Change in Organizations LO19774

John W. Gunkler (
Mon, 9 Nov 1998 10:20:26 -0600

Replying to LO19758 --

Rex Paris writes:
>I fear I am leaving out the "people stuff", or submerging my sense of that
>process, but I'm afraid to talk about vision, team learning, mental
>models, personal mastery, when faced with the bombardment of intricate
>minutia to the max.

Rex, please take a deep breath and repeat after me: Simplify, Simplify,

My suggestion to you is not to try to bring more complexity into the
situation from the beginning. Look at their charge to you -- to simplify!

One of the most useful things an "outsider" can do is to "play stupid."
Look at things as a five-year-old would. Demand that people explain their
systems to you as they would to a five-year-old. Then play it back to
them in that simplified way -- "so, in other words, this stuff goes in
here and, in about two days, comes out there changed into that stuff ...
is that right?"

Ask "dumb" questions (like the "5 Why's" in the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook
-- which is just asking "why" after each of five explanations about the
same phenomenon.)

To be, I hope, a bit more useful, I would suggest that you might want to
draw a system dynamics model capturing the "flows" and "accumulations" of
materials, orders, and money in their system. Then look at how
information flows and is captured and used within that system. You'll
discover that certain kinds of information is essential to making the
"decisions" in the system, that some of this information is good and
timely and some is poor or too late or too early. Then you'll be able to
focus on the few, critical information needs and help them figure out how
well those needs are being met. [This is where "paperwork" that is not
critical may be eliminated and paperwork that is critical may be changed
into some other method of transferring necessary information.]

Dr. Jay Forrester has written brilliantly, for 40+ years, on this and his
work is the technical basis of Senge's Fifth Discipline. I'm worried,
however, that you don't have time within this assignment to spend two
years learning how to build system dynamics models. You may need some


"John W. Gunkler" <>

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