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Co-Production Begins with The Barriers

9 May

Effective co-production begins with a focus on the barriers, on what could go wrong, from all stakeholder perspectives. I explain why in this article, and suggest a simple, easy to use technique which allows us to strategically befriend barriers.

Co-production makes perfect sense. In the public sector, involving citizens and communities who have lived experience of the conditions leaders are attempting to positively change, and frontline workers who interact between leaders and citizens on a constant basis, is an effective way to better, more adaptable and more resilient strategies. However, it can be a difficult process if not approached with true openness.

Essential to effective co-production is a commitment to sharing power and understanding the mind sets and experience of other stakeholders. When designing a new service, each stakeholder group has a view of what the service could look like and the barriers which might prevent the services success. The argument here is that paying attention to what each stakeholder group feels could go wrong, the barriers, provides the sharpest insight into their world view and improves the chances of effective co-production.

There can be frustrations over the barriers each group of stakeholders perceive, and frustrations over how easy to remove and how important those barriers are to different groups and individuals. Barriers are built on past experiences, unique histories and the anticipated reactions of others. This is what makes them so important and sometimes so hard to integrate, they illustrate what a person notices, ignores, fears and how they make sense of their environment. Barriers represent what keeps integration apart, and careful examination of them allows us to examine ways of removing or reducing them.

Barriers highlight what stakeholders consider risky, their appetite for innovation, technology and how much trust they have and support they feel they need. It is important to fully understand and embrace each of these view points from each stakeholder perspective as they help to construct positive approaches to change.

Data on stakeholder barriers allow strategies to be constructed on models which ENABLE people. A good strategy should aim to deliver by removing and reducing barriers, and then allowing stakeholders to adapt what they already do well to the new service. This only happens when strategies enhance people and their experiences, not put a new process first.

The above are reasons why collecting quality data on barriers requires careful thought in effective co-production. Simply asking a mixed group of stakeholders to highlight their own barriers can be illustrative, but quite often groups react to each other’s answers as opposed to providing their own unique perspective. A method of effectively collecting barriers is through the de-correlation of errors.

De-correlation of errors is very simple in this context. It removes the potential problem of everyone basing their views on the first idea which was voiced in the room as opposed to their own unique perspective. The method achieves this by asking every stakeholder to prepare their answers to a short series of questions BEFORE consultation. When the consultation begins, every stakeholder is asked to read their own unique response, whilst other stakeholders listen.

This introduces the stakeholders to each other through their own perception of the situation, facilitating richer data and greater understanding of individual and group positions. In a future article, I’ll introduce how a technique like de-correlation of errors can be used within a broader co-production frame work focused on removing and reducing barriers.

Reading

Very good 1 page co-production model from NHS England

file:///C:/Users/User/Desktop/C4CC-Co-production-Model.pdf

The value of de-correlating errors appears in this excellent interview below with Danny Kahneman and Gary Klein

McKinsey Classic Interview

Some related reading from this blog

http://wp.me/p3jX7i-ad

General reading on the methodology behind error de-correlation

Kahneman, D (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. Penguin

Klein, G. (2007) The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work. Currency

Harvard On Forecasting

1 Dec

There is an outstanding, and extensive, resource available on the Harvard University website dedicated to one of my favourite research subjects, Affective Forecasting, by Wilson and Gilbert (the link appears below). I’ve covered Affective Forecasting multiple times on this blog, across various contexts. So, in order to provide a primer for anyone interested in exploring this topic further and clicking the link, I’ll attempt to briefly revisit Affective Forecasting from an organisational perspective.

One of the downsides of having large amounts of experience in a specific domain is that sense making can become fixed (Klein, 2007 for examples). If an experienced decision maker has a run of success, their critical insight is put at risk. This means success can diminish the capacity to draw a conclusion, and then critically analyse that conclusion with questions such as “how could I be wrong? What else could be at play which I might have overlooked?”. The result is that the past and present is projected into the future, uncritically, and used to forecast an outcome or future condition. And this is affective forecasting crudely expressed, a current emotional state is used to predict a future emotional state.

If time pressure and competing demands are added to the mix, then the past is more likely to become a proxy indicator of what will happen in the future (see Weick and Sutcliffe, 2007, Kahneman, 2011, Taleb, 2013 for examples). This has all sorts of consequences for decision making.

Experienced organisational decision makers, should work hard to maintain critical insight despite current demands and pressures. For example, If a leader affectively forecasts and is operating with a non-critical team, then decision traps such as group think can easily take hold.

As the source material will reveal, methods such as encouraging critical reflection on organisational decisions before execution, and consulting someone or a team who has lived your intended future to broaden the frame of reference can prove effective. I’ll leave Wilson and Gilbert to explain the rest.

Link to Wilson and Greening on Affective Forecasting

Reading

Kahneman, D (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. Penguin

Klein, G. (2007) The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work. Currency

Weick, K. E., & Sutcliffe, K. M. (2007). Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in and Age of Uncertainty, Second Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Expanding Horizons and Cognitive Computing

21 Nov

The cognitive computing software we are currently working with is methodologically based on systems thinking. A key influence was the work of ecologist and cybernetics expert, Frederick Vester. Vester argued (2007) that the failure of organisational systems occurs because only a single aspect of a problem is ever explored, a concept he referred to as “symptom bashing”.

An organisation, like any aspect of life, is a network of interlocking relationships, interdependencies and features, which can be referred to as nodes. The relationship which exists between the various nodes of a network is crucial to an improved understanding of a wider system. Vester observed that what seems to happen in organisational planning is an over emphasis on nodes, with very little attention paid to the relationships and arising interdependencies.

For example, in organisational change, a CEO needs to make the organisation more streamlined by reducing the number of management positions. Each management position is a node in a network, and can be identified clearly on a spread sheet.

From this spread sheet, the CEO can select which positions they wish to retain, restructure or remove. What is not fully known to the CEO is the relationship each of these nodes have with the organisation. The formal rationale for restructuring, presented as the symptoms of too many managers, too long decision making, and too much cost, makes sense, but the cost of change, which will only become apparent through time, is unknown.

In other words, the nodal management positions are known in theory (job descriptions, formal responsibilities etc.), but how this theory has been adapted to practice, and what relationships have been formed to the delivery of key business areas, could be fuzzy at best. What occurs is an initial saving followed only by the appearance of “unexpected events”, the latent effect of system neglect. Not all risk can be known by taking a systems approach, far from it, but the risks that change can bring can be better prepared for, creating a more resilient restructure.

A lot of system neglect is human nature. We, as human beings, have a natural bias to jump to conclusions, and then stick to these conclusions, explaining away any evidence or data which might contradict our initial assumptions (Kahneman, 2011 for excellent examples). High level expertise presents frequently as the ability to let go of conclusions and adapt quickly to new information (Klein, 2007). However, the conditions need to be supportive for “letting go” to occur (Klein, 2014).

A practical method of providing this support to improve strategic decision making, forecasts and analysis is to think about the system as opposed to the nodes, or put more simply, get a broader perspective. For example, affective forecasting (Wilson et al, 2003, Greening, 2014) discusses how forecasting about the outcome of an event or future state improves when the forecaster speaks to someone who has lived their future.

Forecasting and decision making in small groups can become overly focused on the perceived resources, abilities and knowledge of the team to achieve a goal, the inside perspective (Kahneman, 2011). However, this type of planning leads to over optimism and no consideration of what time and uncertainty will throw in their direction.

However, if the team speak to someone who has made and lived through a similar decision and faced the unexpected events, then the team is being exposed to the outside view. This takes their focus away from the nodes (the closed attributes) and broadens the perspective to the potential relationship of the nodes to the system, the outside perspective, through a period of time.

This is one of the aspects the cognitive computing software we are working with aims to achieve. It aims to collect a wide range of experiences, forecasts and anticipations from variety of decision makers and make these available to a user so they (the user) are able to view their environment more as a system and less as a series of nodes. The software is able to present information to a user in a time critical format, so the user is able to see the latent effect of decisions and the emergence of potential unintended consequences.

Viewing a decision as being part of an interconnected and changing system broadens the perspective. A broadening of perspective allows a decision maker to let go of initial assumptions and adapt to changes in a system. This can be achieved by accessing the knowledge and experience of people who have experienced the topic system through a period of time. For the CEO in the earlier example, this means a sharp analysis of the key relationships the managers have built up in their role. The result is discreet knowledge of what the CEO will be actually restructuring beyond spread sheet nodes, and the risks which that brings. For a user of cognitive computing software, this can mean exploring a topical system through the eyes of potentially thousands of people who have already lived a similar future.

Reading

Wilson, Timothy D.; Daniel T. Gilbert (2003). “Affective Forecasting”. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 35: 345–411

Kahneman, D (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. Penguin

Gilbert, D (2013) (p.45) AFFECTIVE FORECASTING…OR…THE BIG WOMBASSA: WHAT YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING TO GET, AND WHAT YOU DON’T GET, WHEN YOU GET WHAT YOU WANT in John Brockman (Editor) (2013) Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction. Harper Collins

Klein, G. (2014) Seeing What Others Don’t: the remarkable ways we gain insight. Public Affairs.

Klein, G. (2007) The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work. Currency

Vester, F. (2007) The Art of Interconnected Thinking: Tools and concepts for a new approach to tackling complexity. Malik Management (English language edition)

The Price Tag of Change

24 Oct

I was reading one of Gary Klein’s recent blogs on Psychology Today, where he discussed the characteristics of leaders who were able to make a difference to the organisations which they led. Klein, whilst acknowledging the limits of his observations, saw the “difference makers” as behavioral engineers.

As I see it, these difference-makers (a) were aware that the status quo wasn’t acceptable; (b) diagnosed how the culture needed to change; and (c) designed a minimal intervention, a leverage point, that would not only interfere with the status quo but would make it difficult to later return to the dysfunctional status quo. The difference-makers were all behavioral engineers” ( Link to full article)

What I would add is that good behavioral engineers also have a superior knowledge of risks associated with change in their organisations. In other words, when behavioral engineers make changes, they have a good understanding of the consequences the change will bring. This means knowing what skills and expertise the changes will retain and support, and what skills and behaviors the changes will wash away.

Without this knowledge change is merely an abstract exercise in moving around structures and shapes with little attention to consequences and human cost. Certainly, this change can look sensible and logical, but will come with a price tag which is both financial and behavioral. Without a good idea of the price tag associated with change, then a leader has no idea what they are retaining or losing in terms of skills and expertise. This makes medium to long term success very difficult.

Reading

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/seeing-what-others-dont/201608/the-difference-makers

The Psychology of Organizational Change

23 Aug

Interesting article on Psychology Today addressing the topic of organisational change, and entitled The Psychology of Organizational Change. I’ve quoted the conclusion from this article below in full

Traditional change in management tactics in organizations are based more on animal training than on human psychology and neuroscience. Leaders promise bonuses and promotions (the carrot) for those who go along with the changes, and punish those (the stick) who don’t with less important jobs or even job loss. This kind of managerial behavior flies in the face of evidence that shows that people’s primary motivation in the workplace is neither money or advancement but rather a personal interest in their jobs, a good environment to work in and fulfilling relationships with their boss and colleagues” Article available here

It’s difficult to argue with the logic of the conclusions. Evidence does clearly suggest that meaning, social interaction and a good environment are the most important workplace considerations for staff. However, the job of change is never done. The external environment changes jobs which had so much meaning, people who mean so much move on, and revenue can impact on offices which everyone enjoyed working in. So even successful organisational change, is simply a point on a continuum, and never done.

The above point highlights the importance of leaders and planners staying in frequent touch with frontline workers. This is important because not only is change an ongoing process, a way of life which can be too often left to chance in organisations, but human beings are notoriously poor at anticipating how much positive and negative change will impact upon their lives in the medium to long run (Kahneman, 2011, Wilson et al, 2003).

The consequence is that short term data on success can show very positive attitudes towards change, and then once adaption kicks in, the data can look like a decline in satisfaction. The two key points are 1) try and avoid declaring change as complete or a success too soon, and 2) leaders should stay in frequent touch with frontline workers to monitor adaptions. Otherwise the gap between implementation and feedback can cause inaccurate responses, for example

This data shows a sharp fall in satisfaction, we need to review the effect of our change strategy

Everyone has just adapted to change, it’s only natural that it’s no longer seen as something significant

Both these points require accurate feedback data to back them up, otherwise what’s really going on is lost.

We’ve written about the above points here and here in more detail

Reading

Wilson, Timothy D.; Daniel T. Gilbert (2003). “Affective Forecasting”. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 35: 345–411

Kahneman, D (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. Penguin

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201407/the-psychology-organizational-change

The Problem With Declaring Success Too Early

19 Jul

The most common complaint I’ve heard people make about the books of sci-fi author, Philip K Dick, is that the books don’t end, they simply drift off. I’ve noticed the same thing when reading Dick’s work, but the slow drifting away is one of the things I liked most about his books. The reason is that the endings mirror real life very closely.

In many of Dick’s books a relatively normal person is swept up in extraordinary events, only to drift back to a life which the protagonist didn’t particularly enjoy or troubled them. In my mind, these endings were realistic, as many of us hope that big changes, decisions and restructures will transform ourselves, lives, teams or organisations only to see everything slowly drift back to the status quo. And this is the problem when trying to judge whether change has been a success, at what moment, if any, do you chose to declare there has been a successful transformation?

I was thinking this whilst reading some successful organizational change management case studies. The results had been frozen at a particular moment, where it was clearly possible to declare some form of success. However, the problem with change and life is that there is always a sequel, always a next day which unfreezes the frozen moment of success. This was a popular criticism of Peters and Watermans book, In Search of Excellence (1982). Fast forward a few years, and the companies researched for the book were no longer performing excellently.

This point does not mean that any change really works. Nor does it mean that if you wait long enough all change ends in failure. These are just straw man arguments. What it does mean is that some decisions do not, and should not, end with a moment, they are a continuous cycle of sequels which require constant management. In other words, we cannot just freeze a moment, declare success, and then take our eyes off the ball. If we do, the change might end like a Philip K Dick novel, a sleep-walk back to the status quo.

Reading

Peters, T. Waterman, R.H. In Search of Excellence-Lessons from America’s Best Run Companies. Collins Business Essentials.

 

Our Future Selves and Decision Making

7 Jul

Below is a link to a TED Talk by the Harvard psychologist, Dan Gilbert. The talk is entitled, The Psychology of your Future Self, and illustrates how we, as human beings, have the capacity to get our expectations of the future so badly wrong. Gilbert addresses some key reasons why anticipations of future states can be so adrift, and within this article I’m going to reference these reasons to highlight how experience and imagination can significantly improve our ability to forecast, acquire expertise and make better decisions. But first, a small detour to ancient Greece.

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Health Care and the Tacit Database

24 May

In a recent article (here), I discussed the potential of an organisation’s tacit database- an organisation’s frontline expertise and rules of thumb which are highly effective, but remain hidden from the wider organisation.

Tacit skills can remain hidden due to a separation between planners and frontline workers. For example, when a strategy is created by a planner (director, manager, board etc.) it is adapted to local conditions by frontline workers. This results in the strategy being changed, so it is more effective in a particular situation. Unless the adaptions are feedback between the frontline and the planner, these adaptions are lost, they become “ghost cases”. The adaptions represent the application of theory into practice, and unless this interaction is recorded, the opportunity to continually learn, improve and adapt is wasted.

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Mining the Tacit Database

12 May

If an organisation is trying to use experience as a resource to learn and develop, what’s an effective approach? Every organisation has a “tacit database”, the experience based skills and reasoning people use every day to effectively complete tasks, solve problems, and innovate. The tacit database, however, is combined of taken for granted rules of thumb (heuristics), meaning that people do impressive things, but struggle to explain how they did it.  This leaves an organisation knowing far more than it can say– the tacit database is frequently a hidden asset.

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Why Instructions Rarely Get Followed

19 Apr

All situations involve change. Yet most instructions, plans and procedures are static, and bear little resemblance to how frontline workers actually perform and behave. This could be because most instructions, plans and procedures assume that frontline workers passively process data. Instead, frontline workers interact with data in dynamic ways which adapt plans and instructions to meet the challenges of specific situations. This can leave what actually works well in an organisation invisible.

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