It’s not a behavioural problem: it’s the system


What we need if we want organisational transformation, if we want more effective organisations, if we want people to find the work they do meaningful: we need to work with the whole system. A buddy of mine in England recently observed that most people seem uninterested in effectiveness. Sad but true, I fear. Still desperately clinging on to “scientific” management mythologies, many folks just seem to want the numbers to add up and people to do what they’re told. A scary prospect if your business has just appointed a new global CEO who is a bean-counter by background and disposition and whose single-minded purpose is to show the shareholders that they are getting richer every quarter. Calling a performance issue a “behavioural problem” comes out of a mechanistic worldview. Yuck.

quantum shifting

Don’t ask a systems thinker for advice on managing performance or staff engagement.  They will probably say something pretty fruity and you’ll wind up frustrated by how fervently they trash conventional wisdom on the subject.  Of course performance, engagement, recruitment, they’re all connected, so your systems thinking friend will sound like a fruit loop because they’ll see the whole picture and proceed to suggest that you are asking the wrong questions, when all you wanted to know is “how to get people to do stuff”.  You go to them as a sounding board because there is something you like about the way they think; when you’ve talked previously, they come up with ideas that seem counter-intuitive at first, but are actually surprisingly on the money.  However, when it comes to a sticky situation you are actually dealing with, you don’t want to hear them bang on about the system, the…

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Complexity:: Strategy and the ‘threatened’ business model


It would be wrong to say that I am in total agreement with the content of this article but that is simply because, courtesy of Ontonix, I hold an ‘informational advantage’! That is because, of course, it is a great deal easier to identify which products, services or aspects of the operation are dragging the model down when you can, objectively, identify sources of internal [endogenous] risk and measure their impact upon the stability [or resilience] of a complex system.

But there is a lot of good stuff that I would highly recommend. Particularly for those readers who have already determined (subjectively) that any downward trend is temporary, a result of ‘bad’ luck/timing, financial volatility or unforeseeable uncertainty. Of course, you may be right but you COULD be wrong and your inaction might only be exacerbating the problem…or accelerating the rate of decline.

I dread to think how much valuable resource is wasted by organisations treating symptoms that are self-generated. John Seddon, a leading ‘Systems Thinker’, talks (with some humour) about the need to address the right problem instead of, inadvertently, creating more "failure demand". It would be fair to say that with an understanding of the complexity of business systems – aided of course by a means to identify and address sources of risk and uncertainty – even the business owners, without whom the organisation may not have come into being, can learn a great deal about a business they feel they know intimately.

But this ‘mistress’ has secrets that will remain hidden unless they are coaxed out…

Business ecosystem

The Gravity of Risk Can Slowly Crush Business Models

Executives must proactively assess their business model, and do so on a regular basis. What was once a great business engine can grow less viable years later because it has become outdated or ineffective due to market shifts or new developments in industry’s business environmental conditions. It is the course all businesses must run, facing the need to change along the way in order to survive.

Risks are about events that, when triggered, cause problems. Hence, risk identification can start with the source of problems, or with the problem itself. It is important to remember that risks emanate from threats, but the manifestations are much broader and may be internal or external to the organization.

Strategy and the Threatened Business Model | Corporate Strategic Planning | Strategic Planning Articles and Resources | Management Consulting Services Firm | Business Strategy Consulting.


The most effective, and sustainable, way to facilitate organizational change is to focus on improving business processes. Especially, key processes like R&D portfolio selection, product design and development, manufacturing, marketing and sales, and fulfilment strategy. If we get these processes right then the right culture and the right people will follow. Process is driven directly by business and customer needs. Culture and behaviour follow process.

Baker Street Publishing

The consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton has published a wonderful collection of articles on culture titled, Don’t Blame Your Culture: Instead, make the most of it for raising your company’s performance.  Jon Katzenbach is one of the leading authors.  He is a respected 50 year veteran of the organizational change wars.  See the video below.  I recommend the collection to decision coaches.   The collection is offered for mobile apps, e.g., iPhone, iPad, Android devices, etc.

I’ve learned from experience that there are four levers that a CEO can work with to change an enterprise: the people, the organization chart, process, and culture.    The organization chart is easy to change so we see lots of CEO’s try that.  It is also relatively easy for a CEO to change people.  Some CEO’s are even foolhardy enough to make a direct attack on culture.   Most of these change…

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‘Systems Thinking’ isn’t about change for change’s sake and if/WHEN someone tells you that it is I would encourage you to question their motivation and knowledge!

John Wenger explains WHY in this, typically well-crafted and informative article…

quantum shifting

A poll in October of 2011 put the approval rating of the US Congress at just 9%.  When Rasmussen pollsters asked Americans if they approved of the US going communist, a full 11% said they were OK with that; two points ahead of Congress.  To put that into context, during Watergate Richard Nixon’s approval rating was 24%. BP, during the Gulf oil spill, hit 16 %.

To me, these figures illustrate the erosion of trust in those who set out to lead us and, I suspect, an erosion of faith in the systems that puts those leaders there.  It’s not just a crisis of democracy, it’s a much wider crisis of leadership: in government, in business, in churches.  The expenses scandal in the UK.  Widespread sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests and covered up by bishops.  Credit ratings agencies giving the thumbs up to banking systems at the heart…

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Business Fractals: THE MEANING OF COMPLEXITY


When it comes to being trained or gaining a hands-on understanding of business management I doubt that much thought ever went into considering the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics!? But, then again, much of what is still taught (and therefore understood) about business management requires such a radical change of mindset (&/or revisiting cybernetics/VSM) that only something akin to transformation will suffice. Because business in the Digital Age has changed…permanently!

The nature and scale of change, over the last half century, has been dramatic. The inter-connectedness and pace of change has accelerated during the last decade. Yet, we continue to take so much for granted that we have kept faith with tools and techniques that lack the requisite variety to deal with the business systems they are intended for. Furthermore, Business Management, like Risk Management, Actuarial science and Economics, were never sufficiently rigorous to be considered as remotely scientific. A point that has been illustrated time and again but, unsurprisingly, practitioners find the facts somewhat difficult to accept. Hence the business as usual mentality with the ongoing problems it creates! Read more of this post