Xi) Measurement Perceptions

The biological world (with nature's growth dynamics) teaches that sustaining change requires understanding the reinforcing growth processes and what is needed to catalyse them, and addressing the limits that keep change from occurring. Nothing in nature grows in the absence of limiting factors and there is a need to understand the interplay between growth processes and limiting processes. Nothing can change in a self-sustaining way unless there are reinforcing processes underpinning the change.

There are at least 3 fundamental reinforcing processes that sustain profound organisational change by building upon each other:

- enhancing personal results

- developing networks of committed people

- improving business results

A lack of understanding of the limiting processes that could slow or arrest change. The ingrained habit of attacking symptoms and ignoring deeper, systematic causes of problems means there is a need to learn why the

"...harder you push, the harder the system pushes back..."

Peter Senge et al, 1999

Not understanding "compensating feedback". This occurs when people attempting to produce change do not see the balancing processes that are conserving the status quo. When they encounter difficulties, they naturally work to overcome them, but the harder they push, the harder the system pushes back. Instead of destroying the past merely because it is the past, it is important during organisational transitions to build on the past by conserving that which is still desirable.

Over-emphasising conventional measurement systems. We are conditioned to see a mechanical world - a world of measures, plans and programs, a world of people "in control" and leaders who "drive" change. Yet nature doesn't measure; it deals with patterns that connect, ie there is no objective standard for how high a tree should grow, or how fast an animal should run. As we became very good at measurement, we reaped the results in technological progress: steam internal combustion, high rises, etc, and more recently measurement has come to human organisations. This practice of measurement leads, over time, to reductionist thinking and mechanistic activity. Measurement has become a tool for fragmenting our understanding, and assessing, one process, or one person, as better than another on some objective scale. This results in destroying nature and the natural sensibility, ie the rhythms, limits and patterns of the natural world are replaced by the rhythms and patterns of clocks, computers, transit schedules, thermostats, etc. On the other hand, nature has no end: it builds, continually, upon the interplay of the means of evolution and biology.

As Edward Deming stated

"...97% of what matters in an organisation cannot be measured..the result of conventional measurement is manipulation without genuine understanding..."

as quoted by Thomas Johnson, 1999

Even though measurement is an indispensable part of management,

"...it can easily become elevated to a sweeping generalisation about reality. When this happens, people start to believe that something is real only to the extent that it's measurable. Managers know this assumption as the familiar dictum "you can't manage what you can't measure" or "people pay attention only to what gets measured". Not only does over-reliance on measurement.. modern society is continuing to see the world of things rather than relationships, it also gives rise to the familiar dichotomy of the hard stuff (what can be measured) versus the soft stuff (what can't be measured)"it's easy to relegate the soft stuff, such as the quality of interpersonal relationships and people's sense of purpose in their work, to a secondary status......the soft stuff is often the hardest to do well and the primary determinant of success or failure.....is not measurement per se. The problem is the loss of balance between valuing what can be measured and what cannot, and becoming so dependent on quantitative measurement that they displace judgments and learning. When this happens..driving organisations to achieve quantitative goals set at the top, with little serious effort to build new capacities to achieve sustainable levels of improved performance......it is not possible to measure a relationship......the fundamental insight of 20th century physics and yet to penetrate the social world: relationships are more fundamental than things..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

Short-term performance requirements (usually financial) for both public and private organisations can "de-rail" the long-term strategies required for effective change.

A misperception that growth and change are linked positively

Management claims that they have all the answers

Not identifying and removing limiting factors and obstacles (including staff)to the change process.

Not identifying and rewarding short-term gains made in change

Concentrating on the tangibles like procedures, job descriptions and organisational charts, and ignoring the intangibles like the emotional journey (winning the hearts and minds).

Not achieving the appropriate balance between "hard" and 'soft' options/approaches. The hard approach involves heavy use of economic incentives, drastic layoffs, downsizing, and restructuring, while the soft approach is geared toward building up the corporate culture and human capability through individual and organisational learning - the process of changing, obtaining feedback, reflecting, and making further changes. It is important to get the balance right. Too much of the hard approach involves "cutting the organisation to the bone", with a consequent loss of expertise, and exacerbates any distrust of management by the workers. Too much of the 'soft' approach makes it hard to make the necessary decisions about fundamental structural changes

Not achieving the appropriate balance between present imperatives (leaner, faster and better production) and future needs (new products, new markets, new distribution avenues, etc.)

Sometimes conventional measurements that stress short-term goals represent a 'trap' that can kill change and learning initiatives by requiring staff to report the results in a way that restricts future innovation. If, in the short-term, costs are higher, or customer complaints have increased, or productivity figures have fallen, senior management members often jump to premature conclusions that the organisation is performing poorly. This tends to lead to snap evaluations. Invariably there is "some pain before any gain", eg J-curve, Valley of despair, etc

Too much focus on financial measurement, recognition and rewards. An example of this is the focus on the gross national product (GNP). This is a number that measures economic/financial performance but

"...measures neither the health of our children, the quality of their education nor the joy of their play. It measures neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our wit nor our courage, neither our compassion nor our devotion to the country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worth living..."

Bobby Kennedy as quoted by Michael Traill, 2009

Wrongly assuming that organisational transition is linear and rational, ie assume that people will rationally choose to adopt 'superior' innovation to replace outmoded systems and technologies

Some diagnostic clues that change involves more than technical solutions include

- people's hearts and minds need to change and not just their preferences or routine behaviours, ie people need to learn new ways and choose between what appear to be contradictory values

- process of exclusion, ie if you throw all the technical fixes you can imagine at a problem and the problem persists, the message is very clear that is more than a technical problem

- the persistence of conflict usually indicates that people have not yet made the adjustments required for the change process

- crisis is a good indicator as it represents danger as the stakes are high, time appears short, and the uncertainties are great. Crises also represent opportunities to galvanize attention on unresolved issues

Not realizing that follow-up or monitoring and evaluating systems are not the answer for continued co-operation. It is falsely assumed that they will fix non-compliance.

"...broken agreements and inaction are more likely to result from failed influence, not forgetfulness......forgetfulness is just another form of failed influence. True influence changes behaviours without relying on constant reminders. Any agreements that depend on policing future behaviour are not addressing some force or dynamic still working against your design goal..."

Annette Simmons, 2004

Not recognizing that sometimes it is better not to change as it is too costly financially and the negative impact on staff is too high

 

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