Change in Organizations LO20033
Sun, 29 Nov 1998 19:06:54 -0800

Replying to LO19758 --

Rex Paris writes:
> The problem I was presented was "simplifying paperwork". I have prepared a
> draft survey dealing with some of the issues they spoke to me.

> I have studied the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, particularly the section on
> systems thinking, which you could expect from a past engineer. I fear I am
> leaving out the "people stuff", or submerging my sense of that deep
> 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.

John Gunkler gave a good practical reply on applying systems thinking.
I'll take a stab at the roles of the other disciplines in this situation
-- no guarantees, I'm working spontaneously here (hopefully learning as I

Vision: do the people involved understand how the paperwork fits into their
processes, or do they do it mostly "because that's the way we've been
doing it"? Ask for their understanding of the fit and purpose of each
item. Try some "future perfect" thinking: assume a time when the problem
has been solved, and talk about what it's like and how they got there.

Mental models: what assumptions, tacit understandings, and interconnections
lie behind the "data models" of the paperwork items? How do these relate
to the models that people have of the other people and processes they
interact with?

Team learning: the name of the task: "simplifying paperwork" is deceptively
simple. It sounds like what you're being asked to do in effect is to
re-engineer some processes, which implies changing the way people think
about their work and their relationships. Thus, the issue is at least
partly about team learning.

Personal mastery: are people able to talk and think clearly about the
situation, or is it tied up with organizational politics or other
emotional issues? Do some of the people have an "addiction" to some of
the paperwork?

Hope this helps some -- it's been useful to me to have to write it down. I
invite others to provide complementary or corrective descriptions.

Hope the assignment turns out well,


Don Dwiggins "Solvitur Ambulando" SEI Information Technology

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