Changing paradigms

One of the things which has plagued western society, particularly in terms of management, and that comes in the development, is an obsession with recipes people want to be told. 

What to do? And I want to make a fundamental distinction there between recipe book users and chefs. 

If you employ a recipe book user to cook a meal for you: he will, first of all, want to re-engineer your kitchen.  So it matches the environment in which he was taught. They’ll em on all the ingredients arranged in little bowls. And then they’ll follow the recipe. And they’ll produce something competent but not particularly exciting. 

On the other hand, the chef will come into your kitchen, and whatever you happen to have in the fridge they’ll make an excellent meal. 

The difference is the chef understands the principles of food. The recipe book user is just following written. And we need more chefs in this business and fewer recipe book users.” Dr Dave Snowden.

In 2010, while working on the “sKale” project, my coworker Erik introduced me to the Greiner Model of organizational maturity. The purpose of the project was to simulate the organizational dynamics to have HR Directors being part of the governance. Greiner explains that every organization has six growth phases in their evolution: creativity, direction, delegation, coordination, collaboration and alliance.

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The “growth switches” or steps are a reaction to crisis phases. At the creation of an enterprise, you are growing from your ability to create a bigger system. Once more significant, the need for “scaling” or management and coordination becomes necessary until you reach a dissonance between operations in the creative mood and leadership asking for more control. It is called leadership crisis.

The response to that crisis is growth by leadership. Guidance will support effectively, and the enterprise will expand again until distilling the feeling of lost-control. Most of the entities are running like a collection of parallel businesses. Leadership, after a while, wants to visualize the whole portfolio and starts to optimize all activities to ensure predictable outcomes. That optimization will use standards and processes until reaching an unhealthy relationship with operations. It is autonomy crisis.

The response to autonomy crisis is growth by delegation. Again, like in ebb and flow, that growth leads to control crisis as a consequence of a chaos “feeling”. That crisis is solved by growth by coordination pulling the system into bureaucracy crisis or “red tape” switching to growth by collaboration.

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From another perspective, Dave Snowden explained the evolution of the paradigm of work, like in the graph below:

In the early ages of industrialisation, factories have been build with the available patterns:

    • King´s structure (described in the Farmer´s metaphor)
    • Paternalism
    • Cartesianism: they are two categories of people, thinkers and executers making a separation between the ones planning and the ones executing that plan. That model is still grounded in France through the “Maitrise d’Ouvrage (MOA)” and “Maitrise d’Oeuvre (MOE). While MOA is primarily functional (Business Analysis), MOE is mostly technical.

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“Scientific Management” mostly known by Taylorism or Fordism was the working model from the end of the 19th century until the beginning of World War II (WWII). That model was accurate for high demand and low supply economies having very long product lifecycles.

A little before the WWII, while Ford started to produce other colours than black Ford T, “Scientific Management” needed to evolve to address that customization issue. That paradigm change sent mass customization and is known as “System thinking”. The most known models on Systems Thinking are Toyota Production System and Lean.

W. Edwards Deming is one of the most known system thinkers who brought the concept of “system profound knowledge” addressing organizations from four angles (Out of Crisis, 1982):

      • Appreciating a system
      • Understanding the variations in that system
      • Capture the psychology of that system
      • Using epistemology (theory of knowledge)

Deming is known for Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA), the most known Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) and the almost certain fourteen principles of transforming business effectiveness:

      1. Create constancy of purpose
      2. Adopt the new philosophy
      3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality
      4. Better have a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust 
      5. Improve constantly and forever
      6. Insitute learning
      7. Institute leadership
      8. Drive out fear
      9. Break down barriers between departments
      10. Eliminate slogans, work standards, management by objective
      11. Supervisors responsibility linked to quality
      12. Abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of “management by objectives.”
      13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
      14. Transformation is everybody’s job.

From 1950 until 1990, the world economy took huge profit from system thinking, allowing to increase the demand from the diversity of supply.

With the emergence of the internet and social computing, the “system thinking approach” was in jeopardy due to the increasing complexity of the work environment. Globalization made goods accessible to the vast majority of customers at low cost. The product life cycle has been dramatically reduced, and the former model becomes a hint to the growth.

Dave Snowden explains that the early concepts have changed profoundly, moving from a categorization model to sense-making models.

The paradigm shifted from “framework precedes data” to “data precedes framework”. It means moving from “reducing the variability from a pre-defined system” to “embrace the diversity and identify emerging patterns.”.


The work as evolved from command-and-control to network effect.

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Command-and-control (CC) is like traffic lamps. That system works fine for a certain amount of vehicles in the system.

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With an increased number of cars in that system, (CC) doesn’t support growth and instead is harming it.

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System thinking improved CC by grouping drivers in buses instead of cars. The central concept of categorisation hasn’t changed. The old has been optimised.

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Having an increased flow from that optimised system again, the concept reached its limits towards growth.

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Some advanced system thinkers reviewed the whole concept and adapted the infrastructure according to the flow: Roundabouts over traffic lights.

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In the 21st century, again, everything changed to complexity. “Complexity”, here represented by the Magic Roundabout of Swindon (UK), creates a safe-to-fail container and flocking behaviour theory to allow the emerging patterns.

These points will be addressed more deeply in the next chapters.

Published by PierreENeis

Certified Agile Coach & Trainer, Organization Developer & Advisor

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