Msg Digest 11/23

Richard Karash (
Wed, 23 Nov 1994 15:40:29 +0001 (EST)

Here's an experiment -- I've put together today's messages into two long
"digest" messages. Please let me know how you like this distribution form.

Richard Karash ("Rick") | (o) 508-879-8301 | Mac * Flying
Innovation Associates, Inc. | (fax) 508-626-2205 | Systems Thinking
3 Speen St, Framingham MA 01701 | | Std Disclaimer.

From: Stephen Robbins <>
Date: Mon, 21 Nov 1994 22:49:20 EST5EDT
Subject: The purpose of management flight simulators

> I believe there is an intrinsic flaw in using "management" computer
> simulations to teach "management" skills. The better the simulation
> models "reality" the greater the risk that the "map" gets confused with
> the "territory". If our intent is to teach strategic thinking perhaps we
> could be using models that don't require "business" tactics.

I'm currently taking System Dynamics from the system dynamics group
at MIT. My impression is that the flight simulators are intended to
model certain dynamics within a particular context. They aren't
necessarily intended to teach specific management skills, so much as
provide a way for people to develop intuitions about cause/effects
which are separated in time, feedback loops, etc. The value comes
from running a simulation many times while varying your assumptions
[and, in the case of a game like the Boom & Bust simulation, the
competitor's strategies, as well].

The flight simulators which are written in iThink or Vensim are
constructed as networks of differential equations based on graphical
descriptions of a system structure. They are pretty much impossible
to reverse engineer, since even knowing the structure and equations,
they're pretty much unsolvable by mere mortals (twentieth order
differential equations don't map well to daily intuition).

What interests me is that you can get ANY learning out of the the
simulators, frankly! But it turns out that there are, indeed, very
global and abstract learnings about different systems. We
constructed one simulation of a production/inventory cycle in a
business which, thanks to certain delays built in to the management
planning process, oscillated regardless of management decisions.
The simulation couldn't be used to predict specific oscillation
periods, but it COULD be used to understand that certain management
policies would damp out the oscillations, even in the face of very
random external events.

The debriefing after a simulation is, according to Jay Forrester,
about 80-90% of the learning. The simulation itself is only a tool,
as a case study would be, etc.

- Stever

Stever Robbins
Accept no substitutes! PGP key available upon request
"You're only young once, but you can be immature forever."

Date: Tue, 22 Nov 1994 14:23:57 +0100
From: (Wiggo Hustad)
Subject: Re: The Learning Organization Structure

Mikeg, Ragnvald and others out there.

Bo Hedberg (1981) "How organizations learn and unlearn" (Handbook of
Organizationa design) is a benchmark on unlearning. I would also like you to
pay attention to Stanford professor James March' "Technology of Foolishness"
(in March and Olsen: Ambiguity and Choice in Organizations,
Universitetsforlaget, Bergen, Norway, 1976). His eyeopening article says -
among other things:

- treat goals as hypotheses
- treat intuition as real
- treat hypocricy as a transition
- treat memory as an enemy
- treat experience as a theory

Thats all for now

-- wiggo

>I don't think that "unlearning" in an organizational context is as simple
>and straightforward as is being suggested here. The reality in
>organizatins is that "learned knowledge" is embedded in a variety of
>elements of an organization--the manuals/rules and procedures, the formal
>oragnization charts and the informal processes by means of which things
>conventionally get done, but most significantly in the expectations and
>memories of organizational incumbents.
>I think "unlearning" is both a process of breaking with the past,
>discarding the rituals and hymnals of the past, and creating a useful
>transition in behaviours and expectations to the new condition. Without
>such a transition and without it being successfully achieved (very rare
>in my experience) you have in organizations pockets of old practices,
>sometimes reflecting multiple previous experiences with attempts at
>change, each of which is operative influential in its own microsphere.
>>From my experience trying to get most complex organizations to walk on
>beds of fiery coals just results in a lot of burnt feet.
>On Mon, 14 Nov 1994, Ragnvald Sannes wrote:
>> >One of the techniques for unlearning in individuals preached by Tony
>> >Robbins is Neuro-Associative Conditioning and its involves three steps:
>> >1) Get leverage - the organization as a whole and its individuals
>> > must want to change, in fact recognize that change is survival
>> >2) Break the paradigm - convince them that the current ways no longer work
>> >3) Install a new paradigm - what new beliefs and behaviours will replace
>> > the old ones
>> >Although Tony's focus is the individual, I believe that treating an org
>> >as an evolving "being" has merit.
>> >--
>> >Keith Cowan Phone: (416)565-6253 FAX: (905)764-9604
>> >Toronto Internet: Compuserve: 72212,51
>> These levels seem to be identical with Kurt Lewin's model of organizational
>> change. Lewin wrote about three stages, Unfreeze, Change, and Refreeze.
>> See, for example: Lewin, K. (1947). Group Decisions and Social Change. In
>> T. N. Newcombe & E. L. Hartley (Eds.), Readings in Social Psychology Troy,
>> MO.: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
>> The organizational psychologist Edgar Schein has detailed the model
>> further, commonly recognized as Lewin-Schein's model of organizational
>> change. See, for example: Schein, E. H. (1987). Process Consultation,
>> Volume II: Lessons for Managers and Consultants. Reading, MA.:
>> Addison-Wesley.
>> Ragnvald Sannes
>> Dept. of Information Management, Institute for Management of
>> Stockholm School of Economics, Innovation and Technology (IMIT)
>> Box 6501, S-113 83 Stockholm Box 6501, S-113 83 Stockholm
>> Internet: Tel.: +46 8736 9451 Fax: +46 8 30 47 62

Date: Tue, 22 Nov 94 10:29:18 CST
From: mbbjr@VNET.IBM.COM
Subject: Re: Deming on setting goals

Stephen Robbins <> wrote:
> Specific numeric goals also produce all kinds of wierd behavior, as
> people (a) get lax after reaching a goal, or (b) screw around with
> the system to meet the numbers, possibly at the expense of larger
> systemic goals.

Hammer and Champy gave a good example of this in *Re-engineering the
Corporation.* IBM Credit managers considered their credit application
process too slow, so they ordered everyone to do a 1.5-day job in 1 day.
To meet the goal, a recipient of another's work product -- customer data,
pricing, etc. -- would look for errors and return the product for rework.
Nearly all the employees met their goals, but the process ran slower.

Matt Barkley, IBM LAN Server Products

Date: Tue, 22 Nov 1994 13:45:15 +0100
From: (Wiggo Hustad)
Subject: Re: Ford & lurking

Hi Patrick and all.
I've been away for some time. My mailbox was filled up at arrival Sogndal,
Norway (still more than 50 messages to read). Many interesting things have
been said about Ford and different authors and consultants contributions

Patrick Brooke asked, in his reply to Mark Tabladillo :

>I wonder why so many people in the original "learning organizations" just
>don't want to learn.

A nice place to start reading is Chris Argyris' "Teaching Smart People How
to Learn", Harvard Business Review, May - June 1991

wiggo hustad
Western Norway Research Institute

Date: Tue, 22 Nov 1994 14:28:26 -0500
Subject: Re: Learning I, II & III, Gre...

This message is not meant to offend anyone or invalidate the stream of the
current discussion.

However,I wonder what it would be like in industry as well as academia if we
all stopped talking about the definitions of terms and started practicing to
create learning organizations.

Since this is my first post please feel free to provide counsel if this is
not submitted "correctly."

Joyce D'Ambrosio
Quality System Implementations
San Jose, CA

Date: Tue, 22 Nov 1994 17:47:45 -0500
Subject: Neural systems

Perhaps neural systems in the human brain hold some answers for us as we
develop Systems Thinking... Reading Tony Demasios, Descartes' Error gave me
the idea that recent research into the "systems-within-systems" of the brain
might be useful as we organize ourselves to do business. I would like to
hear from any of you who are interested in discussing this further.