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Thursday, March 23, 2017


In the review of our 2010 Human Systems Dynamics Certification course {ref. HSD 3}, F. and I completed (for now) our discussion of the definition of a Complex Adaptive System

F. describes our review as: Continuing our travel in the past for a better future. (Which I think is cool, and reminded me of this TV show. Anyone remember the title?)

  • F. questioned "system wide patterns being created by agents". Given that agents can create actions (or at least have the ability and freedom to act), some of these actions have strong connections or weak connections, and what are the parameters for this? As a real-life example: the VP of IT & VP of Operations debating and disagreeing about IT solutions for the business departments. Both VPs also have HR/Training managers with very different views. Their overall boss wants more synergy between them all. So we have emergent patterns that influence the agents (all 5 of them) which in turn influence the system, particularly with respect to the IT solutions chosen (in this example).
  • Additionally, there are degrees of strength between the agents: levels of power, influence, authority, frequency of interaction, etc. Further, there may be invisible agents in the system who are not readily apparent. So as we analyze this system, we may wish to separate out the interactions between the combinations of agents and note the strength (influence) of these interactions.
  • We then moved on to the question of Uncertainty. F. noted that patterns vary widely by geography and country; for example: for him, international flights leave more consistently on-time than local flights. There are differences in uncertainty according to culture, and situation.
  • Our final note for this session was that some people still see organizations as mechanical and ordered and don't realize they are complex adaptive systems. Accordingly, they think they are in control when they are not, and don't see the possibility and probability of change coming.

More to come.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


In the review of our 2010 Human Systems Dynamics Certification course {ref. last blog post}, F. and I paused at the following spots and commented or shared insights:
  • the domain of Complexity Sciences is - well - complex! Or at the very least, very busy and full to the brim. F. counted 13 different fields of study on the provided list of Complexity Sciences, and many we agreed we couldn't explain: "nK Landscapes", "Autopoiesis", "Self-Organized Criticality", etc. They aren't on my lips as I wake up each day!
  • nonetheless; now we have taken the course, we are experts on the field of Complex Adaptive Systems! 😁
  • combining Complexity Sciences and Social Sciences (more familiarity here - augmented by Twitter and FussBook - LOL) we get Human Systems Dynamics as the intersection. So if you are alive and interacting with other humans you are in the HSD game.
  • Simple Rules (example in the previous post) are important initial conditions for every productive behaviour toward a desired result. F. added the insight that to “Attend to the part, the whole and the greater whole” (4th. rule in the list for the HSD Institute) one also needs to attend to oneself. This is like the maxim I've used in our teamwork sessions: that in an in-flight emergency, one needs to secure their oxygen mask first before trying to help others. So in any situation where help is required or to be given, self-care is important (health, wellness, adequate sleep, minimal stress, etc.). Self-care is also recognized as an important virtue in the teamwork protocols - the Core - from McCarthy Technologies as described in my blogs Team Tips. And even more alignment of best practice occurs with the Personal Commitments which are the introduction to the Core. These are also the Simple Rules which govern the best in team behaviours, including my favourite: “Don't do anything dumb on purpose.” (The only discrepancy between the two bodies of knowledge is that HSD recommends six rules or less - to keep it simple. The Core has a longer list of Commitments.)
  • then we got to the definition of a Complex Adaptive System, which is a biggee! F. was struck by the words “freedom to act”: do the values of, and accepted behaviours in, an organization really allow freedom among the individual agents? For example; if one acts outside of the framework then they don't belong in that system, or can be invited to leave the system, and therefore are restrained. (F. finds more unpredictable behaviours in government than in private companies because they are not as focused on the company's goals). Groups often don't share a vision and so act randomly; however, when functioning more as team they know each other better and listen better and act more uniformly. Perhaps the possibility of “freedom to act” depends on using rules to create the environment for freedom - like a country's constitution. We concluded that rules of behaviour on teams leads to greater freedom and creativity; like agreeing in advance to allow unpredictability. My attention was on “in unpredictable ways” (like recent elections). My memory is that it is the unforeseen variety of possible outcomes that makes the system complex. Also, the difference between “complicated” (like a modern, working, internal combustion engine) and “complex” is that complicated things can be designed, built, re-assembled, whereas complex things are unknowable as a whole. We can't build democratic election results. (We do know how to complain!)
We paused at that point and agreed to continue the review at our next meeting.

More to come.

Monday, March 13, 2017

HSD 3 {HSD 1 revisited*}

A friend has been nibbling away at me over the last few years to review our HSD Certification course. (As I write the acronym it occurs to me that it sounds like a disease. 😜 )

HSD is far from a disease - it's a means to a cure. It stands for Human Systems Dynamics and provides a perspective on organizations and all the interactions and related ups and downs that occur when groups of two or more humans try to accomplish something.

You know: CHAOS. (The most recent elections in the U.S. and about Brexit might come to mind.)

Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone could provide some insight and practical suggestions to deal with this kind of mess? The mess being a complex system that has unforeseen and unintended consequences? Like... oh, LIFE in general?

Well, Glenda Eoyang and the HSD Institute can, and do!

And since my lovely and talented partner, Vickie Gray, and I have dealt with many messy organizations with complex problems throughout our consulting days, Human Systems Dynamics seemed very worth learning about. So we did, by taking the HSD Certification course from Glenda in 2010.

As well as being a rewarding, insightful, and revealing learning experience we got to work with a cohort of classmates with years of organizational experience and insight on the related problems and challenges they had tackled.

One of the kindred consultant spirits in the group was F., and it was his idea to review the course, share experiences and new learning, and discuss questions since six years has passed.

So F. has been poking at me and trying to set aside time in his busy practice for us to talk. Today was our first solid crack at opening our class binders and walking through the materials. 

I thought it would be useful to capture our thoughts and insights here as we go forward.

To set the stage I'm borrowing the Simple Rules that the Institute established for their course:
  • Teach and learn in every action
  • Search for the true and the useful
  • Give and get value for value
  • Attend to the part, the whole and the greater whole
  • Engage in joyful practice
  • Share the HSD story

Just the concept to even have Simple Rules to follow as part of the initial conditions for group behaviour was one of the first lessons. I'm sure we'll come back to this later.

Stay tuned for more!
{* My first blog post on HSD was in 2010.}