Welcome to the World Pendulum blog! | World Pendulum

May I introduce – a new blog!

Welcome to the World Pendulum blog! | World Pendulum.

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Seeing everything clearly from a moment of observation | The No Crisis Blog

Seeing everything clearly from a moment of observation | The No Crisis Blog.

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Respect the individual

Groups don't think - people do

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Seeing everything clearly from a moment of observation

Many years ago, a great book was written: “The Fifth Discipline”, by Peter Senge. I didn’t read it then – have read it only recently – but I understand how important this book and its thoughts have been for the development of a better understanding of certain things in companies.

Systems Thinking

“Certain things” is – as an afterthought – easily boiled down to the concept of systems thinking, which is an understanding that there is “more than meet the eyes” and that consequences can be found far away from the causes, in time and space. Actually, an assumed consequence might not be the consequence of anything in particular – but rather the effect of a system of objects and attributes that to a large degree is subject to “autopoiesis”; a self-maintainability, a solidity as a system, where even large changes in details still makes the system as a whole easily recognisable. An example is a human being, a person, where loosing a leg or a kidney doesn’t change the perception that it is still the same person. Or a company, where adding a new product or changing a work procedure is still done by the perceived same company.

Idea lost in companies

When I look around and try to understand how companies work, I do see activities done on the basic understanding of systems thinking. But I do not see results. Probably the abstract concept of “company” is in itself systemized to a degree where it also is subject to autopoiesis.

Companies are sharing knowledge – or at least, they try to. But most of the time that knowledge is not being used. Each employee, no matter the level, seems to have an idea of knowing something themselves that is more important in the situation than the combined and accumulated knowledge of the whole company collected over time. A moment of observation seems to give a person the confidence in seeing everything clearly and the ability to make the right solution, be it acting, advising or just drawing conclusions.

Companies also create new artificial problems, for instance by reorganizing, in order to ensure that nothing can be done solely by routine. This is expected to keep everyone in the company fit and establish a culture of innovation and problem solving. What it does is simply to ruin what works and make people frustrated over having to spend time on dragging everything back (or twisting and cheating the “new system”) in order to do what they did before. The only thing that is kept fit by this concept is stress and frustration – always being at a high level.

And companies are coaching, apparently in order to make sure that everyone can learn from others and get inspired to learn from themselves as well. But more often than not, the “coaching” is in reality being used as part of a control and incentive mechanism, where both the coach and the coachee must play certain roles and say certain things in order to not get punished by the system. They are not learning anything – and they are certainly not part of a learning culture – but are instead developing good faking skills.

Idea lost in life

Just now I am involved with a situation where someone close to me is spending a lot of time in hospitals and with seing doctors, nurses and people supposed to assist and advice in various ways.

And every single day I see how a moment’s observation can lead to what appears to be a full understanding of the “facts”. Doctors do this a lot. They conclude on everything from the need for a certain mineral to the quality of life for the patient. Nurses advice on taking medicine, simply because that medicine seems to work on other patients. Family members advice on whether the patient should live a valuable life with the risk of dying earlier – or to lie down in a hospital bed forever without really living, simply because that might prolong what technically can be called life.

And all of these people – and many more – often draw their conclusions and give advice on the basis of a moment of observation. On the basis of single events og a few words, they happened to hear from a longer conversation. It doesn’t appear to them that there might be more they need to know about before understanding the patient, the person system, well enough to give advice. As soon as they start talking, they feel confident that what sounds like a good advice really is. Without knowing. Because they feel that they can see everything clearly.

The future for systems thinking

It seems to me that the idea of systems thinking is living only in the thoughts of a few philosophically minded people. In real life, it has no chance since human beings are so dedicated to the positivist idea of cause and consequence, and the idea of simply finding the problem, and then (with the right experience), the cure is given and indisputable.

Did systems thinking ever have a real chance? Were people always like this? Do people in general care at all about understanding the situation – or are they more interested in being “right” in the eyes and ears of the people who listen to them?

Or, more philosophically – is life simply a matter of winning and loosing, not about understanding and improving?

Posted in Coaching, Knowledge Management, Learning Organization, Organization, Philosophy, Systems Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One World – Everybody Likes Projects and Change

Visitor distribution at nocrisis.net - all times

While excluding all the specifics, I thought that I would share with you how the statistics for The No Crisis Blog looks like at present – this is an all-time-count.

There are some surprises – for instance, can’t Chineses read my blog or are they not interested? Why are people from Norway and Iceland less interested than Swedes and Danes? Why are the British more interested than the Irish?

Some is less surprising – not the least that USA has hit the highscore. I have written a lot about Lean IT, which has a better foothold there. And then, the Americans are probably the most active on a lot of blogs – being an outgoing and participating people. Another less surprising fact is that Svalbard, with its population of about 2,600 people, never found its way to this blog.

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Are you Prey or Predator?

screen-shot-2013-06-11-at-9-44-40-amIt’s a lazy afternoon at the savannah. The sun is baking, it is tremendiously hot but luckily there is still a bit of water left in the waterhole. The lions are relaxing – cats of any kind and size really know how to look relaxed. They have found a slightly cooler place in the shadow of a tree. They have been eating recently and need nothing more from life right now. Life is a bliss, they feel comfortable. They are in their comfort zone.

lions relaxed

At the same time, a flock of antilopes are nerveously trying to eat from the abundance of grass, not far away. Every second one of them is looking up and around. Antilopes really know how to look alert and I guess you’ll never see any of them relaxing like the lions do. Antilopes will never just find a shadowful place and rest. They do not have a comfort zone.

antilopes nerveous

All the animals at the savannah are doing what they have always been doing. They are what they are, a photo of them now would look like a photo a hundred years ago. Or a thousand. They never change, some know how to feel comfortable, others do not.

When we humans, modern creatures who have changed a lot and still do, are trying to teach each other how to live and how to be, we usually end up with recommending each other to “get out of the comfort zone” and to change even more. We teach each others to be like the antilopes, to always be moving and always be nerveous. We teach each other to be prey.

As a social creature, it seems reasonable: afterall, when you can make all the others look nervously around to spot any danger, you can allow yourself to be away from the stress for at least a few seconds at a time – just focusing on eating the grass, nothing else; just for a short moment, but what a bliss! How great it is to feel a touch of being in your comfort zone, despite being just one of a flock of preys.

So we actually like to feel comfortable. Surprising? Hardly – we all know that we do. But why do we feel that we have to be alert all the time, that we have to be moving, never staying in one place, especially not if it was a comfortable one? Why do we not allow ourselves and each other to be more like the predators?

I could imagine that a biologist would claim that humans are not really prey – we at at the top of the food chain. We actually are predators. But behaving like pray have made us capable of adapting to new situations and survive when other species didn’t. We can live in cold places, warm places, places with or without a lot of rain. We can change. We are flexible.

So when a predator behaves like prey, when it rushes around, never finding rest, never feeling comfortable, it is flexible.

But how much flexibility is really needed? How much change do we have to do – and how much of what we impose to others is really not for the good but rather for allowing ourselves to feel comfortable for a moment? Is is possible, that if we would allow each other to find a comfort zone and spend more time there, we would become better – as a species – to enjoy life and look relaxed, to be relaxed and be happy about it? And then, from time to time, to eat an antilope…

1920px-Rousseau-Hungry-Lion

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Easy Collaboration and Successful Projects

Why Projects Fail

It is quite funny, actually, how almost all talking around project management is focused on methods and frameworks like Prince2, PMBoK, and IPMA. But when you ask project managers why their project failed they almost always mention the lack of communication as the main reason, often along with a lack of support from their superiors.

And what is the result of a failed project? Either someone (the project manager) will be fired or demoted or nothing will happen – “we just need to try harder the next time”, someone will say. And then, again, the talking will start developing around methods and frameworks and how to get certified and how to hire project managers with more experience with one or the other such method.

A good example, I think, of how not to solve the problem!

How to solve the problem

As I have mentioned in some of my other posts, I am not against methods and certification. I am, however, against solving a different problem than the one you have! And many organizations are not sufficiently mature to really get anything out of a solid methodology focus when it comes to project management. They are instead at a level where they need to learn how to talk to each other. Advanced methods can be attached later, but the initial approach to improving the project management success rate should be based on arranging for the communication to work better.

The technology issue

We live in a world where technologies are changing all the time – I guess that today many young people have never seen a video tape recorder even though it was a must for everybody to own such a thing just a few years ago. And emails are being used but in a different way now. It is my impression that most people do not read all their emails – they throw a quick glance on the long list of today’s emails and click on the few of them that look important or interesting. The rest just keeps rolling further down the list of unread mails.

Telephone calls and SMS’es are also means of communication but without structure. They can help changing direction but rarely help preserving the info that was the basis of the change. Meaning that they do not participate much in the team learning process, as they do not permanently improve how things are done.

Meetings are great for getting to know the views of your team mates but meetings take time and if people are not all at the same location at the same time it might be very diffficult to even arrange the meeting. Video conferences comes in as a good second – will definitely be a better choise than emails in most cases but should be supplemented with someting written, memos or minutes, to make sure that the conference is not just a workless break in time, soon to be forgotten.

The Solution

Communication

So how can we fix this communication problem that ruins so many projects in real life?

Well, technologies change, as mentioned above, and today there are great tools that will help establish a platform for communication.

We have seen a number of years with unused or even useless intranet solutions. They were meant to gather information and make it available as an effort in line with the ideas of knowledge sharing and the learning organization. But since they were not really part of the daily routines for anyone, they were often seen by the team as an annoyance rather than a help.

bitrix24A tool like Bitrix24 has changed this. The tool is being used through the day by all team members because they get their tasks from there, they register their time there, and they have facilities for organizing their work – also in Bitrix24. It is quite obvious for them to also use the platform’s rich set of communication features to keep in touch with the team and to share knowledge. Now, with this tool, it is actually seen as a great help to gather and share information and to maintain a good level of communication around both the individual tasks and the whole project.

As Bitrix24 even makes it possible to work on several projects at the same time in the same environment and to do all the company communication along with this, the team members rightfully feel that the tool is a great help.

And so Bitrix24 becomes an important part of the solution on the communication problem.

Management support

The support from the project manager’s superior then?

Well, first of all an organization should not initiate any projects that do not have a solid support from management. If the project isn’t important to anyone, the project will not be able to attract the needed attention all along its life time – and in the end, this will make it difficult to complete it successfully.

Secondly, if there is some initial sense of importance, it must be maintained. An all-the-time up-to-date overview of the project, based on real data from the team members, will help keeping the project hot in the minds of management who will then more likely keep the support level high. So Bitrix24 helps here as well.

The bottom line

Bitrix24 is not a silver bullet that will take away all problems and run the project for you, but it certainly does offer a solution on some of the main problems of real life projects.

Posted in Change Management, IT, Knowledge Management, Learning Organization, Organizational Maturity, Portfolio Management, Program Management, Project Management, Teams | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Mythical Specialist

Apple_theory2_FritsALAs a consultant I often hear people tell about their needs for “a specialist” in one or another topic. They might need a specialist in Windows or in Project Management, but no matter what they are looking for, they are almost in panic over the risk of getting a generalist instead.

Quite interestingly they often do, at a closer examination, appreciate that the specialist has experience from different uses of his/her specialism. And that the specialist has been a specialist for some time and undergone a development as a specialist. Both actually broadening the specialist knowledge into something that could just as well have been described as generalism.

In other words, if someone is a specialist or a generalist is often just a matter of words – of which story you decide to tell about the one. As an example, Gandhi was a great specialist in non-violent opposition but he equally well could be described as a generalist of politics and country administration.

No specialist knows only one thing and no generalist knows all about everything.

But why are some people then so much focused on getting only specialist consultants?

For one, because they lack a sense of systems thinking. They do not see that every task involves multiple aspects of problem solving. When a plumber – in the eyes of some, being a specialist in plumbing – is installing something, like a new water tap, he/she needs to use spatial thinking for imaging the best way of drawing the tubes, temporal thinking in order to understand how to plan the work, material knowledge in order to know which kinds of metals can be combined and how, and lots of other skills and qualifications. It can easily end up with the fact that knowledge about water taps is the least of it all.

The plumber needs tons of skills, not just one. So a plumber is not by all standards a specialist. And even if this particular plumber in question is really just installing the same kind of water tap in the same kind of buildings, etc., maybe as part of a huge, life long building project, the plumber probably learned something more when being an apprentice. And for the major part of time, off-work, there are loads of things that the plumber could be doing, making him/her an expert in a thousand things.

In a modern work environment for most trades it is paramount that each and everyone involved can adapt to changes, as these are occurring on a permanent basis. Nothing will be done exactly like the last time, everything will need to be considered for the specific situation – and experience from different situations will come in handy, making a smooth transition from the old procedure to a new one possible.

We all know that, I assume, we just do not know that this requires a generalist. Because we do not think about it. I wrote earlier about how sharing thoughts requires thinking, and I can add to it that understanding and knowledge requires thinking too. Sticking to old dogmas will most likely help you find a specialist – which in your imagination immediately will be promoted to expert – and you might even believe for the rest of your life that no one else could have done the job.

You like such confidence in your own ability to find the right person for a job, and the more explicit you make the requirements for doing the job the easier it shows that you have found the exact right candidate – and should it turn out that the candidate fails to do the job in the way you wanted it, it was of course not due to you being too restrictive by demanding a too specialised person, no it was no doubt because the one was not the specialist he claimed to be.

This is one of those games we play – and one of the stories we like to tell each other – the one about being good at finding the right person, because we then obviously are being good at understanding our work and its needs. Hiring someone denoted as a generalist doesn’t give that same kind of satisfaction, since the one will do a lot of problem definition himself. So it will be his own earning that things go well – and then we are not able to take credit for it.

Another detail in this specialist vs. generalist consideration (a consideration many people do not have as they want only specialists for everything) is the question of how to even define a specialist: An example could be that Jane has 3 years of experience with Windows and is considered a Windows specialist. Joe also has 3 years of experience with Windows but then also 3 year of experience with Linux and 3 years of management experience. So Joe is not a Windows specialist? He might actually know more than Jane about the topic and has most likely been in situations where he needed to see Windows in a bigger context, maybe in relation to Linux and management.

The logic of wanting Jane instead of Joe for a Windows task is not quite easy to grasp but this is how many managers or recruiters prioritize. And so they do not get the best for the job.

Posted in Management, Systems Thinking, Teams | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Games We Play – And other stories

storytelling-sport-footballWhen you step into your office, the games begin. Apart from various rituals that could be considered kind of games – like saying “good morning” – there are more abstract and sometimes quite childish games in play at work.

The first one might take place when you enter today’s first meeting, about strategy. Without even discussing the method, you immediately start playing the SWOT game. Each of you in the room feel inspired to say something new that the others haven’t thought of, and each idea is put in one of four boxes on the whiteboard. It is really a thrill to see your suggestion there and you are all having fun. What a pity that the game has to end due to other meetings coming up…

The next game is “show me your method”. Some consultants are going to tell you about the latest fashion in company improvement methods. This time maybe it is about Lean in some shape, and during the presentation you will no doubt be asked to use Lego bricks – just to illustrate something in the concept. But you love it, each and everyone in the room is enjoying putting together the bricks and you are laughing over each others’ funny constructions. Isn’t work great?!

Of course, after having so much fun with the Lego, you can all easily decide to move on with this fantastic and entertaining improvement method – if your employees will become just half as happy about it as you have been during the presentation, this will become the best working place in the world. And then the next game begins: meetings about or due to various new kinds of method elements of course require courses to be held first, at which the employees will play in a safe environment, pretending that they are doing the real thing but feeling safe and happy because it isn’t. Such a course environment is a fantastic place for just enjoying yourself, having a great time without consequences, a.k.a. playing.

Back to work they go, after all, but there these happy employees will keep playing – it will be fun to try to remember everything from the course and do it the same way. In the beginning somewhat ritualistic, following the exact style as learned from playing in the course environment, but after some time other games start mixing in.

The games of power and the games of being noticed. When children play it is easy to notice that they sometimes do things meant to drag attention to themselves. It is part of the game, and it is somehow mixed with the interpersonal positioning aspects of playing – maybe easiest to see when kitties or other animal children are doing symbolic neck bites on each other and in this way displaying their dominance.

Adults are exactly the same, even though the games in an office are most often of a more verbal nature – and are often felt to be more serious. Being noticed by colleagues and showing potential power may become the main topic of an employee’s inner dialogue when at work – and it may stick and fill up the thoughts even when being off-duty.

Being out of work – unemployed – might leave a big hole in the mind where before these games resided, and the emptiness felt may display to the surroundings as a depression.

All the other games at work are part of this overall positioning game, but there are other aspects as well – some of them probably being simply entertainment and… fun! Quite a lot of activities in a workplace doesn’t have any real value for the company. Maybe except for the fact that they participate in making people thrive.

And thriving, I suppose, is a precondition for being pleasant to be with. Nobody likes a sad person, and I have experienced several times in my life how people lost their job for not looking happy. So you can lose your job because you are not good at it, because you do something very wrong – or because your boss finds that you look a bit sad. Playing the games without thinking too much about their value to the company will most likely keep you on the payroll for a longer time than trying to optimize your time for the better of the company would do. In itself another game you must play.

It looks like if we humans – at work – are not very much concerned about reality? Of course, reality is a very difficult term to use for someone like me who believe in social constructionism (that reality is as we see it, on the basis of how we interact), but each person, social constructionist or not, sees a reality – and that one is not considered very valuable in companies. Some people stick to reality more than others, but we are all prone to escape from it – like when we are playing games… or telling stories.

Storytelling has been a fashion topic (one of the games you could play at work) for some time now. This could indicate that it had its time and soon will disappear but I don’t think so. 99% of what we buy is based on the story it tells – a TV, for instance, cannot have much real value. It exists because “everybody” has one and can tell about how this or that design, one or the other feature, makes them happy in some way or another. The story of the price is worth a novel in itself: it is a separate fairy tale that fascinates people to an extent where they buy things they never knew they needed simply because they are now half price.

Storytelling is also a main driver behind all the games at work. We do SWOT because “everybody knows” that this is something we can do. Or even something that we should do. Just because “everybody is doing it”. The story of SWOT is an abstract one – most people don’t even bother to catch up on it and read it all. Where it comes from and what it was meant for doesn’t matter – now SWOT has become a word in the ongoing story we tell each other about who we are and why we belong together.

Storytelling, like in ancient times when families gathered around the camp fire, tells the history, it tells about values, and it tells about mystical issues for the listeners to keep in mind when they would otherwise believe that now they understand everything.

Maybe the games at work are simply stories we tell by acting – like amateur theatre without a written script. Absurd theatre without a defined purpose but performed because we are humans – or animals. Social animals. Like our children, we just got bigger. And the stories we tell without playing them are the expressions of having a socially based sense of the abstract.

Not too absurd a thought, that “telling” and “playing” are social properties. We just need to be aware that these activities are controlling our lives to a much larger extend than we might have thought of before – even in such a supposedly rational environment as a workplace.

Posted in Lean Thinking, Organizational Maturity, People, Philosophy, Project Management, Systems Thinking | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Value of Methods and Frameworks

Sailor-beached-let-goThere is much discussion nowadays on the value of PMP, PRINCE2, and various other certifications. And for good reasons, as you will experience both being acknowledged, being criticized – and being ignored – after having spent a massive amount of time and energy to get them.

So what should you do? Get the certificate and run? Meaning, stop spending time with your old friends and colleagues who obviously do not understand what is good and instead go out with your new friends from the PMP club.

Or should you run away from certifications and stick to your old friends and your old knowledge? Meaning, doing things like you have always done them, never finding out if there really was some greener grass elsewhere.

 Different values

When you build a house, what values does that give you? Not just one, right? You can stay indoor, escaping from the wind and the rain. They are advantages, truly, bringing value with them. And you can show the house to the world and your friends, showing this way how successful you are or what a good taste you have. Or you can find a great hobby in growing the garden around the house. Values come in bundles.

So do they for knowledge. And certifications are all about knowledge. Knowledge to show off, knowledge to help you do the right things, knowledge to help you understand what you already knew. There are many kinds of value to gain from knowledge.

The certificate itself will help you display your new knowledge (or that you already had the knowledge, as some certifications claim). It will also show to others that you have been able to focus on doing the work needed to get there. It shows strength, commitment and achievement.

The time you spend learning the stuff you want to get certified in, is time spent well. As is all dedicated learning time. You push some barriers inside of your mind, you challenge old dogmas that you have been carrying around until now. And you understand that the world is bigger than you knew before, making you at the same time a bigger and a smaller person – bigger through the added knowledge but smaller in the expanded universe that you now see.

What is bad about certifications?

Knowledge changes you a bit from practical and action minded to thoughtful and considerate. Not a positive value ind the eyes of some who then disrespect you for gathering knowledge. They might feel that you are loosing value by it. Where you before were quick to do the wrong thing, you now become a bit slower to do the right thing. But they don’t know the difference between right and wrong if they didn’t learn what you learned – so they see only the change from quick to slower.

So what is bad is really that the others do not understand that it is good.

“In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king” – well, but only if the blind understand the value of seeing. And how can anyone really understand such an abstract value if they have not somehow felt it themselves? Sometimes they simply understand that seeing is good, even though they do not know what it is. But often, in a certification context, those who do not know what a PMP has learned to become a PMP do not understand that it is good.

The use of the knowledge

What you learn to become certified is often a method or framework. There is usually some kind of practical use for it and you can, if circumstances are right, improve (or at least change) your ways of working in general or in different situations. This might be needed as the world is ever-changing and all the time requiring you to think in new ways.

It has often been mentioned, as a leftover from the time where “we were all craftsmen”, that the apprentice needs a method to stick to when doing tasks. When the method is on the back spine and is always being carried out correctly, the apprentice can now call himself a craftsman. A craftsman can then start experimenting and improvising, gradually leaving the method behind as just a step towards mastery, and some day, when the method has no meaning and everything is done by intuition and being adapted to the situation, he has become a master.

For that reason many people have such a feeling that getting certified in something that is basically a method must mean that you are an apprentice, a beginner, that you are without the experience needed to work as a master of your field. So they look down on certifications as something for beginners, while “real craftsmen do not need to read a book”, as some of my colleagues once told me when I brought a handful of books with me at work.

The code of honour states that those who just do something without preparing, without thinking, are better and stronger – and more honourable – people. A leftover from a time where we were all wild animals acting solely upon our instincts, if you ask me. Modern thinking people should make use of their ability to learn – and keep learning all their life. They should not feel ashamed of learning a method on top of all their experience and intuition – they should feel proud and happy.

When using this new knowledge, of course you will combine it with whatever knowledge and experience you already have. But you must give yourself a chance to learn this new concept fully before starting to adapt it, as there are often several elements of it that need to be considered together. A bit of systemic thinking is needed for an old dog to be able to learn new tricks.

Your choice

So, really – you choose!

You can choose to stick to an oldfashioned stubbornness that requires you to believe that you are already perfect and cannot learn anything new, less get inspired by others.

Or you can choose to keep improving yourself for the sake of personal development and wellbeing as well as of doing your job as good as possible, adapting to an ever-changing world.

What do you choose?

Posted in Change, Learning, Philosophy, Systems Thinking | Tagged , , | 2 Comments