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Complexity in process consulting: a good thing?


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A colleague used the word “simplistic” in describing the 10 principles of process consulting offered by Ed Schein.

I interpreted his use of the word simplistic in describing shines 10 principles as a negative thing. There’s a part of me that remembers the 10 Commandments are simplistic too.

In my studies of complexity and chaos theory there is a belief among practitioners that to successfully adapt to or manage complexity requires an equivalent degree of complexity in the manager or leader or organization’s processes themselves. There is rarely if ever evidence offered to support this contention, but it seems to be intuitive. It is the very intuitive attractiveness of that idea that causes me to be skeptical and wonder what the evidence really shows about the need to be complex in order to manage complexity.

The other side of the argument is that a combination of very simple rules in a dynamic environment can cause very complex results, and so I’m not sure that complexity needs complexity to be managed.

If you believe the 10 principles are overly simplistic where would you add some additional nuance to his general advice?

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  1. Terry Lesniak
    April 24, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Thinking of the markets, it seems to me,experience creates understanding. At some point the experience is encoded and pulling the trigger is second nature. Getting to that point is an arduous process. Process doesn’t manage itself all at once but builds upon itself step by step. A grandmaster can beat a novice any day because he sees the game differently. Someone looking at a 3min. bar chart of an ES contract might view it as “noise” whereas someone skilled in reading price, volume and volatility sees something entirely different. No one could possibly know the complexity to the marketplace at any one point in time,but then you don’t need to. What you do need to understand is how well placed your idea is from a probabilistic point of view and how early you are in relation to getting ahead of the curve. It’s interesting how simplistic Capitalism is with its uncontrolled robustness in its ability to create wealth if we allow it to work. I think it is an intellectual conceit to conclude that the more “complex” the manager,the better result will occur to the questionable “complex” problem at hand. It is this “conceit” and arrogance attached with it that has created many of the problems we face today.

  2. April 24, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    the Soviet Union committed their best and brightest thinkers to multi-generational approach to centralized planning with rational values and they were a catastrophic failure. Think of the hubris would suggest that we could do it any better or be wildly successful where they were failures. Simplicity in my view is the answer to complexity and on this I believe we are in complete agreement cheers!

  1. April 22, 2010 at 3:40 pm
  2. April 29, 2010 at 9:20 pm

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