December 20, 2012
Audi announces new design strategy
In discussing Audi’s new cooperative vehicle design approach, Achim Badstübner , head of exterior design identified a critical challenge faced by any organization attempting improve the manner in which they consider product development in a more holistic manner, that is “...to break down the culture of individual authorship and encourage cooperation...You have to be an expert and there is an advantage in digging deep, to really know every screw, every system and pattern for a specific thing, because you have all of the information at the point where you need it, but it is misguided in another way. If you dig too deep, it's a little bit like digging a hole: you're in the hole so you can't see the world around it."
The intensity to which one group focuses on an aspect of a problem is not without merit. As Vince Barabba  points out in his new book, The Decision Loom, “Many functional managers...attempt to maintain complete control to ensure that their function is run efficiently and not influenced by outside forces.” He points out that value of the functional silos is found in their “...ability to use their resources to generate deep and valuable functional knowledge.”
The problem that needs to be avoided is to ensure that the perfect solution for a specific function does not have negative consequences for another function with which it interacts. Finding this problem has occurred after the design is put together is very costly. Barabba’s suggestion is to treat the design activity more like a molecular structure and treat the functions as molecules that interact with each other. The important distinction of the molecular metaphor is that functional cells are contained by membranes and not walls. Membranes are capable of letting information in and out. In this way the functions share information and improve the chance that their combined capabilities will create a whole that is greater than the sum of their individual expertise.
 “Audi announces new design strategy,” Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 at 5:44 pm by Rose Etherington, Dezeen Magazine, December 19, 2012
 Barabba, Vincent; The Decision Loom, Triarchy Press, Stanton, UK 2011, Pages 193-198
February 13, 2008
Turning Learning Right Side Up
Putting Education Back on Track
Russell L. Ackoff, Daniel Greenberg
Jul 2008, Hardback, 224 pages
Over the past 150 years, virtually everything has changed... except education. In the age of the Internet, we educate people much as we did during the industrial revolution. We educate them for a world that no longer exists, instilling values that are antithetical to those of a free, 21st century democracy. Perhaps worst of all, too many schools extinguish the human creativity and joy they ought to nourish. In this book, legendary systems scientist Dr. Russell Ackoff and "in-the-trenches" education innovator Daniel Greenberg offer a radically new path forward. In the year's most provocative conversation, they take on the very deepest questions about education: What should be its true purpose? Must schools be the way they are? Do classrooms make sense anymore? What should we teach? What should individuals contribute to their own education? What if students did the teaching and teachers did the learning? Is it possible to eliminate old-fashioned distinctions between subjects and between the arts and sciences? What would the ideal lifelong education look like: at the K-12 level, at universities and colleges, in the workplace, and beyond? How do you educate for a world that doesn't yet exist? And how do you pay for tomorrow's "ideal schools"? Ackoff and Greenberg each bring a lifetime of success making radical change. Here, they combine deep idealism with a relentless focus on the real world and arrive at solutions that make far more sense than anything we're doing now.
To read more about this book, click on the following URL: Turning Learning Right Side Up
November 10, 2006
F Laws: Management Truths We Wish To Ignore
Russell Ackoff has written a new book called F-Laws. What is an "f-law?" According to Ackoff:
f-LAWS are truths about organizations that we might wish to deny or ignore - simple and more reliable guides to managers' everyday behaviour than the complex truths proposed by scientists, economists, sociologists, politicians and philosophers.Ackoff has published a short version of the book for free, which you can download here. A longer version will be released in 2007. I think my favorite f-law is:
"The less important an issue is, the more time managers will spend discussing it."
Here is a more detailed explanation:
More time is spent on small talk than is spent on large talk. Most talk is about what matters least. What matters least is what most of us know most about. The more something matters, the less we know about it.
Everyone is an expert on trivia. So everyone can discuss trivialities
with equal authority and at great length. This is not true with
important issues on which there are alleged experts. Experts, those who
know a great deal about a subject, tend to limit discussion to what
they know about it. Their authority is vulnerable to new ideas, which,
of course, seldom come from other experts, but from nonexperts whom
experts try to exclude from the discussion.
Experts seldom accept any responsibility for errors resulting from following their advice. However, they accept full responsibility for any successes that result from following their advice, however remote the connection.It would be funny if it weren't so true.
March 03, 2005
Beating the System: Using Creativity to Outsmart Bureaucracies
By Russell L. Ackoff and Sheldon Rovin
Editions: Paperback (Berrett-Koehler Pub, May 31, 2005)
* Provides practical, easy-to-use tactics and strategies for creatively beating any bureaucratic system that is trying to beat you
* Full of entertaining real-world stories of people who have been frustrated by unresponsive systems and have successfully fought back
* Coauthor Russell L. Ackoff is an internationally renowned pioneer in the world of systems thinking who has spent over 50 years studying how organizations work
"I loved the book and read every blessed word of it, savored it, and recommended it to virtually every sentient person I know who works in an organized setting."
- Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Management at USC and author of On Becoming a Leader and Geeks and Geezers
The need to beat the many systems that compromise our quality of life goes without saying. When was the last time you dealt with a bureaucracy--a business, a government agency, a school, a hospital--and got a direct answer to a question or received a service you wanted without having to weave through a maze of infuriating hand-offs? Have you found these systems to be utterly indifferent to the inconvenience or hardship they cause? Want to learn how to beat them?
Beating the System shows you how. Coauthors Russell Ackoff and Sheldon Rovin have spent their lives studying how organizational systems work, and here they share both perversely entertaining anecdotes about the abuse of individuals by a variety of bureaucracies, and descriptions of the creative--and deeply satisfying--approaches these people used to get even.
The authors begin by exploring how systems function and
malfunction, where their weaknesses are, and what drives them. They show that
much of bureaucratic power is based on unchallenged assumptions--assumptions
systems make about themselves and us, and assumptions we make about these
systems and ourselves, and that challenging these assumptions is the essence of
creativity and the first step in system beating. Ackoff and Rovin use stories
to illustrate successful strategies and tactics for defying these assumptions
and turning the tables on the many bureaucracies that frustrate us.
Part I: Prerequisites for System Beating
1. Why Systems Need to Be Beat (necessity mothers inversion)
2. Understanding Systems (knowledge without understanding is a misguided missile)
3. The Nature of Creativity (those in boxes can't think out of them)
Part II: System Beaters: Their Stories
4. Denying Assumptions
5. Turnabout is Fair Play
6. Divide and Conquer
7. Threaten the System
8. Side-Step Constraints
9. When All Else Fails, Revolt
Part III: Beating Systems and Making Them Unbeatable
10. Rules of Thumb for System Beaters
11. Making Systems Unbeatable
Stories by System Category
Russell L. Ackoff is Anheuser-Busch Professor Emeritus of
Management Science at the Wharton School, Distinguished Affiliated Faculty at
the Center for Organizational Dynamics, and is on the advisory board of the
Ackoff Center for Advancement of Systems Approaches, all at the University of
Pennsylvania. He is the author of 22 books, including Redesigning Society (with Sheldon Rovin), Recreating the Corporation, and Ackoff's
Sheldon Rovin is Emeritus Professor of Healthcare Systems at the Wharton School of Business and past Director of Healthcare Executive Management Programs at Wharton Executive Education and the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of eight books, including Redesigning Society (with Russell Ackoff), and Medicine and Business: Bridging the Gap.
August 26, 2004
Community Operational Research
OR and Systems Thinking for Community Development
edited by Gerald Midgley Institute of Environmental Sciences and Research (ESR Ltd.), Christchurch, New Zealand and Centre for Systems Studies, Business School, University of Hull, UK., Alejandro Ochoa-Arias Universidad de Los Andes, Merida, Venezuela.
Community Operational Research: OR and Systems Thinking for Community Development sets out the current concerns of Community Operational Research (Community OR for short) and explores new possibilities for its continued development. Leading Community OR writers, with international reputations in operational research and systems thinking, have contributed chapters that illuminate different aspects of Community OR theory and practice. There is a focus on the value of systems approaches, and other significant perspectives are also represented. The result is a rich mix of theories, methodologies and case studies that will be a significant resource for both practitioners and academics engaged in community development. Following an introductory chapter on Community OR by the editors, the book is presented in three
Section One offers ‘Early Contributions and Later Reflections on Theory, Methodology and Practice’. Here, the nature of Community OR, its institutional development, and people’s motivations for engaging in it are all explored. Some significant theoretical and methodological issues are also a focus of this section.
Section Two covers ‘Local Action for Community Development’. This is concerned with how people have translated the theoretical insights of Community OR into practice, and how practice has informed theory. Since the inception of Community OR, the vast majority of projects have dealt with complex, localized community issues using participative methods (mostly in the developed world). This section of the book presents a variety of methodological ideas evolved for Community OR practice, and illustrates them with examples of projects with community groups, voluntary organisations and welfare services.
Section Three is entitled ‘Dealing Locally with Global Issues’. The authors represented in this section seek to extend the practice of Community OR in two important new directions. The first takes Community OR into developing countries, and the second takes it into the arena of environmental management. In both these areas, there are significant opportunities for Community OR practitioners to make real contributions to human welfare and environmental sustainability. Visit our website at: www.wkap.nl.
"….What the many authors in this book have in common is a commitment to serve the interests of all those affected by a community’s behavior – its stakeholders. This is acquiring a new significance as we decreasingly conceptualize corporations and organizations in general as organisms, and begin to think of them, as Charles Handy has, as communities."
(Professor Emeritus of the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania; Ex-President of ORSA; Vice President of TIMS).
June 07, 2004
Surviving Transformation: Lessons from GM's Surprising Turnaround
by Vincent P. Barabba
Surviving Transformation is an excellent study of the real issues associated with transforming organizations. Standing on the shoulders of his mentors—Russ Ackoff and Peter Drucker—Barabba takes us to new heights in understanding how to successfully lead business transformation.
“This book makes clear the successful journey to transformation does not start with the departure, it starts with the destination.” – Peter Drucker
“This book is about transformation. It tackles transformation from a unique angle. It is not about restructuring and performance evaluation or training programs: it demonstrates that by changing selectively how we do business—by changing our interactions with customers, by changing the way we formulate problems internally, and by changing the ways we imagine a future—we can make a difference.” –C.K. Prahalad, Foreword to Surviving Transformation
Surviving Transformation describes how General Motors reversed its dangerous decline and positioned itself for success in the 21st Century. The story tells how in the early 1990’s GM’s leaders made a series of operating and strategic decisions that brought the company back from the brink of bankruptcy and developed a portfolio of products and services to successfully compete with any car company in the world. The book identifies three business designs that served as guideposts at different points during the transformation. 1) Make and Sell: based on the ability to predict future sales the firm uses economies of scale to produce the right number of products to sell—at a profit. 2) Sense and Respond: accepting that future customer preferences cannot be predicted, the enterprise designs its production and delivery systems to be more adaptive allowing it to effectively respond to changes in customer and market preferences. 3) Anticipate and Lead: also accepts that the future cannot be predicted, but rather than designing adaptive systems, allocates resources to create the future that is best for the enterprise and the customer.
The author explains that one strategy is not necessarily better than another and provides examples that illustrate the circumstances within which either of three (or some combination) can be the basis of success. The objective is to understand the conditions within which the firm operates and determine the most appropriate mix of all three designs. This is one of those rare instances where the author was a participant in the process throughout the entire decade of transformation. Readers will come away from the book with insightful examples and powerful tools to rethink their enterprise strategies as they prepare for a world of complexity and continuous change.
To Pre-order this book, please click on the following link:
Surviving Transformation: Lessons from GM's Surprising Turnaround
October 08, 2003
Systems Thinking: Creative Holism for Managers
In order to better manage the growing complexity, change, and diversity of our times, organizations are increasingly turning toward systems thinking approaches.
Unlike quick-fix management solutions, systems thinking is holistic and creative, considering the wholes before the parts, and approaching problem solving from a variety of viewpoints instead of one-size-fits-all.
In his latest book, Systems Thinking: Creative Holism for Managers, Michael C. Jackson discusses the latest research findings in the field, placing special emphasis on the creative uses of systems approaches for today's manager.
Systems Thinking : Creative Holism for Managers
Michael C. Jackson
August 25, 2003
Redesigning Society by Russell Ackoff and Sheldon Rovin
From the SoL (Society for Organizational Learning) website:
Redesigning Society by Russell Ackoff and Sheldon Rovin
available now from Stanford University Press.
This new book from two gifted systems thinkers, takes a no holds barred approach to radically transforming the way we think about societal infrastructures. "Health care, education, welfare, law - the perceived success or failure of these social institutions is constantly being debated in the public arena. In this book, Ackoff and Rovin join the discussion, using systems theory to develop new approaches to governance, the structure and function of our cities, and civic leadership in general. Each chapter tackles a different, important, and timely issue. The authors develop and present specific solutions, with the intention of starting a national dialogue about the structure and organization of American society. Their redesign, radical in its scope and ambition, draws upon existing technology and social constructs, but provides innovative ways to apply them. As the authors contend, ìit is only through creative thought and innovation that our society will be transformed into one that provides a more equitable distribution of wealth, quality of life, and opportunities for development."