Mindworks’ Weblog

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Posts Tagged ‘complexity’


Posted by Andrew Cooper on August 2, 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why I haven’t tried to sell the Mindworks Approach to large organisations – corporates and public sector organisations – here in the UK.

A relevant economist

A relevant economist

The reasons is quite straightforward. In order to do so I would have to deal with the ‘gatekeepers’ who are usually involved in decisions to hire people like me. They are often people who are steeped in the complex methodolgies which are used by large organisations these days, such as Six Sigma and Prince 2. It’s easy to knock approaches like these, and the wikipedia articles summarise some of the criticisms. But, as Albert E said, ‘theories should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler’ and if you’re designing a large computerisation project or re-engineering business processes you need an approach that’s able to deal with the complexity involved.

The problem is that, as the Wikipedia article on Six SIgma points out, these methodologies can become industries in their own right. As I said in a previous post, just getting your head around all the abbreviations can be quite challenging.

So if I turn up saying ‘I’ve got this really simple structured way of thinking about things that’s described on a 2 sided card, doesn’t feature any jargon or abbreviations and it’s based on how we think anyway’ they say ‘too simple, I’m afraid, and I have to go to a Six sigma committee meeting followed by a Prince 2 Project Board, goodbye’ and that’s that: I take one last glance at the framed certificates on their office wall and leave.

Now I could, without much effort, make my 9 steps much more complex if I wanted. When, in step 2 of the Mindworks Approach, I say ‘identify the groups and indivduals who have needs that should or could be met’ I could say ‘conduct an extensive and in-depth stakeholder profiling and segmentation analysis’, but I don’t. I could also introduce some abbreviations. ‘Step 5 – develop a picture of the future’ could be the DAPOTF and I could recommend that a FACG (a Futuring Approval Compliance Group) should be set up involving all key stakholders, project champions and whatever. But I won’t do that either. Some numbered sub-steps would be good, including a Step 0 (open Mindworks Box) and Step 0.1 (do what it says on the instructions) immediately spring to mind. In no time at all (you’ve seen the length of my blog posts) I’d have filled numerous binders with detailed material, sign-off forms, compliance criteria and so on. I could also design a series of modular workshops, leading to the presentation of various levels of accreditation (see the ‘belt’ system Six Sigma uses). Eventually – and I’m quite warming to this idea – the only possible way to use the MCBADIM (Mindworks Comprehensive Business Analysis, Design and Implementation Methodology) would be to hire teams of consultants trained in the approach, because the clients would realise it would be far too complex for their busy staff to get their heads around and, if they, did, they’d only be poached by the consultants.

As I say, complex methodolgies are needed to deal with complex situations. But my argument – if I hadn’t been thrown out of the hypothetical meeting described above – would be: ‘Yes, you do need all that, but before you immerse yourself in your favourite complicated methodology, you need to get your thoughts straight. I might even use a bit of jargon and say that I’ve got an end-to-end process that can do that and can help you with the different kinds of thinking you need to do to make a change. The odd ‘moving forward’ would probably help, just to show that I can speak the client’s language.

Anyway, enough of that. Talking of end-to-end, a former boss of mine at HM Treasury (we worked on the same floor as most of HMT’s economists) used to say two things about them. “For every economist there’s an equal and opposite economist” and, even better, “If you were to lay out all the economists in the world end-to-end, they’d never reach a conclusion”. Feel free to crack these brilliant jokes the next time you meet an economist.


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