What the Caterpillar Calls Death the Butterfly Calls Life
The following represents a situation review regarding a change management effort that didn't seem to be producing any change. This review specifically addresses why things weren't changing, and what to do about it. This paper is quite closely linked to two other works:
- Bureaucracy and Organizational Politics: Emergent Characteristics of Structure
- Organizational Positioning: Up or Forward
I have repeatedly stated a single foundational premise:
Change the rules and the system will change itself."
I still believe this is true, though after reviewing the situation it became evident that not a single rule had been changed! It was quite simply an example of confusing activity with accomplishment. The situation also served to show how easy it is to fall into this trap.
The following diagram was developed to show the relationship between the different segments of organization. These segments were developed specifically to promote the change effort within the organization.
The Future Design Team and The Leadership Team had continued to meet, yet nothing had changed. In effect the caterpillar had been encouraged to become a butterfly, and it just kept crawling along in much the same way it has in the past. Essentially it was expected that the caterpillar would change its own being, and this is actually in violation of the initial premise. Activity to the time of evaluation had been preparatory, yet not active. I suppose I would say the expectations had been much akin to expecting Congress to police itself in terms of its deficit spending practices. So what's to do?
The structure of this diagram indicates that any organizational change must essentially be initiated by the Future Design Team. This would then distribute outward to the Leadership Team, and finally to all of the organization.
The difficulty with this model is that expecting the Future Design Team to change its own structure, or rewrite its own rules, may be much akin to simply encouraging the caterpillar to change itself into a butterfly. It isn't that the Future Design Team isn't committed to the future, it's just that it's hard to get outside the structure and objectively look at it, and see what really needs to happen.
by using the same thinking that created the situation."
In the case of the caterpillar its transformation to a butterfly is programmed into its genes. In the case of the Future Design Team the transformation needs to be programmed in from an external source. So what is the programming that needs to take place?
For the organization to move forward it must first address its current capability, demonstrated ability, and commitment to creating a better tomorrow. This is easily said, and not so easily done. In fact, it can be repeatedly said with nothing happening as a result. So how is it that there is created an impetus for change that will have a real effect on the organization?
Every function within the organization, whether a process or a support function, mirrors essentially the same structure as depicted in the following diagram.
The organizational habit of doing one or two dimensional performance measures continues to get the organization in trouble because this provides a very limited view of reality, and therefore an inadequate basis for decision making. To develop a valid basis for decision making in an organization all the relevant dimensions must be considered: Customer(s), Supplier(s), Members, Process(es), and Function (i.e. self-performance evaluation based on actual results). And, each "Function" gets to determine the most appropriate measures of its own productivity. This might be a single item or it may be several items.
These dimensions provide a set of perspectives which is both objective and subjective. The evaluation of these dimensions need only be as detailed as necessary to provide adequate indicators of the direction in which the function is moving. Essentially what the organization, and the function, needs to know about the "Function" is, is it getting worse, staying the same, or improving. And the requirement is that the "Function" continues to improve.
- Customer(s): indicate how their interactions with the function are progressing in terms of working relationships and response to requirements.
- Supplier(s): indicate how their interactions with the function are progressing. It is important that Suppliers have a voice to ensure the "function" is not abusing its supplier(s) to create results. This is particularly important for processes within organizations where "Functions" have a single captive Supplier and the Supplier has only one Customer.
- Member(s): indicate the extent to which their interaction with each other, their Supplier(s), their Customer(s), the Process(es), and their leadership are promoting the continuing development and improvement of the function.
- Process(es): this perspective is intended to provide a balance in terms of a perception from a broader perspective of how the "Function" is progressing with regard to the needs of the Process(es) it is part of. This perspective is essential as we have repeatedly learned that optimizing the Function(s) very seldom optimizes the Process(es).
- Function: the function continually measures its own objective results to provide a perspective on what is actually being accomplished and what needs to be accomplished.
The implication that goes with this measurement system is that it is required for each "Function" to continually improve. The message is essentially, "continue to get better or get helped!"
As for how the measurement system should be implemented, there are several essential concerns:
- It has to apply to all functions, not just some functions.
- Each function's results must be visibly displayed for all to see.
- Evaluations should be in a timeframe relative to the activity variations within the function and in a timeframe which allows the information to be acted upon.
The subjective part of the evaluations can be accomplished with preprinted forms:
This would allow for all Customer(s), Supplier(s), Members, and Process(es) segments to use the same form to provide feedback to the Function(s) they interact with from one of the perspectives identified above.
All feedback should be provided on the same day with the results posted before the close of business on that day. The final results of this ongoing evaluation would be displayed in the following format:
This provides an immediate visual perspective on how the "Function" is performing in all of the dimensions being evaluated. Let's face it, how interesting would you find bowling if you couldn't see the pins and nobody ever told you how many you knocked down?
Systems Thinking World Discussions
Systems Thinking World Q&A * Gene Bellinger