Systems Thinking (Causal Loop Diagrams)
This is a graphic way from the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook of discovering interventions for gnarly issues that won't go away. For example, a team attacked the problem "Why is the Help Desk not helping?" No matter what they did, their solutions helped for a while but didn't make a long term impact. The premise is that these issues are systemic and likely not 'solvable' but it is possible to create small interventions that lessen the impact of problems. Put another way, small assumptions and decisions can be adjusted when discovered to improve processes.
The team picks an appropriate WHY question and begins to sketch the 'wheels' of the diagram, which are the cause and effects. As they learn more from each other, the WHY question can evolve. Start with a 'Nirvana' loop - if everything were perfect, what would happen? Here's an example:
Help Desk Calls increases => Customers Helped increases => Customers Faith in Help Desk increases => Held Desk Calls increases (circle)
This is called a reinforcing loop - it just gets better and better if nothing changes. But flip any of these three behaviors in a negative direction, and the whole loop spins down as fast as it came up:
Customers Faith in Help Desk decreases => Held Desk Calls decreases => Customers Helped decreases => Customers Faith in Help Desk decreases…
Clearly, there is more going on here because the Help Desk is not getting better and better OR worse and worse. To continue, teams discover and add small loops around the outside to document the other triggers that change the system. For example,
As Customers Helped increases => Wait Time for HD increases could be a factor in keeping the Nirvana loop from always getting better.
Another technique, also from the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook is Scenario Planning. You'll notice this is similar to the HAVE/WANT exercise above. The team comes up with two criteria to vary over the four quadrants and describe the future state. I generate these two by gathering words from the team that describe 'why you work at the job you have now'. For example, the team might come up with GROWTH and ENGAGEMENT.
Next, the team breaks into two to four groups and each describe a future in the organization including, people, process, technology, culture, careers, etc. for the following possible futures. Here's a simplified version of the stories they might create:
- GROWTH/ ENGAGEMENT (Heaven) - people/process/culture are aligned, low turnover, etc.
- No GROWTH / ENGAGEMENT - work is fun but there is no career planning.
- No GROWTH / No Engagement (Hell) - high turnover, sweat shop, work and shut-up.
- GROWTH / No Engagement - the company is reaping the benefits of the hard work, not the employees.
The imagined future becomes a story the teams tell to each other. Once the stories are shared and discussed, the team creates strategies, projects and tasks to move to the future they want to be in.
- GROWTH/ ENGAGEMENT (Heaven) - we need to work on balance and collaboration to engage great teams.
- No GROWTH / ENGAGEMENT - we need to remember that growth is the goal and fun can't be enough.
- No GROWTH / No Engagement (Hell) - we've got to keep the lines of communication open so when employees feel oppressed, we find it out early enough to intervene.
- GROWTH / No Engagement - we need to establish some sort of incentive for employees based on their contributions to our growth.