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To the Heart of Living Systems


systems leadership

Myron Rogers Systems Leadership Workshop (Video)

Myron Roger’s Systems Leadership Workshop

The ethics of systems leadership

When you consult to a system who is your client? How do you know if you are doing the right thing? What constitutes doing good here and who decides? You cannot please everyone all the time. There is a difference between a reflexive action, changing the mood of a conversation through a comment or smile just because it feels to be going in an unhelpful way and a deliberate one such as considered reflection on events

What is systems leadership?

The challenges that require you to work together are complex. You don’t ‘deliver’ a change in global quality standards and you don’t ‘deliver’ a healthier or wealthier population. Lots of people will need to change what they do if you are to succeed. Some are already way ahead of you. You will need to connect all this up, nurture some stuff and weed out things that aren’t helping. You will need to help people see how what they’re doing contributes towards something meaningful. You will have to constantly improve people’s experiences. Does that sound like deliver?

Myron Roger’s 2016 NHS Leadership Academy

The Phillips Kay Partnership is Myron Rogers, John Atkinson and Jeni Bremner, home of Myron’s Maxims. Change from a living systems perspective. Here you can watch a series of videos from Myron’s NHS leadership academy, discussing some of the key features of change in living systems.

It’s Time for Quality Leadership in the Pharmaceutical Industry

The way that we have set about delivering this quality has led to an environment where improvements to processes and systems are typically gradual and linear — focusing on reducing waste and variability. Our ability to learn and adapt fast is seriously hampered by this approach. We have not paid enough attention to leveraging the differences we have as human beings — and how we when building on our differences can create much better solutions to our daily work and objectives.

System of systems

With the emergence of the internet in the mid-90’s, the world became one global commons. In the past, we could understand that there was some mysterious unity to the various dimensions of life but we couldn’t understand its dynamics, we couldn’t observe and measure their interactions. We basically operated like the drunk who looks under the streetlight for his keys because that’s where he can see.

Systems Thinking: A journey along the way

A systems view is somewhat in contradiction to the concept of analysis, which is breaking things down into smaller pieces to simplify the study. Analysis brings with it the risk of potentially loosing the most relevant characteristics of the system, and possibly developing a less than complete understanding. Yes, analysis is an important technique, and at the same time another method of study is also warranted, something I have seen called anasynthis. Anasynthis being the study of the whole, and the parts, in the hopes of developing an appropriate level of understanding.

Introducing ‘The Big Five’

With Myron Rogers, I’ve been exploring a set of characteristics of living systems that I’ve found helpful. They have guided me in making sense of the circumstances I find myself in and in designing approaches whereby people can work with a living system rather than in spite of it. What emerges is what we call ‘The Big Five’ characteristics;

Complexity- The Big Five

Complex problems may not have solutions. You can maybe make them better or worse, but they remain unresolved and stubbornly recalcitrant. So we add another expert solution and before we know it we are entangled in a mesh of treaties, agreements, standards, protocols and laws that all build upon each other to simply create more and more unintended consequences, forever distant in time and space. Expert solutions cannot resolve complex problems. they can make them better, they can also store up problems for years to come.

Emergence- The Big Five

Simply changing the principles doesn’t tell you what new pattern of behaviour emerges. You know a new pattern will emerge as the living system makes sense of the new principle, but how it makes sense of that is much less predictable. Next, it is often very difficult to identify what the real organising principles are. They are almost certainly not our openly espoused values or internal written rule books that govern staff behaviour. These are surface presentations of something deeper.

Cheshire Cat Grins

The reason we don’t truly become Change Makers is that we don’t want to. We really want to preserve things as they are, right up until the moment that they inevitably die.

John Atkinson on Whole Systems Change #NHSTform

Missed John Atkinson on NHS Transformathon ? Or want to watch again? Here it is…
Exploring how change really happens in human systems and why so many of the models, methods and mindsets we rely on don’t always deliver the results we are seeking. By considering how our current models have arisen and then comparing them with alternatives, John Atkinson and guests will identify opportunities to adapt our approaches. This will challenge traditional views on ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’ change in order to allow us to think about how we can foster change across the whole system.

Doomed to Failure

In a living system the clue is in the name. You have to ‘grow’ something. Something that infects the system and spreads through it such that each node or place in the system grows its own response. This means giving up control from the centre. Once the ideas start to spread and grow, your ability to control them is gone. The role of leadership shifts from the illusion of control to the holding of space.

The most unkindest cut of all

In 2015 something is different. The public who were expecting reduced public services in 2010 now feel their world getting better. Theirs is an expectation of improved quality of service, not removal of things like school transport or libraries that have become seen as an entitlement.

Bellinger: What is Systems Thinking?

An amusing and informative video on systems thinking from Gene Bellinger!

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