Re: Forming a Group LO2738
Mon, 11 Sep 1995 11:54:28 -0400

Replying to LO2710 --

Hi Bill,

Forgive me, because I have zero context for these comments, but your
approach to forming a team sounds far too intellectual and deliberate.
Everyone talks about "examining assumptions", on the assumption that they
come first in the process. This is just our western predeliction to
believe that thought always has to precede action. In my experience in
true learning it usually doesn't: we rationalize after action.

The kinds of assumptions that you can look at rationally ex ante in a
group are usually utterly boring. The really interesting assumptions are
answers to questions we never asked, and we only realize that after the
process. (Our changed views on the classic economic "trade off" between
cost and quality illustrates this neatly: within a given system the trade
off exists, but if you change the system, quality may be free) So many
assumptions may be an OUTPUT of the learning process, not an input to it.

So, how to proceed?

1. Revel in your tight deadline. It's a strength not a weakness. You don't
need physical time, you need "share of mind" and any crisis, including a
tight deadline, is helpful.

2. If the problem/issue is as discrete and decomposable as you make it
sound, then you might consider the "lightning strike" approach (the phrase
was coined by the Japanese from their lean manufacturing team approach).
Place your team as physically close to the site of the problem as possible
-- factory floor, office, EDP department. Make sure you have folk who
encounter it every day either on the team or available to it. Then go at
it for 4-5 days full bore, 18 plus hours/day, absolutely no interruptions,
no distractions. If you work round the clock on shifts that's OK too. What
you are trying to do is mobilize the complete attention of both the team
and the organization on your change effort and this is much more easily
done for an intensive period of 4-5 days than three months of meetings and
note taking. Take a break, assess what you have done and go at it again.

I don't have enough context to give you more specific advice. But the
focus should be on action and experiment, short circuiting all the
different frameworks each person brings to the project. It takes
experience to change habits and mindsets, not ideas: you can write up the
assumptions afterward. Of course if you can't get the resources to go this
route this may point to other organizational constraints that have to be
dealt with.


David Hurst
Speaker, Consultant and Writer on Management