Root-Cause problem solving applies to more than just process and machines!
I was reflecting (Socratic Reflection / Hansei / Alpha Brain Wave State / Meditation - give it whatever label suits your language register).
It dawned on me, that we forget a lot of what we have previously known... and a model I threw together one day about 8 or 9 years ago (to capture a few thoughts) popped into my head ... so I dug it out and gave it the once over.
It has been interesting to get a window back into my own thinking (Quite cathartic and confidence inspiring actually)... so I thought I'd share a bit about it.
The model is far from perfect. That is, it can't possibly be 'complete' because the world is far to complex to fit into such a simple model (and on top of that little pearl of wisdom), it's since been refined and massively simplified to suit the market ...
But, all said and done, and considering the language still prevalent in the worlds of Lean, Leadership and Organisational Change, even all these years later, it still seems to be an advance on what is being presented and that which remains popular... I've grabbed some screen shots to share an overview of what I still believe to be a very simple view of what we're really dealing with, when aiming to affect change in any Socio-Technical environment (Organisational Change and it's management (OCM) / culture / strategy / systems / tools etc.).
As George Box is claimed to have said, "All models are wrong, but some are useful"... or words to that effect. I firmly put this model in the same category and warn against using it as a 'Solution' (even if it does make sense to you) ... there is a lot more to know than can't be shown here. As the old saying goes "A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing"... don't get hung up on the model... this is NOT a solution, at best it's a thinking framework to expand the language and depth with which we discuss, consider and lead Change.
In the .ppt I originally used to capture my thoughts, the model builds, so lets follow the sequence.
First of all, let's consider this circle as the 'Boundary' or 'Bounded' Conditions. This can represent an organisation, a department, a group of companies, a regulatory body or an industry type (e.g. Aerospace, Finance or charitable NFP's). It's what sits inside this boundary that we typically concern ourselves with. However, I contend that we only partially fill it up. Usually with whatever suits us (fits our comfort zones - i.e. has been wired into our brains from experience, such that we now deal with it through an established mental model / wiring and firing pattern). While busy in our day jobs, we rarely step outside to look in, to identify any gaps in our thinking ... and the world turns.
The next step is to consider some of the dynamics at play within the boundary, once we do find it in ourselves to step outside and look in.
There are multiple aspects to consider. These lines represent many of the issues that compete for balance and give the boundary the tension that gives it form ... and creates the culture within the boundary.
Philosophical beliefs, purpose and related goals ... which lead to attitudes and verbalised-thoughts, which lead to Strategy and a connection to a 'Vision' (Thinking / Imagination / Beliefs are all a mental construct at this point). These combine to inform leadership behaviours / reactions to feedback from others and the environment, which affect change efforts and culture in greater ways than we measure.
Here we can consider the 'Focus' that evolves from such philosophical beliefs and 'Values' ... an organisations focus will be determined by what it's leaders are imprinted to believe 'Good' looks like. If that's the corporate 'wealth creation' playbook, of layoff's, hires, Stock, M&A, Spinoff's, new products / markets, Supply chain developments (squeezing cost), sales, Tech / Op's developments etc., then there will be less if any focus on the organisations learning capability, psychological alignment, co-ordination, engagement, or the beliefs which underpin the application of technical skills.
The reality is, there has to be harmony and balance between all of these things if we're to see people 'pull together', rather than pull apart.
Growth through Performance. Growth of the people, leads to growth of the organisation (The people are the business! An element of the Toyota Way). If we accept that, we have to consider the deeply imprinted issues of 'Locus of Control' linked to Self-Concept. If we (leaders) fail to recognise this connection, we make all kinds of assumptions that set entirely unrealistic expectations (often Time and ROI based) surrounding change, sustainability and culture, seeing change inititives under any banner go over-time, over-budget and fail to deliver the anticipated benefits.
Assumptions might include;
People / Managers: Want to learn what we tell them ... are not afraid of change ... like to experiment with new things ... are willing to change ... willing to think differently ...willing to lead change ... are receptive to a better management system ...can be persuaded by logical argument (with data) ... will accept 'new' with enthusiasm ... will put themselves 2nd to the interests of the organisation ... like to think and innovate ... don't like to be controlled ... want to work in teams, rather than alone ... can navigate the politics of hierarchies ...etc.
The Tools, Systems and Strategy Deployment view of the world (From within the boundary) can then seem to become the over-arching focus of the organisation, premised on the types of assumptions listed above. This provides false belief, that applying 'Logical' / 'Tangible' change (Tools and Tech), can and will effect culture change. This is a common (logical) view, which systematically ignores the psychological (emotional) aspects trying to pull-apart what is perceived to be 'Good'. (Logic being deeply instilled into western brains over 1000's of years from Syllogisms to Geometry - there's not much brain space in the change space to consider the profound impact of emotions ... yet!).
Dr. Deming, in his later years, expanded his focus on such Logic and included the bottom of the ice-berg (I assume the reader is familiar with the ice-berg analogy?) ... i.e. he perceived the foundations of effective change to be the emotional / people pieces ... or as Lillian Gilbreth called them 100 years ago, before she went to teach the table top experiments to the Japanese (and inform the development of their approach to IE (Industrial Engineering) for evermore) ... 'Human Factors'.
Deming referred to these as;
'Psychology' (by which, i'm led to believe, by Randy Schenkat, who worked on it with him, he meant the human factors behind motivation) and
'Theory of Knowledge' (also considered as 'Epistemology' or 'Tacit' knowledge [see Nonaka]). I think we can safely address this through Neuroscience with today's technology and the recent advances in the field surrounding episodic and autobiographical memory.
Deming's SoPK was explained to me after I'd designed the model being described here. Until then I hadn't heard of it. When it came onto my Radar, I was at a low point, the world just didn't seem ready to have this conversation ... I was ready to give up, throw the towel in and just keep doing 'Lean Tools', so it arrived and provided some confirmation at just the right time. It was obvious our models were almost exactly the same (bar terminology and content). Deming was spot on with SoPK, but unfortunately didn't get time to detail either half of this immense ice-berg, under the water-line and out of sight to modern industry, before he passed away.
I believe we have to see everything above (and that which is to follow in this article) as a system ... all of it interactive, inter-related and important, if we're to address change in such a way as to maximise ROI in the shortest time-frames and introduce sustainable performance improvements at a cultural level.
What we actually have in the market is a host of change agents who focus on sections individually and 'never the twain shall meet'. Systems Thinkers often bemoan Lean practitioners, Lean and Six Sigma practitioners stick to the top-left quadrant, occasionally linking lean language to Hoshin and Strategy, psychologists are rarely OD psychologists and if they are, don't have Lean, Systems or Strategy experience and Neuroscientists specialise in certain parts of the brain because it's so damn complex they have to dig deep and narrow to become experts in that area.
More than just 'Motivation' (as considered by Deming at a psychology level) we need to consider multiple areas of Neuroscience and Psychology to adequately populate the Ice-Berg with science that can 'map' to the top two quadrants and challenge the assumptions currently undermining Organisational Change effectiveness.
To help show more of the competing psychological and sociological issues that pull us apart as organisations, but largely fail to feature in considerations when leading change, we can over-lay a couple of other models like Lawrence and Nohria's 4 Drive Theory (Nitin Nohria is currently Dean at Harvard Business School and was kind enough to grant me license to refer to his model).
This is a fantastic expansion on issues of motivation and what really drives us, recognising many other deeper issues at play. (A great book too). It helps us see what a healthy environment requires to ensure people are 'Driven' (engaged / energised) and balanced in their development. Also highlighting the pitfalls of being imbalanced in this sense. i.e. Too much of a focus on 'Acquire' can see a depletion in a capacity to Bond or Learn, making it harder for the individual to adjust to change. (Sound Familiar?).
Finally (For the purposes of this over-simplified model), we can over-lay Fiske's 'Skill Sets', found in all global cultures and used to resolve tensions between the four drives.
MP = Market Pricing | EM = Equality Matching | AR = Authority Ranking | CS = Communal Sharing.
Be it Fiske's Cultural Skill Sets, Psychology (Trans-personal / positive / developmental / behavioural / experimental etc. ... i.e. not just the psychology of motivation), Neuroscience, including the impact of stress on neurogenesis due to a depletion of BDNF or the speed of neurogenesis (brain change) possible, given different psychological perceptions ... or how these have a direct impact on the introduction, adaption and adoption of Lean tools, Systems, Strategy (when brains reject 'New' as a threat) ... or how it works in reverse and systemic control from IT solutions can have a negative impact on the psychological state and locus of control of the individual ... we have to give EVERY aspect of this model (and more) as much attention in every quarter as we've given to Lean and Six Sigma (Waste elimination / Flow / capacity increase & Variation analysis and control) these last 40 odd years.
Is it me, or do you find it amazing that we can talk about 'Pull' of product through a business, but we fail to consider any of the deeper issues (Human Factors) and still 'Push' the ideas onto people and expect the best results!
Why does 'Root Cause' only apply to machines?