Hitting the Brakes

Mark Upton
Apr 2 2019

A short reflection on experiences with people in sport organisations where the opening engagements have touched on aspects of complex systems/theory/thinking…

Enthusiasm is initially high for the sexy aspects operating at the layer of “approaches“ depicted below. Tools (Sensemaker) and to a lesser extent frameworks (Constraints, Cynefin, Bioecological) often generate curiosity, energy and optimism.

A deeper dive exploring the layer of “beliefs” can be a different story however…

…as it becomes evident to people that alternative ways of organising are possible – but will almost certainly require perturbing and relearning of power/hierarchical structures and (limits of) control. That’s when things can grind to a halt…sometimes amidst visceral reactions to the prospect of shifting power dynamics and uncertainty. Political game-playing also seems to kick in at this point!

On a positive note, this phase can be extremely valuable as it asks the question of us all in regards to our collective commitment to proceeding with the real job of work. Where we have proceeded, the sexy tools seem to fade into the background or are implemented with a very different intent – for learning & generative listening; not “customer insight”, “monitoring”, “impact evaluation”, “performance management” or “accountability”.