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Wherefore, part the second

Dave Snowden

In the first of these articles, I looked at Borton’s W³ question from the 1970s and more recent adaptations (with varying degrees of acknowledgment of their source) by Driscoll, Eoyang and Liberating Structures.

Honest Conversations - The Key to a Winning Transformational Strategy

Irving Wladawsky-Berger

“Nearly every organization - whether private, social, or governmental - is grappling with huge strategic challenges, often with a need to reimagine its very purpose, identity, strategy, business model, and structure,” writes Harvard emeritus professor Michael Beer in his recently published book Fit for Competition. “Most of these efforts to transform will fail. And in most cases, they miss the mark not because the new strategy is flawed, but because the organization can’t carry it out.”. For over three decades, professor Beer and his various collaborators have been analyzing the reasons why so many organizational transformations fail. I n general, the common root cause has been the failure to align the organization’s culture and management processes with the strategic directions they’re after. The book argues that two interrelated reasons explain these failures. First, “the whole system of organizing, managing, and leading has to be transformed if organizational behaviors and underlying mindsets are to be changed.” A transformational strategy that aims to take advantage of new technology and market innovations must involve the whole organization. But, we often forget that such transformations are truly disruptive, not only to the marketplace but also to your own organization. You cannot transform a large complex organization through business-as-usual objectives, - e.g., growing revenue and profit, cutting expenses, improving quality, developing better products and services. Any major company-wide initiative must have the strong and visible support of the CEO and other top executives in the company. The initiative must be carefully nurtured and protected in its early phases until it’s strong enough to stand on its own. In any organization, there’s a natural competition for resources between new ventures and the existing lines of business. Human nature being what it is, managers in the existing units will often feel that any new investments are best given to them to grow their businesses, rather than invested in a new, unproven area. This is one of the many challenges that leaders of the new initiative must skillfully navigate, otherwise the inevitable cultural and political – that is, human – issues will slow them down and potentially kill the new venture. Second, the transformative strategy can only succeed if the people affected by these changes feel involved in the process, and encouraged to discover problems and correct them. Change can be a positive experience, but change can also be very difficult, even painful for many people. You’re essentially asking them to embark on a journey toward an unpredictable, unchartered future. What will be the impact on their jobs? Do they have the required skills for whatever is ahead? How will they personally fare in the new environment? A successful transformation can only come about if the organization trusts the intentions and the competence of its leaders. According to Beer, honest conversations between top management teams and employees are essential to successfully transform an organization. But these conversations are not easy to bring about, given the general reluctance of people at lower levels from sharing vital information with senior leaders who might feel that their leadership is being criticized. The book identifies several key lessons learned that will help facilitate organization-wide honest conversations: Move back and forth between advocacy and inquiry. A major reason for the failure of a transformational strategy occurs because top management developed the strategy without input from influential employees across the organization. At the same time, asking a large group of people to help define a direction without giving them a clear point of view of where management would like to take the business will also lead to failure. “Leaders need to advocate, then inquire, then repeat as needed.”. Tackle the issues that matter the most. Already consumed with managing their existing operations, the organization may see the proposed new strategy as more of a threat or distraction than an opportunity. It’s thus critical to focus the conversation on the fundamental issues that will determine the company’s survival and long-term success. “Do we have a distinctive business strategy that key managers believe in? Do we have the capabilities to execute the strategy? Is our leadership effective? Are our employees on board with the leadership and its strategy?”. Make sure the conversation is collective and public. Realigning an institution around a new strategic transformation generally requires changing the very culture of the organization. This is very difficult. Successful institutions tend to have strong cultures that reinforce those elements that make the institution great. But, when the environment shifts, it’s hard for the culture to change. The culture then becomes the key impediment to the institution's ability to adapt. To successfully transform the organization you need the passion of a clear, compelling strategy that captures everyone’s imagination. Management must be directly involved in explaining the strategy and the reasons why it’s necessary, and they must make sure that everyone is properly informed. Allow employees to be honest without fear of risking their jobs. Organizational silence is another major barrier to a successful transformation. Organizational silence is a pervasive condition in even the best institutions, because organizations are hierarchical and the people in them are human. “It’s human to avoid troublesome truths about ourselves or the organizations we are leading. At lower levels, people feel a combination of courtesy and fear.” An honest conversation requires banishing organizational silence, that is, suspending the hierarchy temporarily so that a safe and productive conversation can take place about the state of the enterprise and what must be done to move forward. Be sure to structure the conversation. “When people hear ‘honest’ they tend to think ‘spontaneous.’ But public conversations in organizations are rarely spontaneous, because the stakes are so high.” To achieve honesty and full engagement, you need to carefully structure the conversation. Years ago, Beer and his collaborators developed the Strategic Fitness Process (SFP), a methodology designed to structure organization-wide conversations about a company’s directions, and to help it develop and implement the necessary strategy. SFP has been deployed in hundreds of companies around the world across a variety of industries. SFP is a nine step process , typically implemented over six to eight weeks: The senior team develops and writes down a short description of the business strategic direction; . The senior team then selects a task force of eight of the best people in the organization and makes sure they understand the business strategy; The task force interviews 100 people across the organization who are very familiar with the challenges at hand and asks for their frank feedback on the organization’s ability to execute the strategy; The task force identifies the major themes that emerged in the interviews; The task force presents their findings to the senior team in a face-to-face meeting; The senior team develops a plan to address the issues identified by the task force; The senior team presents its plan to the task force members and receives feedback whether the plan is responsive to their concerns; The senior team then shares their strategy and findings to the 100 people interviewed and other key people in the organization; The senior team periodically repeats the process and extends it across the various units and geographies of the whole organization. Complex Systems Education and Talent Innovation Management and Leadership Technology and Strategy

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The State of AI Adoption - High Performers Show the Way

Irving Wladawsky-Berger

For the past few years, the McKinsey Global Institute has been conducting a yearly survey to assess the state of AI adoption. Its 2017 survey of over 3,000 AI-aware executive found that outside the technology sector, AI adoption was at an early, often experimental stage.

Death to Zombies!

Clark Quinn

Last week, I ranted about a myth that seems inextinguishable. And I ran across another one in a place I shouldn’t have. And I keep seeing others, spotting them roaming around loose. Like zombies, they seem to rise from the dead. We need death to zombies. Particularly learning myth zombies!

Wherefore, part the first

Dave Snowden

We tend to read ‘ wherefore ’ as a question asking where something is, but the meaning is actually for what , or why as in “ Wherefore was I born” (Shakespeare, Richard III Act 2 scene 3) and Juliet’s more famous rendering which is attempting to locate her love but to ask why does he have to be a Montague; remember it is followed by “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” In this two-part post, my first since the Christmas series, I want to take a look at the three-part question What? So What? Now What? which is deceptively simple and can easily tend to the simplistic. It appears in Liberating Structures without (as is all too common in that otherwise useful tool) without attribution. It is more commonly attributed to Glenda Eoyang’s Adaptive Action but its first formulation goes back to Terry Borton in 1970 and it was then developed by John Driscoll in the context of clinical practice which is where I suspect Glenda got it, but I could be wrong there. I’ve put the three representations in rough date order to the right of the text below. Basically I want to ask the wherefore question as to its use and (tomorrow) map it to all five domains of Cynefin. Just to give you a taster, my argument is that the linear use of the three-part question effectively sits in the confused or unordered domain of Cynefin. It is probably worth starting with the Driscoll sequence in the context of clinical care. He links it to a learning cycle which is represented in the following stages: Having an Experience. WHAT? describe event, then … Purposefully reflect on the selected aspects of the experience. SO WHAT? conduct an analysis of the event … Discover the learning arising from this process of reflection. NOW WHAT? Determine proposed actions following the event. Enact the new learning from that experience in clinical practice. Then loop back to the start. Adaptive action (Eoyang) aims to conduct multiple connected iterations of the three questions in allow coherence over the system to emerge as “the parts use simple rules to guide their work toward shared goals (my emphasis). The process focuses on the identification of patterns and use of the CDE (Containers, Differences, Exchanges) to understand what is generating those patterns and the link to Plan-Do-Check-Act is made although it is not named as the Deming cycle. Amplification and dampening of those patterns, shaping new patterns are all up there as actions. The process is based on workshops, discussions and (I assume) learned individual behaviour. While the process is linear it does have multiple interconnections and the Now What? stage can trigger other stages and so on. Coherence for Glenda is all about “internal fitness” and adaptive means “external fitness’. Defining terms in complexity work is key as, at the moment, everyone is using the language in different ways. Once you are at the Now What? stage, the process becomes a familiar set of project management questions and task assignment: who is doing what, how long will it take with what resource, who has to be involved, what will it mean to complete and (importantly) how will this trigger a new What? the whole idea is that nothing ever ends. Finally, the Liberating structures guys revert to the linear, overlaying a systems dynamics model on to W³. I tend to put this into the mostly harmless category as they are focused on workshop experiences. That said having recently watched some Liberating Structures facilitators tear the heart out of Future Backwards by conforming it to the goal-based idealism of systems dynamics was depressing. Given that they attributed it to me and asked for my endorsement I think I was fairly restrained in my response. Now there may be other uses – if so please post them. I can be positive and negative about the three that I have listed. Tomorrow I ended to map W³ to Cynefin using (for the first time) the five Cs namely Clear, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic and Confused. I will argue that all the above – given that they are universal and in part linear – while useful are not energy efficient. But that is for tomorrow. My apologies for the absence of blog posts but I have been busy on various things including design of next generation of SenseMaker® which has me more excited than I’ve been for a long time. A complete shift away from a survey like platform to a radical new approach to distributed decision support; current SenseMaker® will simply be one instance of something more sophisticated. We expect to open up for participation in a couple of months. Otherwise, I am going to try and get back to posting here at least once a week, ideally more. Acknowledgments. The Letter W in the text is by Leo Reynolds discovered in Flickr as is the banner picture , both and used under the terms a creative commons license. The post Wherefore, part the first appeared first on Cognitive Edge. musing Polemic

Modern Training Online Workshop

Jane Hart

Next public workshop runs 2 March – 10 April 2020 This 6-week will look at how to design, deliver and manage a number of modern training content, events and experiences for the workplace, and consider how and when they might best be employed. Modern Workplace Learning

learning about machine learning

Harold Jarche

Why is machine learning [ML] important for your business? If you work at Nokia, your Chairman can explain it to you in a one hour presentation he developed over six months of research. Risto Siilasmaa helped make his network smarter.

Data 204

More Trending

More Myths-Based Marketing

Clark Quinn

Is it the rising lack of trust in what anyone says? Have we turned into a society where any crazy marketing works? It certainly seems that way. It was only a couple of weeks ago I went on a rant , and yet, here we are again.

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How to Learn Using Technology

Stephen Downes: Half an Hour

Learning with technology is different from learning with textbooks or learning with classroom instruction. In these, the focus is on understanding and remembering. It is content based. The learning objective is defined as mastery of this body of knowledge.

How To 188

leadership through cooperation

Harold Jarche

One of the few areas where most nations cooperate is in infectious disease control.

Why Some AI Efforts Succeed While Many Fail

Irving Wladawsky-Berger

Winning with AI , - a 2019 report based on a survey jointly conducted by the MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group , - found that 90% of respondents agree that AI represents a business opportunity for their company.

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Spam Silliness

Clark Quinn

(Ok, so I’m feeling silly , and feel free to tune out.) On my home computer, I have a spam filter. However, I can’t put one on my tablet and phone, so there I see much more of the spam. And I’m often on those devices, not the computer.

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Mobile Learning: Making Content Available Anytime, Anywhere


Mobile learning, also called M-learning or mLearning, is any type of content that is developed or consumed on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and including anything from podcasts to full eLearning courses.

Flying to Conferences

Stephen Downes: Half an Hour

I just want to take a few moments to consider Bryan Alexander's comments about flying to conferences. As most readers know, I have flown to hundreds of academic conferences over the years. So I guess I would be considered a prime offender in this regard.

learning in the flow of work

Harold Jarche

Networked humans in a connected society: Our increasing inter-connectedness illuminates the need for cooperation. Simple work keeps getting automated, but still needs human oversight. Complicated work gets automated, outsourced, or contracted to the lowest cost of doing business.

Images processed 60K faster? No! And more…

Clark Quinn

Recently, I’ve run into the claim that images are processed 60K times faster than text. And, folks, it’s a myth. More over, it’s exemplary of bad practices in business. And so it’s worth pointing out what the situation is, why it’s happening, and why you should be on guard. It’s easy to find the myth. Just search on “images processed 60K times faster than text” You’ll get lots of citations, and a few debunkings.

Webinar: Five Ways to Future-Proof Your Content


In this joint webinar with Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), Xyleme COO Leslie Farinella and TSIA VP of Technology Research John Ragsdale break down how to develop, manage, and maintain high-quality content as delivery channels, user expectations, and available technology continue to evolve. It’s critical that modern organizations prioritize their content development, management, delivery, and analysis processes if they want to stay ahead of emerging trends and be prepared to capitalize on new opportunities. In this webinar, we explore how realigning content management processes now can future-proof your content for the new decade, and beyond. . The post Webinar: Five Ways to Future-Proof Your Content appeared first on Xyleme. Resources Webinars

Educational Research in Learning Technology

Stephen Downes: Half an Hour

In this post I discuss the nature (and weaknesses) of research in our field. I am broadly sympathetic with the arguments offered by Philip J.

a mixed bag

Harold Jarche

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds. “Humanity’s problem today is that we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology.” ” —E. Wilson, via @Kpaxs.

Conceptualizing AI in Human Terms is Misleading and Potentially Harmful

Irving Wladawsky-Berger

“We speak of machines that think , learn , and infer.

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Hybrid Worlds

Luis Suarez

Over the course of the last six years, since I went independent, I have had the opportunity (and still do!) of unlearning a few things in the space of knowledge sharing and collaboration tools.

WebEx 130

Saving the Internet—and all the commons it makes possible

Doc Searls

This is the Ostrom Memorial Lecture I gave on 9 October of last year for the Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University. Here is the video. The intro starts at 8 minutes in, and my part starts just after 11 minutes in.)

The Sustainable Development Goals and Me - Part One

Stephen Downes: Half an Hour

With even the World Economic Forum embracing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) I thought it would be an appropriate time to check my own activity and see whether I'm supporting the goals in what I do.

when trust is lost

Harold Jarche

When trust is lost, knowledge fails to flow. When knowledge flow is stemmed, trust is lost. There is widespread outcry in China over the death of Doctor Li Wenliang who identified the novel corona virus, was reprimanded by the police for discussing it in public, and then died from the virus.

The Pace of Creative Destruction is Accelerating

Irving Wladawsky-Berger

“A gale force warning to leaders: at the current churn rate, about half of S&P 500 companies will be replaced over the next ten years,” is one of the key insights from the 2018 Corporate Longevity Forecast.


Luis Suarez

Back on January 20th, I celebrated ( quietly ) my 23rd anniversary in the IT industry. Quite an achievement, indeed, if you would ask me, for someone who graduated as an English teacher back in the day and who didn’t have much of an interest in technology in the first place.

The deeper issue

Doc Searls

Journalism’s biggest problem (as I’ve said before ) is what it’s best at: telling stories. That’s what Thomas B. Edsall (of Columbia and The New York Times ) does in Trump’s Digital Advantage Is Freaking Out Democratic Strategists , published in today’s New York Times.

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The evolving role of the CIO and CMO in customer experience

Dion Hinchcliffe

The CIO and CMO must work more closely together and co-govern key resources today in new ways to address an often outdated and/or too inadequate approach to digital customer experience within most organizations

our natural stupidity

Harold Jarche

The platform monopolists and the surveillance capitalists are at war with us, citizens of the world. They have engaged some of the best minds — from psychology, cognitive science, usability, addiction research, human factors engineering, anthropology, etc. —

How a Learning Experience Platform Improves Retail Staff Productivity


Employee productivity is important across all industries, especially retail. Retail companies rely on the performance of their staff to generate sales and attract and retain customers. Without a productive workforce, a retail organization can’t survive.


Luis Suarez

If I were to describe with a single word the last three years since I wrote a blog post over here, that word would definitely be Transitions. You know what they say, change is hard; change is a constant, and, therefore, the only thing you can do is delay the inevitable.

Do you really need all this personal information, @RollingStone?

Doc Searls

Here’s the popover that greets visitors on arrival at Rolling Stone ‘s website: Our Privacy Policy has been revised as of January 1, 2020. This policy outlines how we use your information. By using our site and products, you are agreeing to the policy.

What’s in an image?

Clark Quinn

My post earlier this week on the images processed 60K faster prompted some discussion (over on LinkedIn ;). And there appears to be some debate about the topic. I think it revolves around the issue of just what’s in an image. So let’s unpack that. So, the claim is that ‘images’ are processed 60K faster than text. And, of course, trying to find the actual citation has been an exercise in futility. But can we address it on principle? I’ll suggest we can.

skepticism and complexity

Harold Jarche

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds. “Skepticism: the mark and even the pose of the educated mind.” ” —John Dewey. “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars.

6 Microlearning Tactics to Include in Your Corporate eLearning


Microlearning is one of the most effective types of corporate training employers can leverage. Whereas traditional training can be draining to some learners, microlearning is a different story.

RIP John Haydon

Beth Kanter

The nonprofit tech & marketing world has lost one of its legends, John Haydon, from cancer. If you do any work on digital strategy for nonprofits, you most likely knew John’s work and influenced by it.


Harold Jarche

If you find that people on social media have a tendency toward anger and outrage there is one action we all can take to diffuse the situation. It’s simple, but first we have to stop and think.

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