All the New Directions in One Place

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New Directions in Change

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Paul Levy

© 2003

New Direction 1 – Moving Away from Tools Towards Processes

The metaphor ‘tool’ has gained wide currency in industry to describe not just physical artefacts but also managerial and organisational processes. The extent to which the metaphor is an appropriate one to describe such processes is a matter for debate. A physical tool is popularly thought of as something simple such as a hammer or a screwdriver. As a physical artefact a tool may be designed for a very specific use. For example, a screwdriver is not much use for any process other than screwing screws into materials or unscrewing them. A hammer, on the hand has more wider application, it can hammer nails into materials but can also be used to bang wood or metal into a required position, for denting materials and so on. However, its use as a tool is still largely confined to a ‘hitting’ process (depending on its specific design).

Other tools combined, ‘tools within tools’ such as a Swiss army knife, though it may still be referred to as a tool as a whole or it’s many included elements may also be referred to as tools within their own right.

This can create unclarity and confusion. For example one might refer to a Swiss army knife as a useful tool to aid hunting or camping. However, the can opener tool within the knife may be a useless tool for such an expedition if there are no cans involved! Thus the usefulness of a tool depends on its context and, when one wishes to understand accurately a tool’s use, it can be unhelpful to call an artefact, which comprises different tools within its design also, a ‘tool’. We would prefer to call the Swiss army knife a ‘configuration’ or ‘set’ of tools.

Secondly, a tool may be used in different ways in different contexts or by different users. For example, one user may bash a nail into a piece of wood with three short heavy bashes. Another may use a hundred small, careful bashes. Both may be successful, or one may be more successful than the other. The ‘way’ in which a tool is used for a particular result we wish to call a ‘technique’.

In management, the problem arises of confusion because the terms ‘tool’ and ‘technique’ are often used interchangeably without any clear distinction between them. Added to this, an entire organisational approach such as ‘benchmarking’ or ‘process reengineering’ may be referred to as a ‘useful tool’ alongside a very specific ‘tool’ such as cause and effect diagrams or brainstorming. It becomes very difficult to gain a clear picture of change assessment and innovation issues when such terms are used in such indistinct ways.

Further to this, in physical terms, the use of many tools requires a highly developed level of skill in the user. A hammer can be a dangerous thing in the hands of an unskilled user! Not only can an unskilled user of a hammer potentially do damage to the materials being worked upon, he or she can also cause danger to him or herself through accident as well as causing potentially safety problems for colleagues in the vicinity of the process and for final customers of the process, through product failure.

Yet, in the realm of managerial or organisational ‘tools’ this is precisely what occurs on many occasions. Tools and techniques are adopted quickly and the skills required to use them (including change and time management, team working and communication skills) are either assumed as already present but are lacking, or are not considered at all. It may also be that such skills need to be developed or adapted in order to be able to use a particular tool or apply a particular technique.

It is not uncommon to find the phrase ‘tools and techniques’ in books and papers on technology management, quality management and change management. More useful is emerging the concept of processes, where the way a process is enacted can be referred to a ‘technique’. Tool focuses too much on physical manipulation. Technique focuses more on the ‘how’ than the ‘what’.

New Direction 2 – Innovation as Artistic Criticism Using ‘Critiques’/Crits

Crits’ are to be found more in the worlds of art, craft and design but there is much potential to apply them within engineering and applied technology.

One version of a ‘crit’ (critique) involves literally pulling people off the street (voluntarily!), inviting them into the design space and inviting opinions, responses, views of the design of the created artefact be it a new picture, a new design of spoon, or a new technology. This fits well with our technosophic frame as it facilitates the generation of multi-perspectives on the technology. It also supports the view within the field of creative problem solving that naive standpoints can increase process knowledge and generate insights not easily attainable within groups of ‘involved’ people who are too close to the process. Often the naive standpoint is frowned upon by engineers who put so much more value onto local expert knowledge and experience that they attach little or no value to opinions or values outside of their group.

Such behaviour is similar to behaviour exhibited by sects and cult members. Models and behaviours become self-referential in that anomalies and questions arising are only explainable (or, indeed, explained away) by accepted members of the group, or already accepted theories and frames of reference. Thuds, for example, if opinion is only deemed legitimate if the expresser of the opinion has actually worked on the design of the technology, any other opinions – no matter what insights they might bring – are deemed inadmissible and invalid. This is a fallacy of thinking known as ‘poisoning the well’, expressed as ‘What can HE know, he didn’t work on the design of this!’ or, more broadly, ‘why should we listen to THAT, she isn’t even a qualified engineer!’

Crits’ may be designed to involve solely the design team and simply comprised closed meetings where honest, frank and open feedback is encouraged from team members on issues of design. The design team may selectively invite outsiders to the ‘crit’ or may hold an entirely open door policy as described above.

The content of ‘crit-iquing’ may focus on tangible factors such as usability, functionality and safety, or may allow emotional response data to surface such as the extent to which the design allows feelings of happiness or unhappiness, satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

Crits’ which are structured in terms of research analysis and design conform to focus group approaches. Unstructured ‘crits’ are more akin to open brainstorming sessions and creativity meetings. In all cases, the purpose is to generate new angles of understanding of the technology or process, or surfacing data, which can be analysed in order to elicit wisdom.

New Direction 3 – Storytelling and Myth Making

Storytelling as a valid method of research, and fits into the category of participatory inquiry. It links with critical incident analysis. Stories enable respondents to place their experience in a process of time, to draw on metaphors and to reflect on their experience through the process of storytelling itself.

Storytelling may simply involve the recounting of history. The researcher, through a range of possible research methods tries to construct a history of an issue or a question in order to extract meaning or learning from it. It may be that stories are gleaned, via interviews, from respondents: ‘Tell the story of how that problem arose and was solved.’

Capturing data in the form of stories in relation to change assessment and innovation enables researchers to gain insight into the experience of designing or using a technology over a process of time. The process of storytelling (depending on the level of structure imposed by the researcher) allows the one telling the story to feel free to tell it in his or her own preferred style. Issues which are more or less relevant to the researcher will be included and the story can be analysed either inductively or deductively. The researcher may focus the storyteller along a range of dimensions aimed at eliciting specific kinds of data:

  • stories of success or failure

  • stories of pleasure or pain

  • stories where a critical lesson was learned

  • stories which focus on the answering of a question or solving of a technical problem

  • stories in which something expected or unexpected occurred

In all cases the ‘freeness’ of style in storytelling may capture richer data or enable a respondent to feel more at ease than in a formal interview or focus group.

The process may also be cathartic for the storyteller in that the telling of a story, the sharing of it may help to resolve issues or surface feelings which were kept below the surface.

On a broader level, the design, assessment, implementation of a technology or set of processes can in itself be seen as ‘story’ or even part of a larger story of the organisation’s strategic journey. Seeing this as a story enables research to track the evolving ‘plot’, to track past, current and emerging ‘characters to identify themes, and to draw out ‘lessons.’ Even story ‘genres’ can be identified and worked with.

One can work on an even broader level looking at the stories of technologies or processes from their earliest roots, to track their development and draw out learning from the past that can inform present or future decisions. Innovations can arise from this for example, the clockwork radio.

At the micro-level of the firm there is much rich data in an organisation’s hi-story or the history of its sector or industry that can throw light on current problems and challenges.

When an interviewee is asked to tell a story about a particular experience or critical incident in the form of a story, this may be experienced as a ‘freeing up’ of communication. Respondents may be more confident when in story telling mode and this can enable a more comprehensive and richer picture to emerge of the experience for the researcher. The data is, of course, less structured and more difficult to analyse, but a greater depth of analysis can be achieved, particularly in terms of surfacing behavioural patterns, not simply the intellectual opinions of the respondent.

In terms of identifying problems with technology use or design, the behavioural level of analysis is as, if not more, important than the opinions and views of users. There is, of course, the danger that the storyteller may ‘dress up’ the account in an idealised way. However, as with good interview practice, the use of triangulation and checks and balances for bias can be brought into play. Also, collecting a range of stories about a similar issue or problem from a range of different respondents can, if they conflict, be a useful observation in itself. For example, why is it that one operator’s experience of a laser machine contains only negative stories and anecdotes whilst another’s is wholly positive? Is this wholly down to differences in their personal behaviours and attitudes, or might there be factors in the design of the laser or the associate training which could be partly causal?

Link to stories are myths. An organisational myth is built up over time and expressed in the views, feelings, opinions and stories of employees. A myth is essentially an unreality based on the continuation of a shared view of a particular element in an organisation’s behaviours, values or structures and systems. Myths are not easy to dispel and may also be imported into an organisation from outside, often brought influential new employees. Myths often grow up around negative experiences, and current negative experiences which support the myth serve only to strengthen it. Some myths therefore have some basis in truth in that current or recent behaviour serves to confirm them.

Examples of myths include:

Our technologies never perform as well as they should on actual implementation’

All accountants in our organisation have little or no understanding of manufacturing’

Engineers are not interested in team working outside of their own specialised area of work’

This change programme is going to fail like all the previous ones’

Senior managers are only serving their own interests’

Breaking myths involves modelling current and future behaviour on activities and processes, behaviours and values which contradict the myth. They ‘dispel’ the myth. One presenter at the Advanced Research Workshop believed that some myths took at least five years of concerted effort to dispel.

As an aid to change assessment and innovation and planning, it can be a useful technique to identify prevailing myths in the organisation and to ask:

  • how does the technology being assessed, support or help to dispel myths in the organisation, if implemented?

  • what aspects in the design or implementation plan will falter because of prevailing myths?

  • how can the technology be redesigned or how can implementation be changed to confront and dispel prevailing myths?

  • what culture change, training and development is needed to dispel myths BEFORE choice is made or implementation carried out?

  • what myths can we actually use to advantage in implementing this technology?

New Direction 4 – Large Group Interventions

In recent years a new method or approach to change assessment and innovation and management has emerged. This approach includes a range of different techniques under the heading ‘large group intervention methods’.

A large group intervention method is an approach to managing change assessment and innovation that take place around an event usually lasting one or two days, or even longer.

This event, is based on a collaborative approach, and is aimed at arriving at a shared vision of the future, implementing an existing change assessment and innovation programme, solving a problem, designing or redesigning the organisation, thinking about new products and markets, or coming up with a new strategy. Essentially the process is transformational.

Large crude intervention methods include:

Future search and search conferences

Open space conferences

Real time strategic change

Participative design

The conference model

Future search conferences

The main purpose of a future search conference is to create a shared vision of the future and an agreed strategy. It was originally developed by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff. A future search conference lasts for about two or three days and involves more than 50 people.

The underlying principle of a future search conference is this: ‘bringing the whole system into the same room’ in order to find a shared strategy or vision of the future.

There are essentially five stages:

Stage one: a review of the past from several different perspectives

Stage two: mapping the present

Stage three: creating a number of different future scenarios

Stage four: identifying the common ground between all of the stakeholders present at the future search conference

Stage five: developing and agreeing action plans

Three dimensions or themes underpin this process. They involve an examination of past present and future along the time line looking at the individual, organisation or community, and global levels. Participants identify behaviours that they would prefer to leave behind, (‘the sorries’), and also behaviours they would like to take with into the future. This can focus on past, present and future technology choices.

The conference ends with agreed action plans and change assessment and innovation and implementation projects can result from this.

The critical element of a future search conference that is of relevance to managing change and technology is that it rests on the need to involve all major stakeholders. Therefore, the organisation invites, among others, its major customers and suppliers into the same room. Resulting change projects therefore often involve at least three tiers of the technology supply chain including the organisation itself. This approach is growing in use and has been used by organisations in many different industries and of many different sizes.

Open space conferences

Sometimes also referred to as ‘open space technology’, its primary purpose is to create a forum where issues and opportunities can be surfaced discussed and then turned into, real action. Open space conferences were developed originally by Harrison Owen in the United States. They can last for any period of time but tend to run for one to three days. There is no limit to the number of participants!

One of the basic principles of open space is self-management. Participants create their own programme of sessions which are guided by a particular and explicit theme set before the conference. The sessions create an opportunity to: explore issues, find new ways forward, express feelings and concerns, and debate opportunities. The open space conference brings a large group together in order to give their views, share their ideas, and develop practical plans for future co-operative work. This is particularly appropriate to exploring visions for technology development in an organisation and for engaging is strategic level change assessment and innovation. It is technosophic in its reliance on multiple perspectives.

Open Space is particularly suited to situations where there is a lot of complexity and a range of different views. It is also suited to situations where urgent action is needed. The most important factor in an open space conference is that the main issue or theme must be of real and genuine concern to all of those participating.

As with a future search conference, all key stakeholders are invited to attend and participate, though participation is a voluntary.

There are basically five principles or rules of open space:

  • whenever it starts is the right time

  • whoever comes are the right people

  • whatever happens is the only thing that could happen

  • when it’s over, it over

  • the law of two feet, which states that, if you find yourself in a situation which is not fruitful for you, it is your responsibility to go elsewhere where you can either be learning or contributing

This makes for a very spontaneous event, which begins with something called ‘the market place’, where participants are invited to create the conference programme, by offering to lead sessions, discussions, workshops, debate, on the conference theme. In change assessment and innovation, there may be sessions on evaluating specific technology options, on performance measurement and on strategic issues.

Parallel sessions then run, some are well attended, some less well attended, some with no attendance at all, based on whoever turns up!. Technology is available to enable session leaders to make a recorded note of the outcomes of their particular session, which are collect together into the conference proceedings. At the end of the event everyone receives a set of reports from all of the sessions, which usually include ideas for change, possible projects and action plans.

This is a conference which does not seem to have much structure yet which is growing in popularity as a powerful way to create vision and change in organisations. By inviting key stake holders, including customers and suppliers, it is possible to use this conference format as a means of kicking off a change assessment and innovation programme, identifying change ideas, and even designing and beginning change assessment and innovation projects.

Real time strategic change

The main purpose of this large group intervention is of direct relevance to technology and change management, for it involves designing and implementing organisation-wide change which is sustainable. Again a process which lasts for about two or three days, this process was originally developed by Kathie Dannemiller and Robert Jacobs. It involves rigorous analysis of current strategic priorities and agendas. Actions and decisions result.

New Direction 5 – Process Gestures

The following reflections arose as a result of the workshop from discussions following a Research Workshop between participants from the universities of Brighton and Ljubljana. On a first reading they may seem simplistic and abstract. However, further thought, we believe, will lead to some practical insights into change assessment and innovation.

Processes contain within them inherent ‘tendencies’. They are very much like gestures in human beings. Within each process in the world there is a gesture.

Within a seed is the impulse to expand and grow. Within a thermometer lies the potential for the mercury to rise or fall. In a supplier is the inherent impulse to offer goods and services to customers.

Understanding how each gesture works and how it can be managed and improved, is the key to process innovation and to the assessment of technologies and processes.

Here are some of the most commonly identified process gestures:

Gesture 1 – Unfolding

The easiest to recognise example of an unfolding process is the budding of a flower and the transformation of a seed into a plant. That which is enclosed, or hidden within, opens out and becomes visible in the world. A more radical example is a bomb, which explodes. One can literally see the unfolding of the cloud, which rises from the explosion.

Unfolding processes in organisations are processes, which begin in a ‘compact’ way. We talk about ‘unpacking’ a problem. Where there is a release of energy that is inherent within a thing, there we have an unfolding process. The gesture works from within outwards, and is based on expansion.

In process innovation, we look to improve management of the unfolding process in terms of:

– Ensuring quality of the final outcome (a beautiful budding flower);

– Optimising energy use and wastage;

– Ensuring health and safety;

– Ensuring predictability (what we predict the outcome to be IS the outcome.

If the aim of innovation is to improve the quality of the unfolding process then change assessment and innovation needs to focus on assessing technologies which support this inherent gesture.

The unfolding gesture often results in the release of energy, or a process of expansion. Technologies which control this expansion process help to manage the unfolding gesture. Where a process is based on the unfolding gesture, assessment will possibly focus on the ability of the technology to set and manage boundaries around the process to limit the scope, rate, intensity of expansion, or ‘unfolding’.

Gesture 2 – Enclosing

Enclosing processes involve the opposite of unfolding processes and result in something, which is more compacted at the end of the process than at the start, occupying less physical space, increasing in density. In nature the building of a protective nest by a bird is an enclosing process. The formation of an egg is an enclosing process. Often enclosing and unfolding processes occur sequentially and are closely related.

Process innovation for enclosing processes often focuses on:

– Ensuring the output is as lean and compact as possible using only necessary resources;

– Ensuring security;

– Identifying clear external boundaries

Again change assessment and innovation focused on technologies which support enclosing processes needs to ensure such technologies are assessed in terms of their ability to enable materials to be enclosed and compacted. Enclosing processes are often to be found in packing and insertion technologies.

Gesture 3 – Dividing or Separating

A dividing process involves the separation of one or more components of a thing or a system in order to manipulate those parts and, perhaps, make something new out of them. Dividing processes can be found in chemistry and in medicine. An example of a dividing process can be found when we filter water in order to make it drinkable. In this case, we are only interested in the water to drink, not the waste material produced. Also in this case the dividing process must be of a very high standard if the water is to be pure. However, if we are looking for gold in a river, the dividing process will be far less interested in the water and far more interest in the waste material! Also, in this case the dividing process will be the “input” to a further dividing process as we try to separate the gold from the less valuable materials we have found!

Many cutting technologies in manufacturing are concerned with dividing gestures. Change assessment and innovation needs to focus on diving and separating that is flexible and adaptable to different materials, batch sizes and customer design specifications.

Gesture 4 – Uniting

A unifying or uniting process is usually aimed at putting parts together; combining or mixing them in such as way that what results is “greater than the sum of the parts”. For example, a cake is certainly an emergent property from the uniting of a range of ingredients, which, on their own will not be pleasant or easy to eat.

In a factory, an assembly process is a uniting process. Many assembly technologies in manufacturing supports the unifying gesture. Blending and mixing machinery in chemical processing also make use of the unifying gesture.

The quality of this assembly process will largely determine the performance of the emerging product. In a way, a computer represents the unifying process of a range of different parts and sub-processes. If the uniting process is of low quality or inconsistent, the resulting performance of the computer will be poor!

Often the uniting gesture creates what is often called an ’emergent’ property – a situation where something arises from the uniting process, where the whole is greater than some of the parts. Examples include a great tasting cake, even though the separate ingredients do not taste too good on their own! Or a highly effective team, or a stylish computer keyboard. Key success factors for assessment purposes include:

  • consistency

  • quality

  • accuracy

  • ease of assembly

  • flexibility to changing requirements

  • time taken

  • cost effectiveness

  • ability to interface with inspection and control

  • changeover times of tooling

  • energy usage

Gesture 5 – Giving, Offering (and Forcing)

An offering or giving process is best understood in human terms. It takes place where the output of one process is offered as the input to another process. Materials movement technologies, which involve feeding parts or materials are also examples of giving or offering gestures.

Usually an offer or giving process inside an organisation is the response to an asking process. For example, we ask the accounts department to process some figures, which are then offered to us in the form of a report.

A gesture of giving or offering can have different qualities. And things can be given reluctantly or willingly. The wrong thing can be given or offered because the requesting process was not clear.

On a production line that can also see production processes as giving and offering processes. As one process is completed, if the next process is not ready to receive because the giving rate is faster than the receiving rate, then a bottleneck will occur.

Managing offering and giving processes effectively is a crucial part of an organisation’s success. Change assessment and innovation can focus on the extent to which a technology choice supports an organisation’s giving or offering gesture. A forcing gesture may arise where a technology’s design is clumsy. For example, a software package which outputs reams of reports whether a user wants them or not.

Gesture 6 – Receiving, Inviting, Welcoming

Receiving processes also need to be well managed and assessed accordingly. A typical receiving process in a firm is the goods inwards function and materials movement technologies which allow parts or materials to be received as process inputs.

If the organisation is not properly geared up to receive goods and services from its suppliers, then the whole business operation may suffer as a consequence.

Similar processes, which contain the receiving gesture, include inviting, welcoming and taking.

If we want to invite customers to an exhibition of our products, this process should be so organised that we have a higher level of participation and attendance. Similarly, the way we welcome ideas from our employees, or the way we welcome you people into our organisation, depends very much on how effective we managed the ‘receiving’ gesture. Change assessment and innovation focuses on the extent to which a particular technology choice supports receiving gestures.

Gesture 7 – Evolving

Evolving processes are very complex and the gesture is often hard to see.

An example of an evolving process includes the development of new versions of a software package for a computerised manufacturing system. The software evolves with each new release containing new improvements and innovations. Also errors in the software are eradicated and customer feedback ensures that unnecessary or unwanted features are removed. The evolving gesture is based on the removal of the unnecessary, the survival of best practice, and the development of new features. We ensure our evolving process enables us to move forward and to progress.

Change assessment and innovation here focuses on the adaptability of a technology to new generations of technology, to upgrade and improve. Many manufacturing firms have experienced the frustrations of trying to retrofit new technologies to older systems. Intelligently designed technologies contain the seeds of their own evolution. This includes technologies based on modularity and biological development models. Machine intelligence is an example of this.

Gesture 8 – Involving

Processes with an involving gesture include those processes, which attempt to bring in from outside ideas, processes, and materials in order to improve the process. An example would be a problem solving process where specific experts and key stake holders are brought in to provide input to the problem solving process.

Another example is where an intelligent computer database automatically searches the World Wide Web in order to update itself so that it can be more effective in providing decision support for its users. Change assessment and innovation focuses on the potential of technologies to incorporate and involve rather then exclude.

More About Giving or Offering Gestures in Processes

Because business is all about supply and demand, giving and offering gestures are to be found inside many processes, not just externally but also in the ‘internal’ chain of customers and suppliers. So, in this section, we’ll focus on giving or offering gestures.

The gesture of giving or offering can be found in many different business processes. In a way, giving and offering different gestures though they share similarities.

The gesture of giving may have the negative aspect of the receiver feeling that what is given is being ‘pushed’ onto him or her. In manufactured products this might include specific features of the product that the customer doesn’t want.

They are given but not needed or wanted. The gesture of ‘offering’, on the other hand, symbolises a more two-way dialogue. In the offering gesture, the potential receiver of the offer is left, more or less, free to refuse or accept the offer!

Almost all processes in organisations, either internally or externally, contain this giving or offering gesture. The end of a process usually contains this gesture in the form of an ‘input’ to the next process. The process offers up its output as an input to the next process. If the next process is not ready to receive it, then it may be unable to ‘accept’ this offer. If the output is given regardless of whether the next process can receive it, a problem may occur in the form of a ‘bottleneck’.

The giving gesture should be conscious. If I simply give an order to someone regardless of their willingness, ability or capacity to accept it, I am not giving but ‘pushing’ or even ‘forcing’. I may later discover that, if my giving is an input to another process, then that process may fail or not perform as well as it could. If I complete a book keeping process and then give the results to an accountant by simply leaving them in her in-tray while she isn’t looking with a note to get them processed by the end of the day, I should not be surprised if they are rejected or delayed. A more appropriate gesture would be an offering process – “Will you be able to complete these by the end of the day?” So, for giving processes to be successfully completed, they need to be designed and planned with the receiving process in mind.

Technological innovation is often focused on improving the type and quality of giving and offering processes, particularly towards ensuring that the gestures focus on the needs of the receiver (the customer) and contains awareness of factors such as:

– Appropriateness to the receiver

– Capacity to receive

– Willingness to receive

– Capability to receive

A well-known technique for mapping giving and receiving processes is flowcharting. Flowcharts are therefore a useful tool for change assessors.

Receiving, Inviting, Welcoming, Taking Gestures

There is a wide range of processes and gestures associated with receiving.

The receiving gesture can be found often in the form of the ‘input’ to a process of an output that has been received from another process. For example, the goods-inwards department of a factory is concerned with receiving parts and materials from processes ‘given’ by a supplier. A complaints handling process receives complaints from customers. Another example can be found at the end of a training process where the trainer gives out a feedback sheet and invites feedback from participants (which may be positive or negative).

Receiving process gestures often come about in different ways in response or reaction to giving or offering gestures.

“May I have the pleasure of this next dance?”

“I’d be delighted!”

“Are you ready for the next batch of deburred parts?”

“Yes send it around now.”

“Increase the voltage by 50%.”

“If you do that, the machine will blow. It can’t take that much.”

Reception depends on the combination of giving and receiving gestures:

– The openness to receive what is being given

– The capacity to receive

– The capability of the process to receive

– In human terms, the willingness or openness to receive

To manage processes effectively, there needs to be a balance between the gestures or giving and receiving. When the impulse to give is greater than to receive, the giving gesture is transformed into one of ‘forcing’ or pushing’. Depending on the process this can lead to:

– Overload

– Rejection

– Breakdown

– Stress

– Demotivation

– Conflict

– A bottleneck

Where the impulse to receive is greater than the impulse or ability to give, the result can be:

– Taking or stealing

– Frustration

– Delay

– Stress and pressure

– Conflict

A technosophic approach to change assessment and innovation in manufacturing pays close attention to what is inherent in processes, attempting to ensure that the inherent tendencies or ‘gestures’ are appropriate to strategic manufacturing goals and priorities.

The Inviting gesture is related to the giving gesture and is also similar to the offering gesture. In some ways the inviting gesture is a counterpart of the offering gesture. It tends to occur mainly in the human process such as management processes.

Like the offering gesture, the inviting gesture allows a choice in the object of the invitation. It follows the rules of “if… then…”What do I mean by that. Let’s take an example:

“Would you like to come to my party?”

If the answer is yes, then buy extra food.

If the answer is no, then do not buy extra food.

The invitation is made and, depending on the action of the object of the invitation, the resulting process is different. There is always a possibility to accept the invitation which the results in the process continuing in the direction of the invitation. Or there may be a negative response, which may hinder the continuation of the process or may call for a different process.

Examples of invitation process:

– An invitation to tender for a contract is a very obvious example.

– An invitation for a manager to attend a meeting in order to provide input.

In this example, there is strong similarity between the offering and the invitation gestures. The essential difference lies in the position of the parties. With the offering gesture the offerer uses to process to output something as an input to another process. With the invitation gesture there is an invitation to provide input into a process. In the first case the gesture is someone with a hand outstretched towards another pushing outwards away from that person seeking contact. In the second case, a person stretches out a hand pulling another towards them based on a requirement to make contact or provide input.

A machine may show a green light to show it is ready for use. Inherent is an invitation to potential users to make use of it. If, after five minutes the invitation is not accepted, in order to be energy efficient, the machine may switch itself off. It may even warn potential users that, if the invitation to use is not accepted, the machine will switch off! “Shutting down in 30 seconds, 29, 28…”

Another example of an invitation gesture in a process is the warning messages at airports: “Boarding shortly” and “last call”. There is a strong invitation to go to the departure gate or to miss the flight! Do you accept the invitation? This can cause confusion. If the plane is about to depart it may be more appropriate to create a process with a strong giving or even forcing gesture. “Passengers not at the gate at least twenty minutes before departure will not be allowed to board the aircraft. The time now is…” If the process contains an invitation gesture it may cause confusion and anger. “Passengers are invited to board the aircraft now…”It signifies a real choice without really allowing a consciousness that the choice is quite stark – be there or miss the plane!”

The important point is that a particular process in a particular situation will perform best if it is designed around the appropriate inherent gesture. If we force when we should invite, the customer may go elsewhere. If a process tends to unfold when it should actually enclose, there may be quality problems. Process innovation therefore involves:

1. Identifying the current gesture (or gestures in a process) and

2. Redesigning the process with a more appropriate gesture in mind.

A Concluding View of Process Gestures

A view of processes as systems can often be found in books about process innovation. A process is essentially an activity, which transforms inputs into outputs. Collections of these activities are systems One can view all of the activities required to make a cup of tea as a system for making tea. Within that system are various processes (heat water, brew tea, pour tea), which require inputs of various types of material, energy, expertise etc. in order to output various things (boil kettle, cup of hot water) to serve as inputs to the next activity. One can divide the system into sub systems (the sub system of actually brewing the tea in the pot), and one can break processes down into sub processes to a very minute level of detail (lift cup with left hand). Within each sub-process is a ‘gesture’.

Mapping a system in terms of its various processes is a basic tool used to understand and identify areas for innovation in processes, and is a key aid to change assessment and innovation which is focused on a technosophic view.

However, this approach works only at a superficial level. It is based on what philosophy calls a reductionist view. We try to break things down, to reduce them into ever-smaller parts in order to understand them. In doing this, we often lose their essential nature. Reductionists would, of course, disagree. They would say that it is only by reducing things down to their basic parts that we can get to the essential nature. In my view, what we lose is an awareness of the process gesture. A process contains inherent potential, something hidden which, when enabled, expresses itself in the physical world. Like the bottle in Alice in Wonderland with the label on it: “Drink me.”

Inherent in a seed are the gestures of unfolding and growing. Inherent in a laser cutting machine are gestures offering to cut materials, and of expanding high levels of energy, and of focusing that energy on a particular point or plane.

Take a look out of the window. When a bird flies across the sky, it is possible to focus purely on the bird – a mass of wings, beak, feathers, eyes etc. Or we can try to “think the bird away” and focus on the process of flight. Soon we come to see the relationship between the design of the bird and its processes of flight. A tiny bird with tiny wings has to flap its wings quickly to remain air born. A seagull or an eagle can glide upon the wind and gain height with a few powerful flaps. That which lies within a process, unseen on the surface, is as important as that which lies on the surface. Change assessment and innovation needs to dig deeper!

Developing an ability to see the processes behind things is an important ability for process innovators and change assessors. Often a problem with a machine, or a person’s behaviour is just an outward symptom of a deeper cause, which requires a change in the process. This process may be hidden from immediate external view:

– A person’s erratic behaviour due to a problem with chemical processes in the brain.

– A car has problems breaking, not because of a problem with the breaks but an inherent design flaw in the tyre design.

In nature the gestures are inherent to natural laws as we saw in units 2,3 and 4. In human created things such as machines the gestures originate in the hearts and minds of the designers and engineers. If the gesture doesn’t match the expectation or need of the user of a process, there will be problems with the process.

New Direction 6 – Involutionary Innovation

The difficulty of grasping a technological process in order to assess and innovate it.

‘Process’ is a difficult process to grasp because we can look at processes on many different levels of complexity. We can look at the process of two different atoms combining together to form a molecule (Hydrogen and Oxygen make water!) That is simple enough! But what of the process of a spring becoming a stream feeding a river into an ocean? Or the process of global economic development? We use that one word ‘process’ to describe so many different things.

So, the first question is – what is involved in the process?

The second question is – what is excluded from the process?

The third question has two aspects to it and it is this – what currently, which is involved in the process, needs to be excluded and what, is currently excluded needs to be included?

So, there are things that we can bring into a process that might innovate it:

– More or a different kind of energy

– Different or more materials, knowledge or skill

And so on. Or we might identify materials, parts, knowledge etc that we have to exclude or reduce.

So, looked at in this way, process innovation is a cycle of involution and evolution where involution involves bringing things into a process and evolution involves casting things away from a process. Equally, change assessment and innovation methods should be concerned with these involutionary and evolutionary elements.

Aspects of an evolutionary approach are based on the importing of elements into a process combined with the casting off of elements in order to improve the process. The involutionary approach includes within it this evolutionary approach but is also concerned with what happens to what is ‘cast off’. For example if a process produces a certain type of pollution – where does that pollution go? What is involved in the production of that pollution? Another example might involve the casting off of labour as a process is designed to be carried out by less people. What happens to those people? What is lost in terms of their inherent knowledge and skill, their innovation potential?

The evolutionary focus is on the process itself, and the perfection of it. Only those elements in a process, which serve its evolving perfection, are relevant – there is a natural selection of elements, which serve this journey towards process perfection. The involutionary approach is concerned also with the environment around the evolving process – what is involved in this? This widens the view and often yields insight about the context for the process.

Are the two approaches exclusive? No! Effective process innovation takes first an evolutionary view. For example, a brainstorm exercise. The involutionary approach then seeks to ensure we gather in all of the crazy and less popular ideas and ensure we learn from them. This could form the basis of a new approach to change assessment and innovation.

Here’s a summary of the two views of processes in organizations.

An Evolutionary Perspective

An evolutionary perspective on the world is based on the casting off of the unnecessary. When a spear maker makes a spear out of wood, from the evolutionary viewpoint, wood shaving is “cast off” as the spear is perfected to a sharp point. In order to sharpen the spear to a perfect shape and point, it is inevitably necessary that some parts of the wood will be left out and only what is required survives as part of the final spear. So, a pile of discarded wood shavings lies, unneeded on the floor.

An Involutionary Perspective

Before even testing out the final spear, the spear maker utters a blessing of thanks to the wood shavings for making the perfect spear possible. It is because of their “involvement” in allowing the spear to be perfected, that the spear can throw true to its target. The wood shavings are carefully gathered up and perhaps used for another purpose. This is the involutionary perspective.

In an increasingly complex world I suggest that we need to take an involutionary view of processes. Of course, the gaze on the tip of the nose is important for focusing on objectives and the broad and shallow sweep keeps us in touch with changes in the world on a broad level. However, switching the gazes regularly, trying to “involve” ALL sources of data, all relevant ideas, is a necessary approach to being successful today, and in the future.

Involutionary Process Thinking

We posed the question: What is a symphony? Is it the musical notes on the page? Is it the orchestra that played it or the conductor who conducted them? Is it the composer who composed it or the audience that listened to it? In order to understand things, we necessarily put boundaries around them. However there is a danger that we lose the whole picture.

Here’s another example: It is hard to understand the process of growth within a flower if we do not also understand the relationship between the flower and its roots, the roots with earth and water, the budding process in relation to sun and air.

Involutionary process thinking asks the question: What is involved in this process? By doing this we often gain a broader view of the process and also become aware, not just of the surface symptoms but also the root causes.

For example: The weather pattern in one part of the world might be the result of volcanic activity in a different part of the world.

The problem of a poor crop on a farm might be connected to local river pollution or even acid rain caused by pollution in a country that is far away.

The success of a team building process might be related, not just to the process itself but to the preparation processes preceding it.

What is involved in a process? That’s the question!

If you pick a flower out of the soil and hold it up in front of you, it still looks like a flower. You might even call it a flower. But without being able to root in the earth and draw water, without the connection with nature, it will soon wilt and die. It will only remain as a flower if a whole range of processes is active in it. By picking it, those processes are halted and the flower will not remain a flower for long!

If we want to innovate a process, the involutionary approach invites us to think of all of the sub processes within a process, all of the processes feeding into it or outputting from it, all of the bigger processes of which our process is just a sub process. We look for cause and effect relationships between these various processes.

If we ignore any of these processes, our innovation may only be partial.

The Involutionary Brainstorm

Involutionary brainstorming is a new technique for change assessors which tries to focus on avoiding the rejection of even the most, apparently, crazy ideas, when considering a technological innovation.

Here’s the process.

1. Agree the topic to be brainstormed.

2. Brainstorming takes place following the usual ground rules for brainstorming (non judgmental, all ideas valid, one at a time).

3. Ideas are then grouped and prioritized through voting.

4. The top ideas are then identified and put to one side.

5. Bottom ideas are then explored and attempts made to justify them.

6.Top ideas are then revisited and possible reprioritizing is carried out.

7. Learning points are extracted from rejected ideas.

The basic idea behind this technique is that the most popular ideas in a brainstorm are not necessarily the best ones in terms of innovation. Voting is an evolutionary process. We exclude ideas and only the “fittest” survive. But are they really the fittest? Often innovation arises from ideas that were once thought to be crazy. By focusing on ideas at the bottom of the list, we are looking for potential innovations which popular vote has failed to see or give proper time to. Also, we ignore rejected ideas at our peril. These ideas came from individuals who may well be committed to them. Managing the “exit” of these ideas from the process is a critical aspect. The main way of doing this is to acknowledge these ideas and to draw learning and insight from them.

Also, many of the rejected ideas may have been rejected because they are seen to be too radical or ‘crazy’. Yet it may well be these very ideas, which, on deeper examination, contain the seeds of future innovation.

As already mentioned, involution doesn’t exclude evolution! It is necessary to make hard choices about processes. Business is about competition and survival. However, evolution ensures that we involve where we can and that we do not lose awareness of the consequences of making choices where things are rejected, or people are ‘cast off’. We are concerned with what happens to them, with managing the ‘exits’, and with retaining involvement wherever possible.

Our decisions about what changes to make to the design or delivery of a process may be affected and even changed by our awareness of the consequences of the change. These might be:

Consequences of making the change for processes ‘further down the line’, or ‘upstream’.

Consequences of making the change for key stakeholders.

Consequences of making the change for resource decisions (eg the opportunity cost of making the change.

By being aware of the consequences of different actions we can ensure that evolution takes place within an involutionary frame. How do we do this?

– we try to maximize involvement of people by being aware of the negative of damaging consequences of excluding them (or the ideas they have to offer).

– we try to capture learning from choices which involve ‘letting go’ of ideas, people, resources etc.

– we try to minimize waste products and we reuse wherever we can – again, people, things or ideas and knowledge.

New Direction 7 – Childlike Perspectives on Innovation

Different perspectives on processes

As children we are innocent and open to the world. Sigmund Freud once said: “What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant genius of a child and the feeble mentality of the average adult”. The naive standpoint of a child is something we lose as we grow up. Children ask the question ‘why’ a lot. As we grow up we tend to ask ‘what’ and ‘how’. In process innovation the childish standpoint is something we would do well to recapture. Asking ‘why’ helps to get to the root cause of things.

Children also delight in the world. Things are new to them. They delight in novelty. Innovation fascinates them. This fascination creates a heightened sensitivity to newness and openness to it. As we get older, particularly in the West we tend to grow cautious and cynical. This is like putting on blinkers to newness. Innovation is all about newness!

One way of training ourselves to be more open to newness and innovation is to recapture the child in us.

Pursuing novelty as long as it doesn’t become an obsession can have a positive knock on effect at work. It opens us up to innovation and new ideas, we welcome them, seek them out. We rediscover the child in us!

Another feature of children is the ability to use their imagination. Albert Einstein, when asked by a young mother what advice he had for her in trying to help her child develop his mathematical abilities to perhaps become another Einstein, said: “Tell him stories”. Children love to use their imaginations and love it when parents make up stories to tell them at bedtime. As we grow older and develop our intellectual faculties, many of us tend to lose our capacity for the kind of imagination we had as children. Yet, as Einstein also said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Imagination helps us create visions and pictures of the future. The fantasies of today become often the innovations of tomorrow. If we are only concerned with thoughts, with facts, we will not be innovative. Innovating processes requires us to exercise our imagination to create, in our mind’s eye, a kind of Punch and Judy show where we can play out different scenarios, stories and possibilities. Though this may seem absurd to some, several participants pointed to the need for a ‘child’s’ view of manufacturing technologies at the assessment stage.

New Direction 8 – The Holographic Structure

A holographic structure is based upon an organisational form which recognises the diversity of each individual member, yet is co-ordinated through a shared set of beliefs. Diversity – taken to its ultimate extreme – has a basic unit of analysis of one: one person. In the truly diversity-based organisation, the needs of each individual are reflected in the organisation’s mission, values and purposes. Of course, this is probably impossible to achieve. However, it does serve as a useful principle on which to work.

Back in the 1920s the Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, said:

“The healthy social life is found when, in the mirror of each human soul, the community finds its reflection and when, in the community, the virtue of each individual is living”.

In a diversity-led organisation, an attempt is made to forge a strong link, or build a bridge between individual needs and organisational goals. Employee involvement can support diversity if it attempts to make best use out of those parts of each individual’s personality, goals, skills and abilities which align to those of the organisation, and, in parallel, to ensure that the organisation’s goals, processes and structure, align to the individual’s aspirations, values and abilities.

Some technologies which allow an operator to express themselves creatively as an individual support this holographic culture. For example, computer aided design and web design technology has potential here. However, some manufacturing technologies prescribe behaviour forcing operators to behave in ways which do not optimise the contribution they could potentially make to their organisation.

New Direction 9 – Emotional Intelligence in Innovation Design

Intellect Driven Design – the dominance of thinking.

The picture consciousness of machine design tends to be driven by the metaphor of machine as mechanised system. Other metaphors have more recently come into play, particularly in terms of the biological metaphor and the idea of cellular development of systems, as well as evolution. However such metaphors still are usually dominated by a meta-metaphor of mechanics as the sole underlying universal principle.

Where thinking as an activity underpins the design process, technologies arise which tend to be logically constructed. The principle of linear flow comes in to play based upon a clear cause-effect relationship between processes and sub-processes and intended process outputs. As processes become more complex, in turn they may become more complexly understood in terms of decision trees allowing process flexibility to increase. For example, the ability of a machine to change tool automatically at a given process stage.

Rational design tends to form the basis of thinking-driven machine design. This tends to lead to an emphasis on visible data collection inherent in the process where cause-effect impacts can be objectively monitored in and post-process. Performance measurement in terms of critical data points allows for statistical process control. Inherent in the design are core concepts, which can be derived through repeated observation and experimentation from the machine design. One can identify certain rational principles at work. One can ‘derive’, through logical extrapolation, the thinking process inherent in the design. Where thinking is clear and applied, accuracy is an emergent property in the process. For example, certain principles of physics, particularly in terms of electricity and heat processes can be derived from analysis of the design of a rationally constructed laser cutter. One can literally derive the laws of nature at work in the machinery. A basic principle emerges in rationally thought-out technology design: the laws applied can be later rationally derived.

The weakness of thinking driven design, which has a one-sided tendency towards rationalism and logic, is the design of machines which are unable to cope with complex change and environmental factors exhibiting chaotic properties. Recently developments in inductive machine learning attempt to correct this at the process interface through rational in process learning combined with use of basic artificial intelligence.

By thinking, a simplistic definition is here used. Thinking refers to rational thought processes based on logical interpretation and design. Cause and effect is applied to process design and mechanical construction. Designs are based upon rational imaginations or ‘diagrams’, which form blueprints for machine construction. Design parameters are set by applying thought-out principles of physics and mechanics to physical technology construction. Software is designed in a similar way. Imagination relates to the projection of general principles into space and time-specific materials and parts to construct mechanical forms, which act in predictable ways according to the laws of cause and effect, aimed at realising pre-defined extrinsic goals.

Where human thinking is unable to cope with the complexity of a design element, the use of existing data, knowledge bases and technologies are used to aid design and construction. These comprise databases of previous thinking and applied thought.

Flexible manufacturing technology is based on thinking which contains imagination which is future as well as present and past focused. Poorly designed technology will apply to only present and past-based thinking. Cause and effect is related to ceteris paribus assumptions, where it is assumed that what is currently now will continue largely unchanged into the future. In metaphorical terms we build our house of straw because weather conditions have always tended towards calmness with little or no wind. Where imagination is allowed to be more flexible our thinking is allowed to follow the principles of the cause and effect decision tree. We apply risk and probability analysis. We analyse trends and our thinking becomes an imagination of the technology in operation under different scenarios. This can be termed ‘what if?’ thinking. It involves an activity of creating maps and models of possible futures, potential cause and effect ‘pathways’. It then becomes possible for thinking to inform a more flexible design which allows machines to become adaptive to changes in the emerging future.

Flexible technology has tended to be based on this kind of imagination-based thinking. It requires trend analysis on extrapolation of trend data into applied design. For example, machines which can deal with different batch sizes or can adapt to declining part sizes have emerged in electronics manufacturing.

One of the problems of intellect driven design occurs at the human-to-machine interface. The majority of machines require some for operation. Designers tend to look for predictable behaviours in operators and design accordingly. Ergonomics makes rational assumptions about human physiology, as well as physical movement. Machines are often designed to interface with the human body. Where integration is high, the machine can become a prosthesis to a particular human limb or limb system (or vice versa!). At even higher levels of integration there arises the concept of the ‘cyborg’ with the operator become part of the machine (or vice versa!). Futurologist predict that it will only be a matter of time before technology extends the cyborg concept beyond the limb system into the physical senses (already the case with vision, touch and smell) and even to the human brain itself. Here a kind of circular process occurs (some might call it a nightmare scenario) where rational thinking leads to design of machines which can interface with the very process of thinking itself. The optimists would see this as a means of enhancing rational thinking processes and making them more efficient. The pessimists would see it as an ultimate subjugation of human creativity to the mind of the machine. The practical problem that arises concerns the elements of human behaviour which cannot easily be rationally interpreted or predicted. These include emotional factors such as motivation, and even less tangible elements such as ‘mood’, ‘aptitude’ and ‘creativity’. Humans do not behave predictably all of the time and, as processes become more complex, behaviour becomes even harder to predict in circumstances requiring processes such as creative problem solving, innovation management, team working, inter-functional communication, experimentation, failure mode effects analysis, and so on.

Passion Driven Design – the dominance of feeling

The concept of emotional intelligence has been popularised by Daniel Golman. Perhaps less well known is the concept of ‘seeing with the heart’ as described by the Austrian Philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

Seeing with the heart, on a metaphorical elve, can be described as the ability of a designer to gain a subjective feeling of a technology in implementation based on an exploration of personal emotional response to a visioning or ‘imagination’ of the technology in implementation. Put simply, “How would I (the designer) feel if I were using this machine myself?” Awareness of feelings arising from such imagination can increase the level of understanding of certain parameters in the design from the point of view of the user. Such feelings might comprise positive or negative responses. Such increased awareness may also create a sense of sympathy with potential operators leading to confirmation that the design is favourable or, conversely, that it is in of redesign.

One water-jet manufacturer in Germany invited children to input ideas into the design process, particularly in terms of the appearance of the machine. The assumption that the innocence of the child is more free of the baggage of ‘rationality’ underlies the importance of imagination more informed by feeling or will than thinking alone.

Emotional Response Analysis

Emotional Response Analysis, as mentioned earlier, is a phrase we have coined to describe the data generated by analysing the feelings and reactions of key stakeholders in a technological process. These stakeholders include:

  • operators

  • designers

  • planners

  • capital investors

  • suppliers

  • customers

  • managers

The use of a variety of research methods in order to collect perceptual data yields knowledge and experience of the technological process enabling further innovation, either of the process itself or of new or current other processes. Such methods traditionally have included:

  • user surveys

  • direct and participant observation

  • focus groups

  • face to face interviews

  • improvement teams

Ronnie Lessem, in his book Total Quality Learning presents a threefold model of the human being, drawn from established psychological models. The three levels are – cognitive, affective and behavioural. The cognitive level is the level of intellect and surface perception, suited to the most established modes of scientific observation and materialistic science. The behavioural or active level focuses on human action, the achievement of tasks and, in psychological terms is also the realm of motives for action, the most hidden or least conscious level in the human being, sometimes referred to as the ‘will’ level. Innovation requires an awareness of all three levels, not just intellect.

New Direction 10 – The Collusion of Mediocrity

The Collusion of Mediocrity

“I’ll praise you if you don’t challenge me”.

“Stability is all-important, even at the expense of innovation and change”.

The collusion in detail

Colluding with the fabrication of a false threshold. The threshold is set at a place behind the genuine threshold of transformation.

The collusion is almost always kicking in.

For a collusion to be broken it must first be named.

The collusion seeks calm waters, and seeks, either consciously or unconsciously, to create safety and security through non-challenge and superficial tolerance. The result: mediocrity

The collusion often wears the mask of its opposite eg transformation.

Praises the almost-risk over the real risk taken.

Processes for breaking collusion of mediocrity

Deepening Honesty

Building engagement

Creating and nurturing trust

Encouraging and modelling risk-taking

Boundary questioning and challenging

Linking the personal and the organisational

Exploring the shadow-side

Exploding myths and questioning norms

Speaking from the heart

Banishing ghosts

Expressing and demonstrating genuine human respect

 


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