5 years, 7 months ago

The Science of Retail

#orgintelligence Liz McShane of @PortlandDesign tells @pollycurtis why Tesco’s star has waned.

“Tesco has taken its eye off the ball for some time now, focusing more on the science of retail rather than the emotion of it. By that we mean the priorit…

5 years, 7 months ago

The Science of Retail

#orgintelligence Liz McShane of @PortlandDesign tells @pollycurtis why Tesco’s star has waned.

“Tesco has taken its eye off the ball for some time now, focusing more on the science of retail rather than the emotion of it. By that we mean the priorit…

5 years, 7 months ago

Sharing Trust

@CoCreatr (Bernd Nurnberger) via @VenessaMiemis blogs about #trust.

“Being in business is basically about trust. Establishing and verifying trust, documenting it, so it can be shared, swiftly, without every business partner having to redo what led to…

5 years, 7 months ago

Sharing Trust

@CoCreatr (Bernd Nurnberger) via @VenessaMiemis blogs about #trust.

“Being in business is basically about trust. Establishing and verifying trust, documenting it, so it can be shared, swiftly, without every business partner having to redo what led to the trust.”

What I am slightly wary about here is the implication that trust can be passed around, like a parcel. I often find myself questioning the related notion that knowledge (content) can be passed around like a parcel, and I am wondering whether the same fallacy can be found in each of the five dimensions of VPEC-T.

Bernd also repeats some trust-builders and trust-destroyers that appear to originate in A Survey of Trust in the Workplace (pdf), carried out by Paul Bernthal of DDI.

Trust building behaviours:

  • Communicates with me openly and honestly, without distorting any information.
  • Shows confidence in my abilities by treating me as a skilled, competent associate.
  • Keeps promises and commitments.
  • Listens to and values what I say, even though he or she might not agree.
  • Cooperates with me and looks for ways in which we can help each other.

Trust reducing behaviours:

  • Acts more concerned about his or her own welfare than anything else.
  • Sends mixed messages so that I never know where he or she stands.
  • Avoids taking responsibility for action (“passes the buck” or “drops the ball”).
  • Jumps to conclusions without checking the facts first.
  • Makes excuses or blames others when things don’t work out (“finger-pointing”).

A commentary on this survey on the Challenge Network Forum (presumably by Oliver Sparrow) observes that fear appears to be a common factor of the trust destroyers.

“When you look over the trust-destroyers, that list sounds like the actions of people who are scared – scared of what might happen to them if they make mistakes in a company where mistakes are punished, rather than regarded as the occasional result of encouraging employees to take some initiative.”

Again, I am wondering whether the same pattern of xxx-building and xxx-reducing behaviours applies to the other dimensions of VPEC-T.



There is another set of popular theories about trust, involving certain social activities (such as team-building exercises) that are supposed to promote trust. A quick internet search for “trust-building” will yield a large number of these exercises, together with companies that will happily take your money for running these exercises with you and your colleagues. Alternatively, why not just drip oxytocin into the air-conditioning?

See also Two Dimensions of Trust


Paul Bernthal, A Survey of Trust in the Workplace (pdf) (DDI, 1998)

Randy Borum, The Science of Interpersonal Trust (Mitre, 2010). Also available via Scribd.

Bernd Nurnberger, Community of practice and trust building (Feb 2012) – reposted by Venessa Miemis, 5 Trust Builders and 5 Trust Destroyers (March 2012)

Oliver Sparrow (?), Whom do we trust? (Challenge Network Forum, undated)

5 years, 7 months ago

Does Organizational Cognition Make Sense?

#orgintelligence @carlhaggerty argues that ‘Social’ is Key to Improving Performance, discussing my presentation on Modelling Intelligence in Complex Organizations.

Carl quotes the statement that “Cognition only makes sense for individuals” (Slide 5). This is a reductionist view that I don’t myself share. I prefer the holistic view presented in my following slide: that cognition makes sense for socially-embedded systems – not just people but also communities. I personally don’t have any problem talking about how an organization perceives and decides and remembers and learns – not just as a metaphor but as a literal account of what is going on. However, I have had many arguments about this with people who are uncomfortable with applying any notion of cognition to artificial or social entities.

In practice, reductionists are usually willing to talk about non-human cognition, but they think this is only properly meaningful if it can ultimately be defined in terms of human cognition. Now there may well be a mapping between non-human cognition and human cognition, but it is probably very complicated and it’s not something I’m particularly interested to work out.

Interestingly, some people who object to the notion of an organization having a collective memory don’t seem bothered by the notion of an organization making a collective decision. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that collective decisions can often be understood as the result of a semi-democratic process in which individuals have a weighted voice/vote depending on their status in the organization. (Although in practice, collective decisions never quite work like that, and it is perfectly possible for an organization to arrive at a collective decision that nobody is happy with.)

This then links to the point Carl picks up from my slide 7 – the illusion of individual performance. In my book on Organizational Intelligence (now available on LeanPub, thanks for asking), I talk about the Talent Myth that was one of the things that did for Enron – the idea that all you have to do to build a brilliant company is recruit a bunch of brilliant individuals. Thinking about organizational intelligence doesn’t diminish the talents and efforts of individuals, but we have to understand how these individuals can collaborate intelligently and learn collectively, using a wide range of sociotechnical mechanisms, to achieve greater results.

Carl thinks this is highly relevant in a public sector context. “An individual local government officer has a complex system environment, which could include Peers, Press and Media, local demographic, local political influence, national political influence, training, policy framework etc. Essentially an individual’s performance is the result of the ‘systems’ own restrictions and ability to achieve and facilitate outcomes.”

As I understand it, Carl’s own work focused on building social knowledge systems to support local government intelligence. As local government (like everyone else these days) is constrained to do more with less, good organizational intelligence is surely a critical success factor.

http://leanpub.com/orgintelligence

5 years, 7 months ago

Enterprise OODA

#OODA #orgintelligence In response to @Griff0Jones, I promised to beef up the coverage of OODA in my book on Organizational Intelligence (draft now available via LeanPub). I should welcome any comments and suggestions on the following, as well as point…

5 years, 7 months ago

Enterprise OODA

#OODA #orgintelligence In response to @Griff0Jones, I promised to beef up the coverage of OODA in my book on Organizational Intelligence (draft now available via LeanPub). I should welcome any comments and suggestions on the following, as well as pointers to any practical examples.



The choices we make at the personal level are influenced by our experiences and our environment. We are not always fully aware of these influences, and may need someone else to point them out to us. The same is true of the strategic and operational choices made by organizations.

In a rapidly changing environment, we need a feedback loop that continuously aligns our behaviour to these changes. This is an important aspect of agility. And in a competitive situation, competitive success depends on our being more agile than our competitors – in other words, having a faster and more accurate loop.

A good model for this is the OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop created by John Boyd. Some people confuse this with the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) loop popularized by Shewhart and Deming. However, the key difference between PDCA and OODA is the explicit inclusion of sense-making, which Boyd calls Orientation. Boyd himself produced a second model, IOHAI, which is largely an expansion on the sense-making area.

In order for the OODA loop to produce real agility, there needs to be agility in each of its parts.

Agile Observation
. One criticism that has been levelled at simplified versions of the OODA loop (for example Benson and Rotkoff) is the tendency for what you observe to be narrowed to just those things that seem to help with decision making. (David Murphy describes this tendency as “inevitable”.)

Simon Thornington raises a related issue in a comment to David Murphy’s blog. “So much of what is observed is via instrumentation (or alternatively the output of models). Without the observer having prior knowledge of the construction and assumptions of the models, he or she cannot orient effectively based on the observations.” Simon suggests that this was a factor in the recent Airbus crash, various space program mishaps and throughout finance.

But Boyd understood these points perfectly well, as do those who use OODA properly. In his reply to Benson and Rotkoff, David Lyle acknowledges this tendency. “Studies by cognitive neuroscientists have demonstrated that as a basic human trait, we are stressed more by uncertainty than unpleasant certainties. But in our efforts to achieve parsimony and the false cognitive ease often associated with it, we sometimes cut out too much detail and end up building expensive empires on theoretical foundations of sand.” (via Cameron Shaefer)

Agile Orientation. David Murphy points out that “really big risks are often not acted upon because we are oriented so that we cannot decide”, and reminds us what happened to those people who tried to act against the firm’s orientation at MF Global, or Enron or HBOS.

Discussing strategic planning through the OODA lens, Henrik Mårtensson points out the importance of orientation. “If we only know one strategic paradigm, and choose a strategic method from within the range of options provided by the paradigm, we loose (sic) the ability to improve beyond what the paradigm allows. … Boyd believed it is absolutely necessary to be able to switch paradigms at will.”

Agile Decision, Agile Action. Henrik argues that “operating with a crippled OODA loop and a strategic model that separates strategy and action may not kill you, but the faster the environment changes, the more hampered your organization will be by its own strategic model”. Henrik recommends William Dettmer’s Strategic Navigation, which in his opinion combines the principles of Maneuver Warfare with the analysis and planning tools of The Logical Thinking Process. “The result is fast high quality strategic planning, and seamless integration between planning and execution.”

The limitations of the OODA model appear when there is too much emphasis on speed (especially response speed) and not enough appreciation of complexity. For example, in I’ve Got the OODA Blues, Adam Elkis argues as follows.


“Taking the OODA Loop literally can be misleading for cyber defenders because a “faster, faster” model implies that speed of response is the most crucial aspect of network defense. There’s a lot more to it than that. Alex Olesker’s post on Dronegate, for example, is really about a failure of Orientation and an overemphasis on speed of action. The Air Force claimed that it detected the virus instantly and isolated it, in effect placing a premium on the ability of automated processes to improve their ability to instantly observe, orient, decide, and act to contain a virus. This is a response rooted in the “faster, faster” OODA Loop interpretation.”

and Adam concludes

“strategic learning within the organization enables, upon the next cycle, a better ability to Observe, a sounder Orientation, and a corresponding ability to make sounder decisions under fire. This response, however, is not something that can be automated–it depends on organizational policy decisions made by CIOs as well as the soundness of network defense systems and processes.”


Sources and further reading

Kevin Benson and Steven Rotoff, Goodbye OODA Loop (Armed Forces Journal, October 2011)
David Lyle, Perspectives: Looped Back In (Armed Forces Journal, December 2012)

Blogs by Sean Lawson, Henrik Mårtensson, David Murphy, Chet Richards, and Spartan Cops.

6 years, 5 months ago

Big Picture Again

In my post Getting the Big Picture, I included a pair of pictures from the Daily Mail showing a house from two perspectives – one bigger than the other. The Daily Mail labelled them as Advert and Reality, but as I pointed out at the time, but of cours…

6 years, 5 months ago

Big Picture Again

In my post Getting the Big Picture, I included a pair of pictures from the Daily Mail showing a house from two perspectives – one bigger than the other. The Daily Mail labelled them as Advert and Reality, but as I pointed out at the time, but of cours…

6 years, 6 months ago

Constitutional Change

This post is about the proposed change to the British electoral system, from “First Past The Post” (FPTP) to “Alternative Vote”. British electors will have the opportunity to make a choice between these two (and no other) options in next week’s referen…

6 years, 6 months ago

Constitutional Change

This post is about the proposed change to the British electoral system, from “First Past The Post” (FPTP) to “Alternative Vote”. British electors will have the opportunity to make a choice between these two (and no other) options in next week’s referen…