Learning Organisations and TOC pt 3 #

Continuing to work through Overcoming Organizational Defenses to find links with the TOC approach it struck me that creating a CRT was in itself a form of Cognitive Mapping.

In other words by extracting the key concepts from the book into a CRT it should be possible to graphically display and test the book’s argument at the same time as comprehending it.

In the first chapter Argyris gives some strong clues about the sort of Undesirable Effects (UDEs) we might see in the real world…

Argyris gives examples of seven symptoms commonly seen in organisations:

  1. Actions intended to increase understanding and trust often produce misunderstanding and mistrust
  2. Blaming others or the system for poor decisions
  3. Organisational inertia: The tried and proven ways of doing things dominate organisational life
  4. Upward communications for difficult issues are often lacking
  5. Budget ganmes are necessary evils
  6. People do not behave reasonably, even when it is in their best interest
  7. The management team is often a myth

He then suggests that for rational, well-meaning human beings to consistently create these sort of problems there must be something wrong with their thinking processes, especially when dealing with business issues that are embarrassing or threatening – they must be using what he calls “Defensive Reasoning” – the three symptoms of which are:

  • Individuals hold premises the validity of which is questionable yet they think it is not
  • Individuals make inferences that do not necessarily follow from the premises yet they think they do
  • Individuals reach conclusions that they believe they have tested carefully yet they have not (because the way they have been framed makes them untestable)

Using the terminology of the TOC thinking processes I’m going to take these as the initial UDEs

Argyris states that the causes of this defensive reasoning are four-fold:

  1. The human programs held by the people concerned about dealing with embarrassment or threat
  2. The fact that they use those programs skillfully
  3. The organisational defence routines that result
  4. The organisational “fancy footwork” used to protect the defensive routines

We can use those UDEs and causes to start making a skeleton CRT.

Initial CRT - click to view full size

At the moment the the logical jumps between the entities seem too large to start plotting cause-effect arrows; as I work through the following chapters of the book I’ll develop the tree in line with Argyris’s argument.

Earlier articles:

Julian Elve
Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change