System of System Lenses – Five lenses to help bring clarity to systems conversations.

Any discussion of complex issues requires moving beyond the assumption that we are all talking about the same issue at hand and into pristine clarity about what the system up for conversation really is. In my years consulting with organizations and in teaching in the Master of Arts in Leadership at Royal Roads University, I have observed that system conversations can generally sort into five categories:

  • Ideology and Beliefs Lens – The sum total of the beliefs, assumptions, mental models, values and shared meaning underpinning a situation;
  • Rational and Irrational Decision Making Lens – The rational and irrational ways we obtain, information, apply reasoning and make decisions;
  • Interpersonal and Social Dynamics Lens – The patterns, habits, personal and interpersonal relationships among individuals and groups all make up this lens;
  • Process and Value Creation Lens– Any time we are seeing someone or something moving through a process in such a way as to be affected by the process, we are looking through this lens; and
  • ContexLens Elements of a scenario that are external to it, but that give rise to it or otherwise apply pressure on it such that is experienced in a certain way (yes this is paradoxical but it helps form a boundary).
So give it a try. When you are discussing a complex scenario, get clear about which lens you are looking through. See what new possibilities open up for you and for others. Post to let us know what you see and what your experiences are.

The Journey into Future Search with YRP

In September of 2011 I managed to complete the Future Search methodology training offered by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff. The whole-system planning model is awesome and at the same time, a bit daunting. As I tend to do with the first delivery of a new program, method or service, I give the first one away free. Thankfully, a colleague has agreed to join me and together we will facilitate a project with York Region Police (YRP). The topic will be focusing on developing a region-wide integrated mental health crisis response team for youth 18 and under. WOW.

I am mentioning this project and the client specifically because there is something very unique and special about (YRP) from where I sit. These folks really do go first and I have seen it several times now. They model the way in terms of the openness, enthusiasm and virtuous approach to getting things done. I love that about values-based para-military structures. There are some very forward thinking people there who are seeking to develop the leadership capacity of the entire organization and its network though a focus on service and doing the right thing. I enjoy working with them They are professional, forthright and open to learning.

Looking forward to sharing more as the project moves along. Planning begins newt week in the GTA. Delivery will be the week of April 22nd 2012.


Why now?

Here we go. Like anyone starting a blog it seems there is some underlying tension (good or bad) or other impetus for wanting to put something out to the world. Mine are several fold:

  1. Personally speaking, for years now, I have been rather shocked at how hard-working consultants, trainers and facilitators tend to be treated by clients and participants alike. Sometimes absolutely fantastic, and other times not so much. Trite statements like “you can always say no” or “set boundaries with your clients” minimize the inherent risk associated with living into your values. If I did that, believe me, I would be out of work more often than not. Many times we need to set higher-order values and, frankly, get over our selves in order to get the job done. Having said this, the merits in setting clear boundaries on major engagements cannot be understated. Many times I have thanked clients and participants alike for the amazing support, professionalism, humanity and openness they bring to our engagements. I’ll share some of those, too.
  2. I’ve got something to say and some may find my insights helpful and, hopefully, amusing at some level. Others will not be interested at all and perhaps offended. That’s OK if people create that feeling for themselves. I read lots, I study, teach, and create my own thoughts. I will share them here.
  3. I want social media proponents to understand that I decide how, when and from where I use and otherwise engage in social media use. Sure it will have consequences if I do X or Y and I am responsible for that. Please do not tell me how I should or should not use my social media connections and that I am missing something if I don’t tweet this or check-in here or there on foursquare, or post to facebook. Frankly, in my professional work it is of very little use and a massive time sucker with little monetization or conversion compared to the other activities I do. So, social media, you are not my priority. You are my whim. I have done my homework and I know how social media is generally used, or not, as the case may be, in my client worlds so I choose how I engage in that. The assertions made by many strategists in the field are, to me, off-putting. If my opinions and experiences about this change, then so will my practices. For now, this is the way that I see it.
  4. Lastly, sometimes I want dialogue from people I don’t know. If that happens to be you, great – I appreciate the time you are spending here. If you find something I write useful, please pass it on to others who might offer an insight as well.

Stay tuned. Why do I have the feeling I am about to get myself into some serious trouble?