How am I supposed to get my work done with all of these meetings?
We always have time to do it over again, but never time to do it right.
Sounds familiar? Jeff Conklin has written a very eye-opening article and a book (you find the first chapter as a free download here) why we often feel so frustrated about they way things work in organizations. He argues that fragmentation is the root cause of those patterns. And fragmentation has three drivers:
- Wicked problems: problems for which each attempt to create a solution changes the understanding of the problem. I.e., one cannot separate the problem from the solution.
- Social complexity: the number and diversity of players and stakeholders involved in a project. If there are more legitimate and valuable point of views on a topic, agreeing on a solution for a wicked problem becomes more difficult
- Technical complexity: the number of technologies, processes, rules that have to be incorporated.
This analysis, by the way, is very much in line with the thinking of Stephen Bungay in the Art of Action (see for example this slideshare presentation, pages 5-12).
So what is the cure? Jeff Conklin and also Stephen Bungay propose that you have to create a shared understanding and shared commitment that will lead to an alignment on intent. Tools that are helpful for this:
- Jeff Conklin uses Dialogue Mapping to create a shared understanding
- Stephen Bungay proposes a process of strategy briefing (page 26ff of presentation)
- When working on concrete problems, you can use the framework “infinity loop of innovation” for working on a problem and solution simultanously
Framework: infinity loop of innovation