How do you take a group of separate companies and/or individuals all with different backgrounds and skills and get them to contribute towards a project? How can they have a unifying vision and plan to work on together?
Together we stand
It’s hard to get any group of people to agree on something even when it’s in their own interest. Anyone who’s been to a condominium meeting knows what that means. Even reasonable people in such situations can develop violent tendencies they didn’t even know they had.
We are living in an age of unprecedented complexity with an increasing need for disparate groups to interdepend towards a common goal. Globalization is one reason for this. The European Union is an example of disparate groups interdepending towards a common goal of peace and prosperity after the devastation of World War II. Sadly, the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis includes increasing pressure on the EU vision as the Brexit Referendum has clearly demonstrated.
We can’t claim to have a recipe for international peace but when it comes to creating a unifying vision and plan for smaller realities, such as within an organization or a group of organizations forming a network of value, there is a tried and tested method and we’ve seen it work in many different scenarios over the years.
Crafting the future
When disparate companies or individuals come together to work on something like different parts of a big puzzle they start out by being ‘stuck’. There is some kind of blockage because nobody has the knowledge of how to move forward. What is needed is some “cognitive plumbing” to unblock and create flow.
How do we do that? We can follow a very concrete methodological and cognitive path. It starts with gathering all the elements of the puzzle – we can call them the symptoms of what’s not working, or whatever is causing confusion/chaos. Then, we can use that raw material to extract a precise and clear picture of the current state of blockage and what, instead, we actually want to achieve. We can then derive a realistic goal based on the two main drivers of any human conflict: the need for control and the need for growth/vision.
This process is called a ‘Core Conflict Cloud’ in the Theory of Constraints and a key part of the process is to surface all the underlying assumptions/mental models underlying the conflict. Carefully verbalizing those assumptions is what allows us to move forward and generate a set of breakthrough solutions (called Injections). These solutions then need to be connected meticulously with a logic of sufficiency in a map towards the identified goal. This is called a Future Reality Tree. This magnificent construction is a ‘pie in the sky’ but it provides a robust helicopter view of what is needed to transition from current reality towards the goal. Each part of the overall solution then has to be broken down into elements that gradually become small enough to be scheduled into a project, or network of projects depending on the complexity of the situation.
Beyond the parts to something greater
It’s important to understand that the best result comes not from simply attaching different pieces (skills, know-how, technologies etc.) together like lego but designing, creating and scheduling the right interdependencies among those pieces. That’s what an understanding of complexity allows you to work towards. In this way, the end result is something far greater than the simple sum of the parts.
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About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is the author of the business novel+ website The Human Constraint. This downloadable novel uses narrative to look at how the Deming approach and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation. Angela is partner and co-founder of Intelligent Management and co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore, founder, and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York.