System Change Agents

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chaos, strange attractors, organisational culture and more...

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System Change Agents

  1. 1. Systems thinking, changeSystems thinking, change agents, and social systemsagents, and social systems Michael Ashford mjashford@gmail.comMichael Ashford mjashford@gmail.com
  2. 2. Mindgames……..Mindgames…….. The tale of two cokeThe tale of two coke cans……cans……
  3. 3. So, you want to change theSo, you want to change the “system” ???“system” ??? • rule of coke cans - perceptions give rise to realityrule of coke cans - perceptions give rise to reality • action leads to reaction, including no reactionaction leads to reaction, including no reaction • as above so below. The whole is in the part and theas above so below. The whole is in the part and the part is in the wholepart is in the whole • the whole is far more than the sum of the partsthe whole is far more than the sum of the parts •Some things for a change agent in a system to remember…
  4. 4. What, more??!!!What, more??!!! • Organisational/system equilibrium = unchanging =Organisational/system equilibrium = unchanging = entropy = fearful people = zero = deathentropy = fearful people = zero = death • chaos can be created to shift to a new orderchaos can be created to shift to a new order • order and chaos are mirror images - system leapsorder and chaos are mirror images - system leaps into chaos/unpredictability, yet is held ininto chaos/unpredictability, yet is held in parameters, well ordered/predictableparameters, well ordered/predictable
  5. 5. No, MORE*@#*!! PLEASENo, MORE*@#*!! PLEASE • wave or a particle? Attitudes we adopt will evokewave or a particle? Attitudes we adopt will evoke one potentiality from the underlying reality’s many-one potentiality from the underlying reality’s many- possibilitied domain and will shape how a situationpossibilitied domain and will shape how a situation will unfold. Change agents as we all do reap whatwill unfold. Change agents as we all do reap what they sow. Always be true, and know your values….they sow. Always be true, and know your values…. • A quantum change agent participates inA quantum change agent participates in nature’s/system’s unfolding, and is part of whatnature’s/system’s unfolding, and is part of what he/she is in. The agent’s efforts to predicthe/she is in. The agent’s efforts to predict nature/system may interfere with what was going tonature/system may interfere with what was going to happen. Remember, everything is interconnectedhappen. Remember, everything is interconnected and you are too….and you are too….
  6. 6. A tale of interconnection….A tale of interconnection…. I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface ofI am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river, and I am the bird which, when springthe river, and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayflycomes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water ofI am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond, and I am also the grass-snake who,a pond, and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence, feeds itself on the frogapproaching in silence, feeds itself on the frog I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, myI am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks, and I am the armslegs as thin as bamboo sticks, and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda. I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a smallI am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after beingboat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate, and I am the pirate, my heartraped by a sea pirate, and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.not yet capable of seeing and loving.
  7. 7. Errr, can we get back to theErrr, can we get back to the system stuff….??system stuff….?? – The system...The system... M a n a g e r s u b s u b s y s t e m D ir e c t o r s u b s y s t e m D ir e c t o r s u b s y s t e m C E O S y s t e m
  8. 8. Lets change it!!!!!!!!Lets change it!!!!!!!! Steps….Steps…. Workshop - flip chart, lists, issues, schedules, plans,Workshop - flip chart, lists, issues, schedules, plans, accountabilities, stick things to wall, get typed up,accountabilities, stick things to wall, get typed up, diary..diary.. Review - structure, tasks, functions, hierarchy,Review - structure, tasks, functions, hierarchy, allocation, delegation, reporting, auditingallocation, delegation, reporting, auditing Recommend - restructure, rehierachy, redelegation,Recommend - restructure, rehierachy, redelegation, reallocation, e-forms, issue emails & memosreallocation, e-forms, issue emails & memos
  9. 9. New system...New system... M a n a g e r s u b s u b s y s t e m D ir e c t o r s u b s y s t e m D ir e c t o r s u b s y s t e m C E O S y s t e m
  10. 10. The less fixed or the more uncertain the behaviourThe less fixed or the more uncertain the behaviour of any element of a system, the greater will be itsof any element of a system, the greater will be its influence on the system as a whole. A freeinfluence on the system as a whole. A free radical??.radical??. Yeah, so what!!!!!!Yeah, so what!!!!!! The more rigidly connected are the elements of aThe more rigidly connected are the elements of a system, the less influence they will have on thesystem, the less influence they will have on the system as a whole.The more rigid the connections,system as a whole.The more rigid the connections, the more that each element of the system will exhibitthe more that each element of the system will exhibit a greater degree of alienation from the whole.a greater degree of alienation from the whole.
  11. 11. Lets look at that system again, but thisLets look at that system again, but this time really really look..time really really look.. Can you get a sense of howCan you get a sense of how things happen simply bythings happen simply by observing what is happening?observing what is happening?
  12. 12. A different view...A different view... • What is really happening…...What is really happening…... M a n a g e r s u b s u b s y s te m D ir e c to r s u b s y s te m D ir e c to r s u b s y s te m C E O S y s te m
  13. 13. When we give up myopic attention to detailsWhen we give up myopic attention to details and get a sense of how things happen byand get a sense of how things happen by observing the movement of the total socialobserving the movement of the total social system, we see what is required tosystem, we see what is required to manage/shift a complex system.manage/shift a complex system. • Let chaos storm, let cloud shapes swarm,Let chaos storm, let cloud shapes swarm, I wait for form…..I wait for form….. • Lets be radical, lets be strangeLets be radical, lets be strange (attractors), lets change the system, let(attractors), lets change the system, let the dominoes begin to fall...the dominoes begin to fall...
  14. 14. Some tools to begin with…..Some tools to begin with….. • Reflect on the whole, see the patterns, the emptyReflect on the whole, see the patterns, the empty spaces, the silences, the group fieldspaces, the silences, the group field • Look for patterns of movement over time, rhythms,Look for patterns of movement over time, rhythms, flows, directions, shapes, and structures thatflows, directions, shapes, and structures that facilitate relationshipsfacilitate relationships • Understand the real is different for everyoneUnderstand the real is different for everyone
  15. 15. Some more...Some more... • Remember the wave and the particle - do notRemember the wave and the particle - do not think role/authority of a person, picture insteadthink role/authority of a person, picture instead the energy flows that are required for thatthe energy flows that are required for that person to achieve/fulfilperson to achieve/fulfil • Draw from self-renewing systems and adaptiveDraw from self-renewing systems and adaptive organisations thinking. Work with form andorganisations thinking. Work with form and function engaged in a fluid process where thefunction engaged in a fluid process where the system may maintain its present form orsystem may maintain its present form or evolve to a new orderevolve to a new order
  16. 16. And even more...And even more... • Be sensitive to the spontaneous emergence ofBe sensitive to the spontaneous emergence of social/political trendssocial/political trends • Embrace paradox - the more freedom in self-Embrace paradox - the more freedom in self- organisation/determination, the more order.organisation/determination, the more order. Autonomy at the local level, support forAutonomy at the local level, support for independent activity with a strong frame ofindependent activity with a strong frame of reference from the system.reference from the system. • Capitalise on disequilibrium and chaos, that is whenCapitalise on disequilibrium and chaos, that is when you will have enormous impact on the new orderyou will have enormous impact on the new order
  17. 17. What do I do to capitalise onWhat do I do to capitalise on chaos????chaos???? • Borrow from the intelligence of viruses, become aBorrow from the intelligence of viruses, become a mutant and infect/impact the system. Believe in themutant and infect/impact the system. Believe in the power of one….power of one…. • Remember the relationship between the butterfly’sRemember the relationship between the butterfly’s wings and a hurricanewings and a hurricane • Understand process of autocatalysis, whereUnderstand process of autocatalysis, where exponential effects can result from a smallexponential effects can result from a small disturbance - “ping” the system. Aim for bifurcation,disturbance - “ping” the system. Aim for bifurcation, transformation into an unknown or death?transformation into an unknown or death?
  18. 18. And now the strangeAnd now the strange attractor…..attractor….. • We watch chaos and see rapidly moving linesWe watch chaos and see rapidly moving lines zooming back and forward…time alters ourzooming back and forward…time alters our understanding and the lines weave into a pattern,understanding and the lines weave into a pattern, order comes from disorder. The shape means aorder comes from disorder. The shape means a strange attractor has happened, the order inherit instrange attractor has happened, the order inherit in chaos is revealed.chaos is revealed. • Remember, in chaos we choose not to jump toRemember, in chaos we choose not to jump to conclusions. We see the shape but the systems ofconclusions. We see the shape but the systems of chaos may be incredibly complex, or incrediblychaos may be incredibly complex, or incredibly simplesimple
  19. 19. I’m sick of this esoteric*#@!!I’m sick of this esoteric*#@!! Tell me how I can tap into thisTell me how I can tap into this strange attractor stuff?strange attractor stuff? • Well its simple, some will say you need a Ph.d .Well its simple, some will say you need a Ph.d . Ignore themIgnore them • Remember the question - can you get a senseRemember the question - can you get a sense of how things happen simply by observing whatof how things happen simply by observing what is happening?is happening? • In the seemingly madness, stress, andIn the seemingly madness, stress, and disorganisation of our social systems somedisorganisation of our social systems some maintain direction, a sense of purpose, andmaintain direction, a sense of purpose, and meaning, why??.meaning, why??.
  20. 20. They have meaning, aThey have meaning, a sense of purpose, ...sense of purpose, ... In the chaos, some thrive becauseIn the chaos, some thrive because they have the above as a point ofthey have the above as a point of reference, a strange attractorreference, a strange attractor You the agent can facilitate theYou the agent can facilitate the understanding of meaning as theunderstanding of meaning as the attractor…...attractor…...

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