Exactly a week ago I invited readers to send in their own stories about how offering data, creating normative learning opportunities and plain nagging had resulted in some type of systemsy incident. That it is possible to create change upwards through inciting dissatisfaction with current methods and curiosity about different thinking.
Apart from two comments, I’ve not had one reply.
Whilst hardly the gold standard of research, there are hundreds and hundreds of readers of this blog who are the sort of person who might be cajoling and griping up upwards, to try and ignite something. A biased sample, and deliberately so, where you would expect, more than in any other sample, examples of some kind of success.
So if there isn’t any, makes you think.
The guidelines for the onion patch arent the only mention of tactics and strategies, there are other similar suggested activities elsewhere.
The systems thinkers version of a soon-to-be-father being urged by a midwife to “quick! Go boil some water! And clean towels!” just to give him something to do.
Because it does look increasingly clear that if you AREN’T totally important, then you can do what you like, cos nothing’s going to happen for the better. After all when was the last time you changed your mind fundamentally about something merely because somebody forwarded on to you a blog post or showed you some data that seems to over turn everything you thought true?
Doesn’t happen due to the backfire effect.
The backfire effect is what happens when some smart Aleck comes along to tell you that you’re wrong. Instead of coolly evaluating their evidence, and updating your mental model accordingly, if it’s telling you you’re wrong about something you’ll reject it and believe what you used to all along…. but much more strongly.
I’m not talking here about how you shouldn’t rationally try to logically explain somebody out of command and control thinking. We all know that one doesn’t work. I mean that proactively trying at all doesn’t seem to have much evidence of working.
This not to say that people don’t change their minds about work, they do. I did, and so did you.
But did you change your mind because someone persuaded you into it? Probably not. I didn’t. You probably didn’t either.
I’m thinking that these cases are just happy accidents. Some mighty leader somewhere overhears something about this John Sneddon or whatever he’s called and Googles it a bit further and is intrigued so goes to a Vangrad conference, or whatever they’re called, and starts thinking strange uncomfortable new thoughts…
Or another hears something about benchmarking not actually doing anything, and is intrigued cos there’s always been something in the back of her mind that never really rung true, so Googles it and so on and so on.
Again, a bit like you or I did. I was all about ISO9001 and my manager mentioned how quality was first properly introduced to manufacturing as a concept in post war Japan by some guy called Deming, so I googled “Deming ISO9001” and came across that John Sneddon arguing the toss about ISO. Random, fortuitous and unpredictable.
But not DESIGNED. I wasn’t caught in a systemsy trap. Nobody set out to turn me.
But there WAS somebody who, however accidentally, mentioned the word Deming. Same as in my fictitious stories up there, there has to be something there for somebody to accidentally come across.
So I’m thinking that if you’re not charge of anything, merely a nameless functionary trudging through organisational life, you could stop with the wittering and haranguing and chipping away, and just do the “work” that you’re told to.
Or you could double and re-double your efforts.
Either way it’s not simple cause and effect, and any changes in some persons head that you’ve yet to even meet might be because of some thing that you’ve left behind, laying systemsy land mines everywhere. Or it might not.
A fellow onion emails in to remind me that of course reader stories don’t have to be of the scale of you helping a harumphing command and control manager turn their whole organisation into a world beating Toyota. No, not that. Teeny tiny would do.