In Techniques, Thought Leadership

Yesterday, February 21, I delivered a Keynote to the delegates of BarclayCard Agile Fest. This is kicking off a series of experiential sessions I will be hosting at meetups in London this year. Here are the key points I made.

Introducing the Fifth Discipline

In the 1990’s Peter Senge published the Fifth Discipline.  The Fifth Discipline is Systems Thinking, the premise is to take a wider perspective and consider whole systems.  Whether that be a a team, a department, a whole organisation, an ecosystem, a country or the whole planet.

Systems Thinking has a number of tools and techniques to consider whole systems.  The Agile community has also created and evolved a number of tools and techniques to visibly reveal to individuals in the system how work is flowing through whole systems.  People in the system can then take action to improve the whole system based on the information revealed to the system. For example; how long it is taking work to move through the system and where bottlenecks exist preventing the work from progressing.

Achieving an effective workflow across the system has been a challenge for many organisations.

Peter Senge is a brilliant visionary,  the other four disciplines the support Systems Thinking provide guidance on what Agile techniques fail to address in order to achieve effective whole system improvement. Only you can make this happen.  Well every individual in the system, and since you are part of the system, you are part of system improvements.

You have a number of mental models that shape the way that you view the world.  These are deeply ingrained assumptions from memories and experience.  Challenging or clarifying assumptions and encouraging people to re-frame these is essential.  Many people carry rigid and fixed mental models.

You need to challenge your Mental Models

Self awareness is key to working in systems.  When you know what is truly important to you, you will understand the impact other people have when they act in a way that challenges your values and your mental models.  When having crucial conversations you should avoid toxic behaviour to encourage genuine dialogue.

A shared collective purpose is required

You need to hold this internally as a dream, not as information pushed from printed materials.  Dreams promote greater engagement and emotional attachment, and can be called on when tough collective dialogue is required to solve complex problems.

Team Learning

When you have these three you can suspend assumptions in order to execute genuine thinking.  Once teams start to think together about how workflow can be improved, they share each other’s experience, insights, knowledge and skills.  Teams develop develop reflection, inquiry and discussion skills to conduct more skillful change conversations.  With this, comes collective intelligence. This is what is important to organisations, not individually ‘smart people’.

Unfortunately, many organisations focus on the individual rather than the collective.  In our experience, much of this personal and cultural work is not done.  Leading to unsustainable change initiatives.

Miss my keynote at BarclayCard Agile Fest?

I will be re-delivering my Keynote from BarclayCard Agile Fest on March 20 at the London Scrum User Group. Following on from that I will run experiential workshops with guest experts who do deep work with teams and individuals within each of the disciplines. Keep an eye on Twitter and LinkedIn for details.

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