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Here is an exercise to illustrate the problem further (with thanks to our friend Jerry Kurtyka of El Paso):
In a meeting with the change leadership team, ask them to think of a brown-and-white dog and then write down on a piece of paper a detailed and specific description of what it looks like.
Now go around the room and ask each person to describe his or her dog (mental map). Answers will range from big to small, to different breeds, male or female, coloring, size of ears, and so on.
If we each have different mental maps and images of something as straightforward as a dog, what are the chances that we have similar maps of an organization as a system?
^ THINK DI FFERENTLY
A complex major airport terminal and gate expansion was initiated in a large, well-known U.S. city. The airport authority hired an architectural firm to design the expansion plan.
The airport authority then put out a bid for the actual construction. They hired 186 contractors, subcontractors, and consultants to accomplish the $100M-plus expansion project.
While there was an overall blueprint for the project, anyone who has built a house knows that constant adjustments are made to the original plans. Constant interaction with all parties involved with the actual construction is required (owners, architects, general contractor, and subcontractors).
This particular authority did not have a Program Management Office (an overall general contractor), so you can imagine the results: numerous lawsuits, massive overruns, and an expansion plan that was seriously compromised from the original design.
The city will have to live with the results of these unintended consequences for many years.
What should we do about this problem? Just live with these kinds of situations, as we have always done?
One Mental Map of an Organization as a Living System
Here are six activities to prevent the failure that results from multiple conflicting mindsets. These activities will enable you to conduct a totally integrated best practices Enterprise-Wide Assessment:
Activity #1: Hold a Change Leadership Team meeting to explicitly examine
each other's multiple conflicting mindsets.
Activity #2: Have the Change Leadership Team build a visual
representation of their consensus on the description of an Enterprise as a System. Use the ABC's framework to do so.
Activity #3: Share this visual and critique it with the collective management
team. Finalize the system's framework.
Activity #4: Build a questionnaire to reflect this system's framework and its
Activity #5: Conduct a comprehensive current-state reality assessment of
the performance of the organization based on your visual model. For example, you can conduct the assessment:
Assessing the Enterprise as a Living System
• In a large group meeting as a more in-depth strengths-and-weaknesses assessment rather than the traditional SWOT
• By using subject-matter experts to conduct the assessment
• Through focus groups, or
• Use the assessment presented later in this chapter
Activity #6: Use the results of the Enterprise-Wide Assessment as you begin
The systems problem is that a single, clear mental map of the organization's functioning and the relationships of its people, processes, and resources is absolutely essential to assess and execute EWC successfully. A shared mental map gives all the players of change both a language and a template to assess and guide their efforts.
One shared mental organizational map should enable executives to deal not only with changes in all processes within an organization but also with the collisions and collaboration of subsystems and hierarchies, like teams, departments, and lines of business. It allows us to diagnose problems, to design enterprise-wide interventions to deliver results, and to safely navigate the many hazards and unintended consequences in a complex enterprise.
And yet, a single mental map is almost always missing.
The problem is not that key players don't have a mental map—it is that each of them has a different mental map, and these maps are rarely shared, let alone reconciled.
Frequently, too much focus on cultural attunement (Failure Issue #3) reflects the mental map of change consultants, while focusing mainly on economic alignment (Failure Issue #2) reflects the mental map of the CEO, CFO, and line executives.
Here is where we have found Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider & Whitney, 1999) to be valuable. Executives and change consultants need intense discussions to come up with a single, explicit, systems-based mental map or model to assess and guide the EWC process.
In Systems Thinking terms, adopting the ABCDE Mental Map (Core Systems Concept #3) can simplify this process. Dialogue can then center on finding a simple way to describe the inner workings and relationships of the parts of the enterprise to each other and to desired positioning and culture. The inner workings correspond