LO a Means or End LO6425

William J. Hobler, Jr. (bhobler@cpcug.org)
Thu, 4 Apr 1996 19:45:10 -0500

This thread has wandered a bit from the original posting about the purpose
of LO within an organization and what subject a LO should pursue. This
post continues in the original vein. I persevere because as a
practitioner I wish to understand the whole system so that I can devise a
programs for clients that address as much of their system as possible.
Transforming a business is hard enough that I don't wish to forget any
possible lever.

This post is based on observations and analyses of businesses over the
past 20 or so years. My electronic engineering education and its use of
positive and negative feedback loops has an influence on my concepts of
modeling businesses. I have a degree in Systems Management and therefore
tend to extend the boundaries of systems to encompass as much as possible.

To envision the problem I posited, in the prior post, an organization as a
system of systems that exists within a larger system. The larger system
itself would be the environment in which the organization operates and,
for a business, consist of systems such as the global financial system and
governmental systems. I defined the organization as having two classes of
systems, an interior set and boundary systems.

(((((See an illustration of this as WholSys.jpg on the web server)))))
[Host's Note: I don't know to what web server Bill refers. ...Rick]

The boundary systems are those that are partly in the organization and
partly in the business environment. For instance, customers are part of
the business but may buy the identical product or service from a
competitor. If we are to investigate the relationships surrounding
customers we must examine both the company and the business environment.
In this instance, in particular we examine our competitors and their
ability to draw customer business away from us.

I conceive of at least seven major border systems. They are: (1)
Customer, (2) Competitor, (3) Supplier, (4) Partner, (5) Stockholder, (6)
Regulator, and (7) Employee. This last system is not the traditional
human resources system, rather it is the community of employees and may
include the labor union. While conceiving of a community of people as a
system may seem radical, certain actions in one system evoke responses
from a majority of employees that are very much like the system responses.
Just unilaterally reduce their pay by 10 percent and watch the unity of

Note that these systems are somewhat overlapping. An employee may be
stockholder and a customer. Certainly a Venn diagram of these systems
would show much overlap.

The interior systems include the (1) product or service value chains, (2)
the technical infrastructure that supports the product or service, (3) the
physical plant, (4) the business systems [Financial, Human Resources,
Information Technology, etc.], (5) the Information Systems, (6) the
organizational system, and (7) the management or leadership system.

My concept of the organizational system is the formal structure as
published in the hierarchy and position descriptions of the majority of
businesses today combined with the informal structure added by employees
to assure that they can get their work done. The management or leadership
system is the acted out process of transforming the intention of the
organization into action to carry out the intent.

If as posited in the original posting, a learning organization is to
become informated about its business, then the interrelationships within
each of these systems and among the systems must be thoroughly understood.
The subject of the learning to be accomplished is these systems and the
object of the learning is to gain the capability to understand the
influence an action in one system would have on itself and on all of the
systems with which it interfaces. Such an understanding would give the
organization much the same capability to improve performance as was gained
by the operators of the paper pulp processes of Shana Zuboff's book cited
in the previous posting.

As an example. In flying an aircraft placing the control stick to the
right or left will cause the plane to roll and if held in a banked
position the whole aircraft will turn. As a result of the roll, the
amount of lift available will decrease so the aircraft will lose altitude.
Pilots knowing this will simultaneously pull the stick back, add power and
bank to turn the aircraft. Pilots are informated operators. Not only
have they been trained in flight operations but they also have that array
of flight indicators and aircraft systems status indicators. There is a
lot of information built into the flight control systems and the pilots
have gained a great capacity for knowing the interrelationships of the
aircraft and its environment (Thank goodness).

Any business of any size is much more complex than an aircraft and its
crew. Where do we begin to define the level of knowledge needed to become
an informated organization? Where do we begin to learn, and store, and
make available to the organization the knowledge that makes it informated?
While I think that the answer to the beginning point is dependent on the
particular organization's situation, my inclination would be to start with
the boundary systems. After all the organization competes in the
environment and it is in the boundary systems that the business either is
paid and survives or it fails and atrophies.

Applying archetypes to this set of systems will be instructive. I think
that they will have to be used carefully to prevent the whole system
representation from becoming too complex. My intent is to develop a
starter model that would be useful as I work with clients. This would be
a beginning point to get the client interested in discovering the inter-
dependencies of their business.

Comments, considerations, critiques - dialog.
bhobler@cpcug.org ( William J. Hobler, Jr.) Bill


"William J. Hobler, Jr." <bhobler@cpcug.org>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>