Looking good, Billy Ray!

This is a systems thinking blog.
There’s a type of systems thinking I don’t mention here called Soft Systems Methodology, or SSM. I’ve never actually used it as a method, not out loud and proud.

But the key word is systems THINKING. 

And SSM is great for thinking about things yourself. It’s a structured way of thinking in systems.

A part of the method is to use diagrams of a system, to have a structured debate about what it currently is and what it could and should be changed into.

A question asked during this is..

“Is this change systemically desirable and culturally feasible?”

There are two parts to this, tackling two issues. Is the change..

1: systemically desirable.

This means given the purpose of the system, given what it is supposed to achieve in what way, then are the changes needed to achieve this? Would the system get more coherent and congruent to its purpose?

2: culturally feasible.

This asks the question, is it POSSIBLE given the culture and beliefs, the norms and values, of where we are.

Ponderous stuff eh? It’s why I’ve never bothered talking about SSM, and cos quite frankly you could do SSM and still sit in your executive strategic suite, fully insulated from reality, drowning in operational ignorance, and still correctly say that you’re doing “systems thinking”. Cos you are, a branch of it.

Anyway, this question, systemically desirable and culturally feasible, I reckon managers and leaders do actually ask it in the course of change… Just the wrong way round.

I think the question they ask of the change they plan is actually…

Is it Systemically feasible and is it culturally desirable?

This is a very different question indeed.

It asks “the change we’re gonna do, firstly CAN we do it in the system we’ve got? Is it feasible?

Secondly, what will people make of it? If it’s not wanted, how can we make people want it?”

See the difference?

It starts from ALREADY having decided what you want to do, not from working out what should be done, and whether it could be done.

This is the feel good method of managing change. It is about bulldozing changes into a system, and schmoozing the people in it to “want” the change. 

Anyway. Here’s what Billy-Ray Valentine had to say about it yesterday…

This entry was posted in change, systems thinking, thinking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Looking good, Billy Ray!

  1. posiwid4me says:

    Great post TP. I think SSM is a great way of having systems conversations and should never be done in the isolation of an executive suite (but that probably coz I don’t have an executive suite!)


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      I like it FOR ME, but would never trust it out in the wild in any organisation I’ve encountered. Cos there’s NOTHING in it about going, finding out, checking, disproving, getting knowledge in other words. It could cosily nest in with the way people work and think without disruption. Hence, bad.


      • posiwid4me says:

        Not nothing as a core feature of SSM is dialogue which is about getting knowledge of how others think. SSM without dialogue is bad


        • ThinkPurpose says:

          How others think, yes. But no data. No “hang on what are our customers ACTUALLY asking for when they ring us up?”. No actual investigation of the flow of work through the system, just rich pictures etc of how people THINK of the system and its environment.


  2. You can’t make people want or accept change cos POSIWID also applies to people systems. In fact mechanical systems are the easy part, people systems are not.

    Front ending is probably the best way to go about this. Go in undercover so to speak and start the changes and then by the time the people discover the change it’s too late.

    Or to use the analogy of the immune system go in with a corporate approved “protein” coating thus avoiding attack by the corporate immune system.

    It’s a tactic I often used which when it worked meant that people could not attack me without attacking the ethos of the corporation which of course I constantly spouted.

    Also you need to build walls around those that will cause trouble because everyone has their own turf to defend – an aspect of POSIWID.


  3. Pingback: Hard, Soft…or Laminated? | Squire to the Giants

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