your system through the lens of complexity.
In addition to the metaphor of a machine or a military
predominant metaphor used in organizations today is that of a machine. Almost equally
popular is the metaphor of a military operation. If an organization is a machine, then we
simply must specify the parts well and make sure that each part does its part. If an
organization is a military operation, then command, control and communication needs to be
hierarchical; survival is key; and sacrificial heroes are desired (although no one really
wants to be one themselves). Most of todays organizational artifacts job
descriptions, rank-and-file employees, turf battles, strategic plans and so on
emerge from these largely unexpressed and undiscussed metaphors. If you buy into these
metaphors, then the traditional actions of management make sense and should work.
The basic problem with
these metaphors when applied to a complex adaptive system is that they ignore the
individuality of agents and the effects of interaction among agents. Or worse, they simply
assume that all this can be tightly controlled through better (read: more) specification.
While there are many situations for which the machine and military metaphors might be
useful for example, routine surgical processes there are also many
situations for which these metaphors are grossly inadequate. When we view our system
through the lens of complexity, we take on a new metaphor that of a CAS and,
therefore, are using a different model to determine what makes sense for leaders to do.
Viewing the world
through the complexity lens has been a marvelously stress-reducing experience
for the health care leaders in VHA. Many have come to see that the massive
sea of changes that they have experienced and agonized over recently
the failed Clinton health care reform plan, the rise of managed care,
the AIDS epidemic are natural phenomena in a complex adaptive system.
Such things will happen again, each will leave its mark on the health
care system. Predicting when and where the next one will come is futile.
Learning to be flexible and adaptable is the only sustainable leadership
All Components of Edgeware
Principles Copyright © 2001, Curt