To my final post on scaling, at least for the moment as it's a big and developing subject. There is a tendency in some complexity writing to simply abandon the whole question of management to vague and idealistic statements about self-organising and natural systems. The simple fact is that choosing not to do something is as much an intentional act as to do something; sins of omission are at the same level as those of commission. The issue is not management, but what is the focus of management. To put it simply it's all about what you can manage, and what types of things give you indicators of propensities and dispositional states. Propensities are innate features of things and connections, dispositions are the current state of an evolutionary system and its plausible vectors. I'm using specialist language with (hopefully) precision here that references back to other posts and writing. The sequence probable-possible-plausible for example comes from the need to manage in the tail of distributions where there are few precedents that will repeat and we need to focus on resilience.
Now the question of what can be managed, and monitored, in a CAS was the subject of our recent workshop in New York for UNDP where we had development experts and a group of scientists I brought to the table. We ended up with this list:
Now this is a further development and expansion of the key phrase in the Childrens' Party Story namely that we manage the emergence of beneficial coherence within attractors within boundaries. Now with the UNDP this basic typology/taxonomy has been converted into an experimental assessment process for new projects. The idea there is that if we can manage, or at least better understand the starting conditions we have a better measure of the plausibility that some investment will produce a beneficial outcome. Small investments can more easily be made into safe-to-fail experiments in a balanced portfolio before we commit significant resource.
As in development, so in pre-scrum processes in Agile and to resolution of strategy conflicts in government and industry alike. This friday we start to move the method and principles into the software development sector and the wider use in industry is already well underway with adoption at board level in several companies and government agencies – a lot outside of our direct control or influence. The thing about complexity is that when you get it life becomes a lot easier, but for many people the world is all to simplistic and they want tightly defined and aggregative measures that remove ambiguity. For these people, particularly in the software community, the blue bill is the safer (sic) route while the red pill is all to scary as it involves becoming an adult.
The assessment structure outlined above is being tested at the moment and there will be an automatic test system using SenseMaker® in place for when I get back to run seminars in Brisbane and Sydney on the subject in just over a weeks time.
The principles of scaling in a complex system are actually quite simple, the practice is evolving. The problem is the perversion of order which pervades thinking, the desire of neat tidy structures in which everything has a place, and is in its place. Sick Stigma, SAFe, many evaluation programmes based on gamed outcomes and so on all represent that type of perversion. I use the word perversion advisedly by the way, not only is it unnatural, but their adoption produce unnatural and twisted outcomes.