Two worldviews of improvement

Understand the system.

There are two worldviews, depending on context.
In a bounded linear flow, a well behaved system, we can apply mechanistic thinking to analyse the system: ToC, Lean, Value Stream Mapping…
In a more general case, the world is VUCA. We can’t understand mechanistically, we must understand organically. Dance. Play. Experiment. We need different tools: Meadows’ 12 points, Case Management, Cynefin, OODA, Promise Theory, storytelling…. (I’m still learning)

The special case of a value stream was always an approximation of reality. We have to introduce tight bounds to make it behave simply, so that the approximation is close enough to work.  Factories are an example. Concrete and metal make a physically bounded flow. Controls and processes bound the work.  Command/control management bounds the workers.

As the world becomes increasingly VUCA, and as people refuse to be bounded, and as the kind of work is less and less suited to it, the bounded value stream is giving way to the fluid unknowable value network. Software development is an example (not software deployment, that’s a good linear flow addressed by DevOps). Work is done by a network of open source communities, vendors, outsourcers, suppliers, customers, and collaborating in-house teams. Work flows all over the place. There are many feedback flows, and many flows are bi-directional. People refuse to be bounded. Command/control destroys productivity of knowledge workers.

I’m not throwing out the idea of simple linear systems. I’m saying linear systems are a special case. We can use those models only under a limited set of conditions. They are a subset of the general case so some concepts still provide illuminatíon with care. Which is why e.g. ToC trying to stretch the concept of “constraint” to a network still has some success..
Recognising that is important.

We need better ways of working.