining the problem to identify and address the root cause, conflict.  Instead, companies attempt to address the symptoms of the problem, focusing on restructuring their organizations and re-engineering their business processes. On the people side, there are efforts to educate people on teamwork which often is seen to be just a management term as often satirized by popular comics like Dilbert.

Dilbert Teamwork Comic

Additionally, management may offer financial motivation such as cross-unit incentives, ignoring the current science around knowledge worker motivation.

While the attempts to address the symptoms of the problem yield the occasional success story, most of them only have limited impact and many are total failures.  In my experience, many restructuring efforts actually end up causing more conflict because the current realities in the human work ecosystems of the organizations are not considered.  This can actually cause these restructuring efforts to create additional barriers to collaboration.  I have seen this to be especially relevant in organizations that scale by acquiring other organizations.

Conflict Forges Innovation

Conflict Forges Innovation

Don’t get the wrong idea about conflict. In a Lean-Agile Enterprise, conflict and effective conflict management are the fire and the craft from which innovation is forged.

The idea is not to try to eliminate conflict, the idea is to foster a knowledge worker ecosystem that enables its effective management and resolution.  Enterprises that welcome constructive conflict and that can institutionalize approaches for managing it will rank high on the Collaboration element scale of the FACTUAL Framework.