Planning method – Syntegration

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Very interesting work about new tool which claims to produce best possible results when working with a large group. As author states – “Highly pragmatic and innovative tool for knowledge sharing, consensus building and conflict resolution whenever a large number of people is involved: in business, in politics and in every societal body, panel or committee.” Link to original – http://www.jucs.org/jukm_0_1/stafford_beers_syntegration_as/nittbaurb.pdf

Syntegration – idea looks good although it is not crystal clear for me how exactly everything is happening when according roles people must be in several places.

Quotes from article

… control in a system can only be obtained if the variety of the controller is at least as great as the variety of the system to be controlled

Organizations of any kind face an extremely high internal and external complexity which they need to manage in order to survive in their specific competitive environment.

… by integrating the knowledge and experience of these specialists in a way that they can network into one large biological brain, the necessary variety is being assembled that is required in order to manage complex organizations in their complex environments.

…Each participant is being assigned Member in two Topic Teams, Critic in two other Topic Teams and Observer in up to four more Topic Teams.

… reverberation ensures that every thought, every new idea, is being transferred automatically to all other Topic Teams via the short term memory of the participants

… by integrating the knowledge and experience of these specialists in a way that they can network into one large biological brain, the necessary variety is being assembled that is required in order to manage complex organizations in their complex environments.

… the participants must be selected very carefully: Whom do we need for knowledge generation (the experts) and whom do we need for the implementation of the actions proposed (the “drivers”).

Work Abstract

Over some forty years, Stafford Beer (1926 – 2002) has published a steady stream of seminal books and papers in which he has applied cybernetic science to organizational problems. In all of these he has explained underlying principles and developed new theories and recorded a great variety of practical applications. In his last book, published in 1994 [Beer, 1994b] he presents a cybernetic approach to knowledge management within large groups of about 30 people, called Syntegration®. Syntegration is a structured, non-hierarchical process for highly effective and efficient dialogue that leads to much faster, much more informed outcomes and aligns people behind the resulting decisions, messages and action plans with a high chance for implementation. Since its invention this powerful method has been very successfully applied more then 200 times in the organization of normative, directional, and strategic planning, and other creative decision processes. The underlying model is a regular icosahedron. This has 30 struts, each of which represents a person. Each of the 12 edges represents a topic that is being discussed. An internal network of interactions is created by a set of iterative protocols. A group organized like this is an ultimate statement of participatory democracy, since each role is indistinguishable from any other. There is no hierarchy, no top, no bottom, no sideways. Beer illustrates how continued dynamic interaction between persons causes ideas and resolutions to hum around the sphere, which reverberates into a kind of group consciousness. Mathematical analysis of the structure shows how the process is determined by the even spread of synergy. The aim of this article is to present to managers and their advisors a new planning method that captures the native genius of the organization in a non-political and non-hierarchical way. That produces the best possible results in the shortest possible time from the largest possible number of people, by making optimized use of the knowledge these people have. Knowledge management at its best.

Constraints On Effective Product Development

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Organising yourself as a network of multi-dependent teams helps to solve following constraints and increase effectiveness of product development

Functional Teams

People from different functional areas must be a part of the same team to eliminate all possible “cross departments” activities

Toyota have long eliminated this constraint through their Obeya concept, and unique matrix structure.

Capacity of Bottlenecks

Often certain teams in the company can become a bottleneck as lots of others start to depend on them. Providing options for teams in different stages of development gives needed flexibility and possibility to act according the situation.

Delayed Decision Making 

Building structure around function silos and skills forces you to increase additional layers of coordination or start more projects which automatically leads to more communication points and less efficiency. additionally temporary nature of projects breaks ownership mindset. Organising around value forces you to:

  • think long term as there is no end, but continuous value delivery
  • focus on relevant problems, especially if options are given to others and they can abandon your service
  • build in ownership and quality as things will not be passed to someone else

 

What other constraints you face? Do you find these common?

Resources

  • http://www.organizeforcomplexity.com
  • https://medium.com/@flowchainsensei/constraints-on-effective-product-development-3b2684f5d1e2#.puz0ysspx
  • http://agilemindstorm.com/2016/03/16/network-structure-it-works/

#75 out of 100

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Although i am not acting as Agile coach or trainer but surprisingly listed here – 100 Top Agile Blogs in 2015TOP 100

Happy and proud to be among great people of agile community. It will definitely encourage me to continue sharing my ideas and thoughts about how to organize work in a company to keep Agile mindset even when you grow from 20 to 600.

Posts that worth taking a look at:

Thank you for reading.

Network structure – it works

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It was a long journey of trying to understand what organisational structure is best for dynamic growth, experiments, agility and change.

Simple conclusion that i came up for myself – it works! And it is the best way to grow up to an organisation to a scale of 600 people at least. Reasons behind are simple – it allows you to scale fast naturally and have built-in flexibility in the structure to a constant change. Obviously there are challenges which you have to overcome.

TOP 7 Challenges

  1. Flexible structure is not possible if you want to keep technical foundation monolithic. Devops and Service Oriented Architecture is a must use practices otherwise organisation will not be able to adjust to changing business demand fast enough
  2. Easy to fallback to local optimizations and thinking that structure is something permanent
    • POD Leads and Keepers start to maintain status quo rather than to advocate the change as structure must be adjusted according new findings, growing number of people, speed of delivery and many other things that pop up during the journey
    • Extreme sense of ownership can lead to certain local optimizations instead of seeking global improvement
  3. It’s very important to define common artefacts for PODs as soon as possible so everybody knows what to expect and how to work. You can start from something simple first and grow it naturally according the needs
  4. Pod sponsor role is extremely critical in order to achieve alignment and solve challenges outside the scope of the POD or priority conflicts
    • Especially for service pods which are often understaffed and business value is indirect, but high expectations are formed by the community
    • Pod sponsor is an important contributor to network orchestration
  5. Transparency is key, especially regarding speed of delivery and commitments
  6. Behaviour and mindset is much more important than experience as new structure depends a lot on readiness to change and constant learning
  7. Change and adoption core group must be full-time activity and include decision makers (often C-level)
    • Plays leading role in network orchestration
    • Solves operational challenges together with leaders

But what you get instead:

  • you know value creation chain of your company and make dependencies visible
  • people are committed and motivated as they are the owners of what they do and decision making is delegated to them
  • problems are transparent to everyone who is looking for information and you can act upon them

Updated document with our experience – POD framework v.03, comparing to previous version you will find:

  • Description of deliverables and artefacts that can be used as a starting point of your journey
  • Better description of roles to handle expectations
  • Description of how roles work should together
  • Challenges that you must prepare for

If you have some experience building network structure would love to hear your insights, ideas and knowledge.

Scale A => Scale B

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Experience shows that approaches that worked for Scale A will not work for Scale B and you need to change practices you apply, way to organise work, communicate and etc.
You might say it’s obvious, but somehow everybody still tends to stick to what they know and do not challenge themselves.

The need for a change as you grow pretty well described in the video –

Successful guys also confirm that to get from point A to point B you need to start preparing for a shift. The better you prepare and understand this more successful you are.

Following things must change in order to succeed as you grow:
– how you work with people: generalists vs specialists, on-boarding
– how you work with product: market fit, competitors, ..
– how you approach technical platform: from monolith to micro-services
– how you find balance between adaptation and excellence in operations and tech

And one thing remains constant – innovation. i understand this in a way that you always have to experiment to find best ways to tackle the challenge in your context as there are no such things as right and wrong.

What are your thoughts on the topic?