Re: Intro -- Robert (Bob) Plautz LO1379

Fri, 26 May 1995 06:42:55 -0400 (EDT)

Concerning your good experience with The Fifth Discipline, venturing into
the use of systems thinking, here is a comment. Perhaps you could add
more value by becoming familiar with, or even becoming a part of the
international community of systems people, sometimes called "systemists".
If you would like to get an overview of this community, consisting in part
of a list of 27 organizations and a list of approximately 60 prominent
individuals affiliated with them, I refer you to my article titled
"Cybernetics", which appears in the Encyclopedia of Human Behavior,
published within the past two years by Academic Press.

Concerning your question about cultural change in organizations, I do not
have a silver bullet, but I will relate briefly some experience. About
three years ago I began work with a part of Ford Motor Company, to
introduce something called Interactive Management (IM) into that company.
Most of the work related to IM involves something called IM Workshops.
Typically, these workshops last two to five days. Within a few months
after the first workshop, the Ford sponsor of the work decided that many
of the problems uncovered in the work related to the corporate culture. We
proceeded to divert the technical work into the cultural domain. The way
we did this was to ask the participants to look at each of the more than
100 problems they had defined and think of them as mechanical forces, for
the purpose of imagining that each one might have a component that was
purely technical, and each one might have a component that was purely
cultural, (and possibly others as well, but only those two were
considered). Each total problem could be imagined as the vector resultant
of its components--a concept that is very, very familiar to mechanical
engineers. Working with this idea, over 100 "cultural components" were

Next we asked theparticipants to make a judgment as to whether each such
component could possibly be resolved (a) at the corporate level
represented by our sponsor, (b) at a higher level in the corporation, or
(c) at a lower level. Much to everyone's amazement, it was discovered
that well over half could be resolved (at least for the sponsor) by
working at or below his level. Ultimately, it was determined that
roughly 30% required highest-level consideration.

Consequently, an action map was produced, showing what activities needed
to be carried out in what sequence to destroy most of the cultural
difficulties lying at or below sponsor level.

Before this work was started we were told that the "prestigious" people
at well-known organization X had determined that it would take at least
15 years to modify the culture of a large organization.

Well, I can tell you that the job isn't finished, but it has made
tremendous progress in less than three years. This is not to say that
all the credit should accrue to our work. Don't infer anything that I
didn't say. However, our work is consistent with a conclusion reached
some years before by some organization scholars in a paper called
"Camping on Seesaws...", the basic conclusion being that the way to make
cultural change happen in big organizations is to "install" in those
organizations processes that are enabling, so that the big organization
can use those processes for continuous internal redesign.

Ford now conducts its own IM Workshops, very ably, and (although it has
so far escaped the attention of Fortune magazine), there is every
indication that the conclusion in the paper I mentioned above is correct.