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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.

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