Journal: Lean Sigma, ScrumMasters, & Deja Vu

03 Economy, 04 Education, Commerce, Commercial Intelligence, Methods & Process

If You’re Looking At The Past To Design The Future, You’re Going To Crash And Burn

One reason why Apple is innovating and winning, while Nokia is not.

Unfortunately, the headline using a dramatic effect to get attention, but is not an accurate statement.   Be careful about too much credit to Apple’s current design efforts. Apple has had several flops in the past. Is this conscious or are they experiencing their own randomness?

It can be easily observed that systems endure with marginal improvements. Of course, if you do not want the undesirable effects that are being generated by your system, making marginal improvements has little hope of removing these undesirable effects, since effects can only be created by deeper cause(s).

So to claim that looking at the past to design the future demands that you will crash and burn is an easily disproved hypothesis. Yet, we also know that when you design a system for the future, you can also build an ineffective system. The world is littered with dead businesses created on the belief that they will have the utopian design.

And it will be utopia when we have a method that can design a system to fulfill existing needs that are unfulfilled (maybe even unconscious needs) today.   What a challenge: new system design without being biased by the current system architecture.

Here’s another blog relating to the application of Value Network Analysis that supports your view Dibyendu. In moving out of “linear” process systems such as “lean” and “Six Sigma” VNA seemed a really good concept to follow up. Turns out VNA throws up questions about options to improving value via “lean” etc, though my current interest is in the non process level improvements to Organisational performance improvement, like organisation structures. Anyway, have a peek at “The great game of business is changing to Networks.”

Thanks for the link. I found it of value. Think it is a process of natural evolution that is taking us to a ‘creative collective intelligence’ level that would have a self emergent property. Me think… the age of instruction oriented individualism is slowly coming to an end. The future is unfolding differently in a more self organizing manner.

I agree the present influences the future (in interesting and surprising ways). So while I find discussions on “open” self organising organisations from a systems perspective very interesting and challenging, I’m having to look at ways to transition typically “closed” non self organising organisations. So I use my Human Activity System model to introduce “intangibles” into process level improvement: “Lean” meets “Service Blueprinting” if you like. Never understood how in the western world with unions running the production floors in some manufacturing firms, work to rules, and strikes, how the cost and adverse impact of human relations could be ignored: Its “waste” in another form that needs to be addressed (yes I know a change in a “tangible” process can improve the value of an “intangible”).

So the “non process level improvements” relate to roles, teams and organisation structures, management systems etc. To improve the value of collective performance (of those types of systems) Verna Allee’s work on Value Network Analysis looks interesting, and I can see this potentially crossing over with measures used in teams and the work of Marcial Losada.

To me I see it as unleasing potential that presently is forced into “boxes” and constrained by current values and practices across the whole of an organisation. In productivity terms the concept of tangible and intangible “value” is now common place (but still written about in articles in “boxes”, not as HASs). But in going into “capability” (as per my Knol) this relates to unleasing the potential of the individual.

Organisations are good at “instructional” training, constraining employees in competency “boxes” to fit prescribed job performance boxes, yet uncertainty and rapid changes facing organisations means the concept of capability I wrote about (vis Professor Stephenson’s YZ Capability Model) needs, I think, changing the way we develop, assess, and manage employees. So this is leading me (via meta learning) to explore Self Regulated Learning and linking it to work I’ve already done on capability: Early days. Improving Organisational Health is, after all, what I try to focus on.

So not so glitzy as self organising systems but interesting and challenging to me for the present.

Some wonderful comments here, and links, I will make a special post at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog ( on this shortly.

The headline is wrong for two reasons:

1. Most of the present does NOT respect the past–for example, we are now learning that indigenous knowledge of holistic living within Earth limits is priceless and eliminates the “true costs” that we have allowed ignorant as well as irresponsible businesses to externalize (e.g. Exxon did not make $40 billion in profit, it externalized $40 billion–$12 per gallon of gas sold) to the present and future public.

2. If we want to have a sustainable future then walking the cat back to when that existed, and properly studying the network of networks among all species, the role that diversity plays, the importance of clarity in feedback loops (the real meaning of integrity as emphasized by Buckminster Fuller), and the need to truly respect that which cannot be replaced in a hundred lifetimes, is essential.

There is new work coming out in both cognitive science and collective intelligence, and the latter is particularly good at showing that the fragmentation of disciplines and subdisiplines that we have allowed has made us, in relative terms, not just stupid but dangerous.

Phi Beta Iota: We’ve noticed that just as the USG finally gets Lean Sigma into its Senior Executive Service position descriptions, Lean Sigma is no longer in vogue.  We’ve also noticed that what people call agile management (or the woo hoo title of ScrumMaster) today we called Rapid Prototyping in the 1980’s.  Finally, we notice that self-organized learning is displacing credentialing; that the smartest corporations are hiring “trainable” rather than pre-trained since pre-training does not exist for the latest stuff.  The links all lead back to LinkedIn, which we highly recommend and now use to harvest substance from world-class spotters no organization could afford to have on payroll.

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