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Sir Thomas Moore
Intervening at the enterprise level without a critical overall mental map of an
enterprise as a system isn't simply a question of who is "right" or "wrong"â€”the sur-
Assessing the Enterprise as a Living System
vival of the patient is often at stake. It is a question of knowing the vital signs to look for in a patient (organization). Following a comprehensive and informative mental map of an enterprise as a living system is clearly an ethical issueâ€”as well as having obvious implications for achieving results.
We have met the enemy and they are us.
Unqualified Enterprise-Wide Systems Doctors? It is a wonder any complex change efforts do succeed!
If the band played a piece first with a piccolo, then with the brass horn, then with the clarinet, and then with the trumpet, there would be a hell of a lot of noise, but no music. To get harmony in music, each instrument must support the others. To get harmony in battle, each weapon must support the other. Team play wins.
General George S. Patton, The Patton Papers (Vol. 2)
It is unfair to criticize executives and change consultants for not having clarity and simplicity of their organizations as systems. They are dealing every day with a complex enterprise in a dynamic environment.
However, an essential first step in coming to grips with this issue is recognizing and understanding that enterprises are living systems, a mixture of human and inanimate physical structures. They are not mechanistic; they are organic. They are not closed assembly lines, but open systems populated by groups and people, each of whom has a heart, mind, body, emotions, spirit, and goals.
Multiple Conflicting Mindsets or Mental Maps (Versus a Totally Integrated Enterprise-Wide Assessment)
^ THINK DI FFERENTLY
An oil company CEO was employing three different consulting firms at one timeâ€”each with different and conflicting mental maps of how to assess the enterprise.
Our colleague was called in to assist with starting the needed Enterprise-Wide Change effort. At the same time, Consulting Firm number 2 was assisting
with metrics by using â€śThe Balanced Scorecard Strategy Map,â€ť a very different framework. Training Firm number 3 was helping to set up a â€śCorporate Universityâ€ť using a traditional, silo-based set of leadership training programs for management (one size fits all).
Obviously, the CEO saw the enterprise-wide planned change project as different from the metrics project, which was seen as different from the leadership training project. This is the normal view of most executives and organizations. However, the overlap and conflicts among the three external firms and their projects soon became apparent.
All three external firms had their own mental maps and assessment tools. Each was different, causing extra costs for the same work for the oil company. In addition, the time and use of different assessment tools created duplication, overlap, and frustration for the organization and employees. Further, the three projects created multiple messages, languages, and terminologies, as well as conflicting orientations to each aspect of the organizational change for which the projects were responsible.
Overall, this created confusion for the CEO, executives, and managers involved and affected by the multiple projects (remember, organizations are a web of relationships). The unintended negative consequences from the well-meaning three projects became so disruptive that they were all cancelled prematurely.
The regression in the company's pursuit of business excellence and its impact on the desired superior results were predictable.
Why did this happen? What were the root causes?
The oil company example is a common one. The different and conflicting mindsets or mental maps of the players of change become a problem in assessing and executing change strategies and new key initiatives.
To reiterate for emphasis and clarity: The first of the Big Three Failures in Enterprise-Wide Change is the result of multiple mindsets, organizational frameworks, fads, and silver bullets by both executives and change consultants. It results in a piecemeal/analytic organizational assessment approach to a systems problem rather than comprehensively assessing reality and then engaging the entire enterprise behind the changes as a totally integrated systems solution.
Assessing the Enterprise as a Living System
In Chapter One, we provided detailed examples of this piecemeal focus and discussed the Rubik's Cube effect: The numerous moving parts of an enterprise are beyond the ability of most of us to comprehend all the relationships and unintended consequence of our actions. We can't see the forest for the trees.
Instead of rising up in a helicopter to get a better perspective and a systems view of their problems and complex organizational workings, executives and change consultants often opt for a more concrete, specific, quick fix set of actions. It is like a horse with blinders on going down a road, not looking at the broader perspective. The narrow, different, and conflicting mindsets on what is important in an organization and how it really functions beyond the myth of the "organization chart" is too complex to understand. It is a puzzle like the Rubik's Cube that is almost impossible to solve.