I have worked at a local authority for several years in performance management, the authority has no background in systems thinking and as far as I am aware no-one else there was interested. I spent my time consistently boring people to tears about systems thinking to no effect. I hadn’t formulated my first rule of systems thinking yet.
I have spent the time posting to the quite useful IDEA message boards, and talking/boring/haranguing, sharing article/websites etc. with colleagues, getting a name for myself, good and bad.
Turns out I was practising, although I thought I was wasting my time. I hadn’t realised that the more you practise the luckier you get. Not yet.
I received an email from a manager in Housing Benefits asking for some help as they were interested in systems thinking. As I had inadvertently been practising, a manager had read posts from me on the IDEA boards, seen I worked in the same authority, and also same building.
I had recently received an email from Vanguard sent to their mailing list asking for volunteers to test a new product they wanted to trial. This is their 3 day systems thinking fundamentals course, I cant seem to find much more on their website, but this is the leaflet for it on the New Zealand site. It is 3-day course ran by a Vanguard consultant with the purpose of introducing systems concepts and providing a (very) light touch check on their system to see the sort of knowledge that could be gained, and are in a position where they can decide whether systems thinking is right for them.
They were trialling putting the course into a self-directed form, workbooks, DVDs and posters, designed to be ran by an in-house systems thinking facilitator and needed guinea pigs to trial it on for free. This was ideal, so say the least. A free introduction to systems thinking, laid on by the experts.
I would recommend this to anyone with three things
- management who want to change and are ready to spending 3 days in finding out about systems thinking,
- a competent systems thinking facilitator.
The 3 days are a mix of exercises in the classroom, initiated by the DVD or from workbooks, and finding out about what is happening in your work.
The first day sets people up with the principles. The second day they collect data from the work. They are divided into pairs or 3’s and carry out small tasters of what could happen during a full-scale check, such as listening to demand or mapping flow.
The third day it’s brought all back together, the pieces of data, to create a snapshot of findings that allows the staff to see whole picture of the check phase from listening to demand through flow to management thinking.
It worked wonderfully. The very last thing on the DVD, if I remember correctly, is the big horsey face of John Seddon asking you, yes YOU, what you will do on Monday morning back in the work. A challenge! I reckon there was a 75% hit rate in the room of people “getting it” and wanting to do something on Monday morning, which is a huge hit rate, and from what I hear untypical. The service had already decided they wanted to change and came into the sessions willing and eager, so were an ideal bunch. It seemed an ideal way to get people into the ST frame of mind, and in a position where they know it isn’t just a spot of process improvement. It is something I am angling at getting someone, somewhere, to buy as it would be so much easier than trying to do something similar myself if some other service asks what this ST stuff is and of course, I can’t tell them.