A Tough Nut to Crack
A week or so ago I found a link to an article entitled "7 Reasons you shouldn't touch systems thinking" on the thinkpurpose blog. The link was posted by Bob Marshall (@flowchainsensei) on Twitter, and I tweeted back to him that I found the item "profoundly disturbing". His response was "Excellent! Care to elaborate?", to which I answered that I couldn't put my reasons into a 140 character tweet and might end up writing my own blog post about it.
The 140 character constraint of Twitter was only a partial reason for not responding to Bob's question. The main problem was that I couldn't actually articulate my reasons properly - I just knew that I was troubled by the post. I've had a bit of time to think about things now so here's my response...
Whilst the article was published under a Systems Thinking moniker I think the first line of the text really sets the context:
"Here's seven things you'll have to put up with if you start getting curious and learning."
It then goes on to list the seven reasons - all of which pretty much lead to the same conclusion. If you do start getting curious and learning there's a very good chance that in many organisations you'll just end up being frustrated, impotent and generally unhappy. But that's the price you'll have to pay for your efforts.
So. Is it worth it? Having spent most of the last twenty years getting curious and learning, I have been thwarted by many managers and colleagues (regardless of what position I've held in the organisation). I've dared to say and try things that aren't part of received wisdom and unsurprisingly have usually met with brick walls and head on collisions. Even when I've had a sympathetic ear, the discussion has often ended with something like "Of course, you're probably right, but that's not how we do things around here". And there's the rub! The system isn't generally geared up to cater to different ways of thinking, and most people don't want to listen to stuff they don't want to understand.
It's not just about Systems Thinking, it's about any paradigm that isn't already compromised by misinterpretation (wilful or otherwise) or distorted for 'political' purposes. This includes the current buzz regarding Lean and Agile in particular.
We (myself and others like me) end up playing games - chipping away at the surface of resistance in the forlorn hope that one day we might make a breakthrough. Make a difference.
And this is really why I found the article so disturbing - because it struck a chord inside me that suggested that all attempts to change the current status quo will ultimately fail, which made me question my whole 'raison d'être' for a few moments.
But what the heck - at the end of the day, human nature is a tough nut to crack. But that doesn't mean you should give up trying.