Systems Thinking, Personality and Now Accounting? LO22577
Sat, 4 Sep 1999 13:10:49 EDT

Fellow Learners,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful replies to by broad question around
the possible linkage between personality profiling and propensity for
understanding system thinking. I have been away from my computer for
several days and returned to find much rich dialogue on this subject.

I must first apologize to the group for not stating my question more
clearly.. as upon a second reading, I see that I did not convey my true
quest very well at all. Please allow me to clarify and elaborate.

The organization in which I am working uses the Keirsey Temperament Sorter
as a tool for individuals to increase self-awareness and also for
enhancing communication. The personal profile is never shared with others
unless volunteered by the individual. We have found this to have a
profound impact on the appreciation of diversity within our organization
and helps increase the understanding of "where is he/she coming from?"

My own view of such tools was skeptical at first, since I truly believe
that we are all unique as snowflakes. (Some would say I am a flake^ but
that's another story^) No two humans are even close to being identical
in the physical or psychological sense. We are also non-static, flowing,
becoming and co-evolving with our environment into untold layers of
dynamic complexity. Each one of us is a miracle in the making^ evolution
aware of itself ^a "work of art" from the creator.

With our uniqueness now unquestioned, let's examine our resistance to
being categorized, depersonalized or reduced in such a manner as
"profiling". It challenges our intrinsic sense of "specialness". But
just as a complex biological systems have settled out over the millennia
into identifiable patterns as species and families etc, is it not possible
that "temperaments" may emerge from the psychological realm as archetypes,
albeit "fuzzy" ones? (To clarify in the Myers view, there are two sides to
personality; one of which is temperament and the other character.
Temperament is the inborn "hardwired" form of human nature or
"configuration of inclinations" and character is the emergent "software"
form or "configuration of habits" which develops through the interaction
of temperament and environment.)

I do not pretend to fully understand the complexity of Jungian
psychological typology, but as I attempted to utilize the profiling
information to better understand and help others in my organization, I
could not deny the emergent patterns. As I applied the understanding to
modify my approach and influence those opposite to my nature, those
"frustrating people" out there became "just different" people that I had
to learn to understand. By understanding them better and changing my
behavior, I saw them differently and they saw me MUCH differently.

One of the work challenges I encountered was to help improve the
reliability of a refinery organization utilizing the concepts of systems
thinking and stable domains. To help with this process, we utilized a
learning tool called "The Manufacturing Game". Originating from within
the DuPont Company and MIT, the game is a sit down game board flight
simulator for a typical manufacturing plant. The game enables the
participants to change their mental models around methods to improve plant
reliability by seeing the plant holistically over an expanded time
simulation. It also shows the few key leverage points of the system which
runs very counter to "common sense". The end result is higher
reliability, lowered maintenance expenses and steadily improving

We discovered that most people could easily see the holistic nature of the
model manufacturing system after a single full day session playing the
game except a few "hard cases". We would often run those that "didn't
quite get it" through the game at another scheduled session to help them
with the concepts but soon realized that there was something in their
general make-up that appeared to thwart the learning process. When we
took a look at the people we were trying to help, we noticed that every
one fell into one broad temperament profile: Guardian or "SJ". This
agrees with Bill Godfrey's response to my original question.

>As an observation, and having dealt with many of them, I have found many
>people who agree that the SJ >temperament tends to find holistic and
>systemic thinking difficult. I can't lay my hand on Fitzgerald and Kirby:
>Developing Leaders at the moment but it may have something useful to say >on
the subject.

The interesting thing was how we helped those that couldn't at first get
it. We had to show them concrete proof that the theory actually PRODUCED
RESULTS in the plant before they would suspend their mental models and
allow the new to slowly take hold. It seemed that the new model
challenged something dear to their hearts; it seemed much too FUTURE or
POTENTIAL oriented versus the CONCRETE here and now. Maybe the new
paradigm made them question too much their natural style. I just don't

A few however did see the power in this system approach so much so that
they enthusiastically volunteered to become facilitators for future
sessions. Anyway, the whole idea of this inquiry was to better understand
the needs of the individual and to modify the approach to actually allow
new mental models to emerge. In OD, one size does not fit all.

As a related issue around encouraging organizations to embrace holistic
thinking, I have found a major obstacle that is deeply built into the very
structure which we are just beginning to address THE BASIC ACCOUNTING,

To launch another question -- Has anyone on the list tackled this issue at
the corporate level? How do we move forward to begin to modify accounting
practices to incorporate the key organizational qualities not reducible to
the account ledger sheet?

I'm sure I'm in for an education -- again!

Take care,
Chuck Wallace


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