A successful first webinar

Today we had our first webinar (free and open to the public): a Dialogue on Systems approaches to organization design. In this session, we learned the basics of organization design, systems’s approaches, design principles (such as  Cherns’ Socio-Technical Design Principles, Berniker’s 24 Principles) and the general process of an STS design.

Jean Fuller and Mark Govers shared with us the definition and methodologies of the North American and the Dutch approaches to the Socio-Technical Systems models, and we had the opportunity to discuss the common features and the strengths of each approach. Finally, Jean explained the basics of Open Systems Theory and Beer’s Viable Model, and mentioned other methodologies that are commonly used during the organization design process.  The presentation is available for members only here

This webinar was a great opportunity to reconnect with our friends and colleagues from the different countries and to discuss the strengths of the different approaches.  We’re looking forward to the next webinar on Positive, Participative Innovation on June 26, that will be led by Bernard Mohr, Don De Guerre and Doug Austrom.

The invitation to the next webinar will be available here in our website next week. Don’t miss this great opportunity to continue the conversation!

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Information/Communication Technologies and their impact on work and organizational design – 2

These articles are part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous post, click here.

The discussion on the low success rate of ERP/ ERM/ SAP implementation resonated with me. There is an expectation that information technologies will increase the efficiency of the organization, however the rigidity of ERP systems 1) increase the hierarchy of the organization; 2) reduce the ability to make mistakes, learn and innovate; 3) the orgs mold to fit the ERP system and not the system to fit the organization, leading also to cultural change.

Catalina Barbarosie,

HSI 2013

 

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Information/Communication Technologies and their Impact on Work and Organizational Design

These articles are part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous post, click here.

According to Maturana and Varela, human beings have developed the unique capacity of talking together and make meaning in language. We live inside our language and we create our world through the conversation networks that we share with one another.  Considering that organizations emerge from dialogue, and that technology is changing the way we communicate, how is the new technology dialogue/lexicon impacting our behavior?

During this session we had the opportunity to reflect on how technologies are bringing teams together all over the world, are changing the conditions (time, place, schedule, etc) of work, reducing bureacracy, increasing productivity and improving communication.  The presentation was also an invitation to consider the social and environmental impact of the new technologies, to find the balance between high performance and happiness, and the concept of Sociocracy as a governance system (using consent-based decision making among equivalent individuals and an organizational structure based on cybernetic principles, Wikipedia dixit).

Technology is helping us to hear and include the worker, but it also limiting the access that people have to information. Therefore, we need to have proper processes in place to ensure we’re not limiting our employees’ voices by design.

Marcela Urteaga,

HSI 2012

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The Changing Workplace 2

These articles are part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous post, click here.

These are really interesting times in the workplace. Given the recent changes of society in face of new technology we’re having 4 different generations at work (all of them with different characteristics, values, needs, which brings of course, a lot of challenges.  During this session we had the opportunity to reflect on the mutual influence of the way we work and technology.  We are also experiencing more diversity and different ways of working than our parents. The mobility of the workforce has also a significant impact on the way that we work together, and all of these challenges should be considered when we redesign our organizations.

This conversation allowed us to see things from different perspectives and we had the opportunity to listen to the different generations explain how they perceived the evolution of the workplace. One of the concepts I heard that made sense in my experience was the concept of Info-Terror; it really reflects the feeling of a lot of people at work. This, combined with the “any time, any place” work definition hinders our ability to disconnect from work and limits our ability to recharge, or at least makes this process more difficult.

These new conditions require more creative approaches to organization design, and to the rest of the HR functions, as they are now responding to different needs.

Marcela Urteaga,

HSI 2012

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The Changing Workplace

 These articles are part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous post, click here.

As a first activity in the Changing Workplace session, participants were invited to gather into age groups and discuss the changes that they have witnessed in work and the workplace over the course of their lifetime, and to place their observations on a large-group timeline.

There was a fair amount of overlap among the findings of the small groups: the increased pace of work, the blurring of boundaries between private and work life, the increasing abundance of information and communication. Looking and the combined timeline, one participant summarized the feeling in the room: ‘It’s all negative.’

The majority of the people in the room though had taken part in the pre-conference Positive Participative Innovation workshop, and questioned their negativity in light of their recent energizing and productive experience provided by the positive approaches of AI, OST and Design Thinking. The need for a more optimistic outlook in facing these challenges was palpable in the room. Suddenly, Kristin offered her solution to the group: ‘I like to frame it as ‘I am learning how to…’’.

Her intervention was met with nods of approval and smiles. Indeed, we are living in changing times. That is a fact that all our combined experience eloquently demonstrated. Framing our own challenges as practitioners within the context of learning and humbly viewing ourselves as learners allows us to embody the principles of the learning organizations we seek to design.

 

Dena Duijkers,

HSI 2014

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STS Past & Future

This article is part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous article, click here.

As a newcomer to the field, I learned a few new things as I walked the gallery walls after the small group discussions on the history of STS. I noticed that several flip charts mentioned Cal Pava as someone who had made a significant contribution to the field. I hadn’t come across his name before, and later at the gala dinner, I found out from Carolyn who he was and why I had never heard of him. Cal Pava was a seminal influence on ‘new-STS’ theory and his work examined the impact of technology on the field. Unfortunately, he published very little and passed away at a young age. But members of the STS RT have access to this otherwise ‘hidden’ knowledge. Proof positive that there was more knowledge in the room than on the Internet!

Dena Duijkers,

HSI 2014

 

What stood out for me in this session was the feeling of relevance. The STS past and future was the first working session of the conference. It was intimidating to join a group of STS seasoned practitioners and academics in this learning experience, questioning my relevance and what I can contribute to this wealth of knowledge. However, the process used to collect data on STS past was a reminder that even the (seemingly) insignificant knowledge is an invaluable part in the construction of the whole. This brings me to Ackoff’s reflection on the whole being more than the sum of its parts. The collective knowledge in the room was bigger, more important (and complete) than any individual piece of knowledge. However, the personal experience of every participant – new or old to STS allowed us to create a collective reality that we all shared. How can we bring this lesson into creating a shared future vision and reality, where every member of the community will feel relevant?

Catalina Barbarosie,

HSI 2013

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GE Bromont Site Visit – 4

This article is part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous article, click here.

Attending the STS annual conference was a great opportunity to see how participative management translated to real life. I have been to manufacturing plants before, some traditional ones and some other working under STS principles, and what I learned during our visit to the GE Bromont plant is that regardless of the country, industry or technology used, the productivity, efficiency and employee morale are higher when the STS principles are applied.

At GE Bromont I witnessed the passion and the commitment that people bring into their work.  Not only the hosts that received us, but also the rest of the employees that were working during our visit showed commitment and love for the job they’ve been doing for so many years and how engaged they are with GE Bromont. This engagement is not the result of a program or a quick fix, but it’s something that the managers have been developing and co-creating with the employes throughout the years. It is the result of involving everyone in the decision making process, of understanding what people need to perform and giving them the tools and the trust to do it.

Being interested in collaboration, training, and organizational development, I asked several questions about these topics, and our hosts agreed that this was a great place to work and people felt proud and grateful of working at such a great place. Creativity, engagement and the need to solve problems in an efficient way, along with enough elbow room to take actions resulted in creative solutions, such as their own ERP, that stands for Excel Rapid Program, which has been a more useful solution for their needs.

For me, this visit was a great opportunity to confirm that STS principles are the best way to engage with the increasing demands of participation, engagement and teamwork that employees bring to the workplace.

Marcela Urteaga,

HSI 2012

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GE Bromont Site Visit – 3

This article is part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous article, click here.

The plan was that during lunch we would have a facilitated discussion with our GE Bromont tour guides. My group finished the tour late, and as we assembled around the table, excited and famished, sitting arrangements were a second thought. Incidentally, I found myself at one end of the table with the guides, while the conversation was taking place at the other end, out of earshot. To strike up  a conversation, I asked Sonny, our guide, how he had learned to speak English so well (remember that Bromont is in small town Québec). Our conversation moved on to Sonny’s personal story of how he ended up working at GE Bromont and what he had in plan for the future.

Suddenly Eli, who was sitting beside me, piped in, in English, with a powerful question: ‘what is the best thing about working here?’ Sonny answered that it was a great place to work that paid well and where he would want his son to work. Now that grabbed Eli’s attention! He explained  he had the habit of using that query to ‘test’ workplaces throughout his long career; this was the first time he had someone answer that they wanted their children to work at the same place they did, as most people would like something better than what they already had for their children. Sonny argued that his current position was fulfilling and even enviable in his community. It then struck me that we had just visited an organization that made its workers fulfilled while outshining the competition, and had had the privilege of experiencing an exceptional workplace.

Besides providing a perceptive benchmark for workplace satisfaction, Eli’s question opened up a new line of inquiry for me. Sonny’s response touched upon the ideas of continuity and prosperity, and these are intimately linked to the wider environment, in this case, the community. What was the impact of the community on GE Bromont’s success, and what are the impacts of GE Bromont on the community? How will they align their actions to ensure continued shared prosperity for the next generation?

Dena Duijkers,

HSI 2014

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GE Bromont Site Visit – 2

This article is part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous article, click here.

A particularly resonant moment for me was at the end of our exchange with the GE employees. We (the delegates from STS Roundtable) had spent about an hour touring their plant, an hour asking them questions, and maybe 30-45 minutes responding to theirs. The Roundtable organizers had decided to give Philippe a token of our appreciation for taking the time to host us. With the significant Belgian contingent at the Roundtable, some craft Belgian beer was decided on as the appropriate gift. At the end of the visit, a small box with maybe 4 beers was handed over to Philippe with a few words of thanks. Without missing a beat, he turned around and said “Thank you for your gift and for spending time with us today.” Holding up the box of beer, “This will be a draw prize for all the members of the GE team who made this visit possible.”

It was a simple gesture to turn this gift over to the team — one that was unnecessary, and had it been missing, would not have raised any flags. But for Philippe to so quickly move ownership of this ‘gift’ to the team was really remarkable to see. I had not expected to be so struck by that moment, but what resonated for me was “consistency”. From how Philippe talked about the GE Bromont plant, the team ownership of the well-being of employees, and deep-seated embodied understanding of the subject matter — this gesture markedly demonstrated that Philippe walked the talk. The employees also walked the talk. I didn’t hear a theoretical understanding of socio- technical systems or open systems theory — but there was a deep felt commitment to their participative management in an embodied, natural way, which drove a consistency beyond mere intellectual understanding. I am so thankful to have seen a living, breathing STS-designed organization. Like the difference between reading an old travel book for Asia, and stepping off the plane to feel the press of warm tropical air on my face — this visit made STS real.

Tristan Khaner,

HSI 2015

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GE Bromont Site Visit – 1

This article is part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous article, click here.

During the 2014 Conference we had the amazing opportunity to visit GE Bromont, part of GE Aviation and the only GE plant designed using STS principles. It has been highly successful since its creation in the mid-90s .    This plant is located in Bromont, Quebec, a small French-speaking community, 85 km from Montreal.  They manufacture cutting-edge motors for commercial aircraft, military, marine, business and general aviation.

GE Bromont also hosts the GE Aviation Global Robotics, Automation and Instrumentation R&D Centre, and has not only contributed to the economic development of Bromont, but it has also hired approximately 100 workers since 1997.

We were welcomed by Philippe Simonato, the plant manager, who explained the culture, history and achievements of GE Bromont. GE employees gave us a tour for the plant and we had the opportunity to ask questions, observe their processes and the plant operation, and finally we had lunch in small groups were we continued talking about processes, technology, human systems and innovation.

We will have for you our reflections on the visit, as well as information obtained through interviews with experts on Socio-technical systems.

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Co-Founder of the Global STS Design Network