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Thursday, April 20, 2017


In the review of our 2010 Human Systems Dynamics Certification course {ref. HSD 3}, F. and I continued our discussion about tools to deal with each type of change.

For static or dynamic change, traditional methods can be used to measure outcomes; e.g. statistical methods from quality control like histograms, distribution curves, etc. However, Project Management might work for static or dynamic change but not dynamical change because for this type of change we don't know what the interactions and interchanges between the agents are, and might be, as the project progresses.

Another difficulty we recognized comes up with stereotypical management activities such as the Board of Directors asking for the forecast of profit results for the next quarter without understanding that the results are actually due to dynamical change. This situation requires management understanding of dynamical change and comfort with the uncertainty of unknown influences and with imprecise results. In other words, as F. noted: a reduction in strategic planning replaced by strategic thinking.

The golden rule F. suggested is to observe each type of change without prejudice. In other words, treat each situation with the scientific method starting with observation and description to reach a hypothesis. Instead of using methods based on intuition, use a systematic approach. That would include being careful to understand the type of change in front of us using the questions we discussed last time. {ref. HSD 6}

We then began looking more deeply at dynamical change.

With open boundaries around the system, influencers are outside the system in question and are unknown. F. pondered the possibility of attempting to determine the “openness / closeness” of a system. Could we build a rating method that categorizes systems on a scale from “closed” to “open”? My concern is that even with such a rating there would be difficulties: a closed box in a sealed room is subject to external influences some of which are known, such as gravity, temperature, etc. but this situation is still subject to unknowns.

I applied this difficulty to planning a workshop. We can get all the details available about the participants, the venue, the circumstances, etc. - in short, think about all possibilities. However, there still will be surprises, and unknowns that affect the outcome. Therefore, understanding the dynamical nature of the situation leads to an approach which can use the surprising, emergent elements successfully.

We agreed that the approach used in an “Open Space Technology” workshop {Harrison Owen} comprehends that there will be unknowable influences on the participants, and the workshop as a whole. This knowledge allows the organizers and participants to use these influences to achieve emergent and unexpected results. Accordingly, the goal is not to seek a specific result but to use an approach that allows a variety of unanticipated results.

More to come.

Friday, April 14, 2017


In the review of our 2010 Human Systems Dynamics Certification course {ref. HSD 3}, F. and I continued our discussion about uncertainty and change.

F. described a recent commercial flight which was delayed for 2 hours; however, their connecting flight was also delayed so after a lot of uncertainty everything worked out. The extra efforts that anxious people went through to find alternatives turned out to be unnecessary. His hypothesis is that in certain conditions of “wellness” the majority of humans prefer to stay in the status quo and don't like change. Alternatively, if not happy, people will look for change.

We next discussed the different kinds of change: static change, dynamic change, dynamical change. It seems that “static” change is a contradiction in words. Accordingly, “stability” in the starting and ending states is an important element. F. feels that for him the word “transformation” is closer to dynamic change; however, for me it means static change since the final state is the new stable transformation. Words, words, words!

We agreed that people should have an emotional reaction to change. Generally, people are afraid of change, particularly dynamical change where the results can't be predicted, and the timing and flow is very uncertain. Or people may be happy with a change that promises something better for them, and a list of emotions felt during change should include hope. As a pilot, I experience joy and fear in the many changes during a flight, with fear being offset by good planning, good instruction, and practice. (The Landscape Diagram tool provides good insight into someone's comfort with change.)

We talked about questions to better understand types of change such as:
For static changes:
  • what are the initial and final states of the change?
  • what energy is needed for the change?
  • risk: ignoring context leads to incorrect impact
  • F. noted that a good examples of static change are to replace a tire on a car, moving from one house to another, a theatre performance in different venues - these are predictable, we have a good idea of energy required

For dynamic change:
  • what are the initial conditions?
  • what is the predictable flow?
  • risk: identification of the border between the states
  • Examples have more energy, more change occurs - many more pieces/elements/more agents, culture, interactions more varied, energy flowing out to the environment

For dynamical change:
  • what is the energy/tension/stress in each level of the system?
  • how are the agents connected & what is the strength of these connections?
  • what interactions are occurring?
  • risk: how you view the system; human desire to predict all results to help you understand life
  • Examples have many outcomes possible depending upon the interaction of agents; e.g., political events in the middle east and in South America

We finished by exploring the idea of using some of these questions to identify each type of change before it happens.

More to come.