In Part 2 we look at how cause-and-effect reasoning and acknowledging our ‘cognitive constraints’ are crucial in understanding why, when, what and how to change.
Dr. W. Edwards Deming used to warn about the consequences (cause and effect) of seemingly simple actions: “if we kick a dog in the street, we are responsible for the attack that, probably out of fear, the dog will take against the next passerby”.
The ability to reason cause-and-effect is foundational for any meaningful change we
decide to bring to our life. It allows us to think more systemically. This is even more so if the change we want to effect concerns a complex entity like a company. A company, like any system, has a constraint, i.e. something that dictates the pace at which it is able to produce throughput. This constraint can be physical, like a machine, or non-physical.
Non-physical constraints are all of those limitations that are created by our mind as a result of past experiences. Some of these constraints are very helpful and make our life possible; restraints can play an extremely important part in our lives just as much as the possibility to lift them when appropriate. These limitations do not belong only to individuals but also to organizations; the field of forces created by the structure of the organization, the paradigms of its founders and directors and the socio-political environment at large do shape these constraints. The issue, for individuals and organizations alike, is not so much the existence of these constraints but rather the acknowledgement that they are such. Unfortunately, far too often, these mind-created constraints become the “reality” of the organization. The life cycle of companies, and even entire industries, can be measured in terms of their appreciation (or lack of it) for these deeply rooted images of the world that over the years we have come to call “cognitive constraints”.
Cognitive constraints are neither connected with (lack of) education, nor with the rational
understanding of the debasing role they play in our lives. Simply, our minds adapt very
quickly to seemingly “stationary states” and see moving out of these states as too
challenging. In life as well as in business, there is no such a thing as a “stationary state”.
This is a fundamental truth: if we do not evolve, we regress. What makes everything more
complicated is the pace at which we must evolve to survive and the anthropological direction of this evolution.
For this reason, we need to increase our speed and ability to connect the three faculties
of our intellect, Intuition, Understanding and Knowledge, that enable us to develop
change in the three phases of What to Change, What to Change To, and How to Make the Change Happen. The transformational process advocated by Deming and Goldratt that is encapsulated in the Decalogue methodology is one where an improved systemic
intelligence enables us to see change as an intrinsic part of who we are and what we do.
The question is not whether we accept change or not. Change happens. The question is how we cope with change as something intrinsic to what we do. Learning to think systemically helps us to do precisely that.
For organizations and schools interested in learning to think systemically, please click here for examples of our training courses.
Why Change? Part 1
Change: Why do people find it so hard (and what can we do about it)?
Change: Control vs. Vision in our decisions to change
Change: Intuition, Understanding and Knowledge
Change: Tools for Thinking, Planning and Enacting Change
Managing non-physical constraints