FACTUAL Observations – What Type of System Is Your Organization?
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 ecosystem 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.