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Lessons from Harvard 3: Discovering the Squiggle on Projects

This is the third of four posts based on my experience at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership program that I took in November 2017, led by Dr. Leith Sharp, integrated with some of our GPM Global content where appropriate. The intent of these posts is to show some interesting research and recommendations by Harvard around sustainable project management. The intent of the program is to education leaders to “learn powerful new strategies for enacting high-impact sustainability leadership that positions sustainability as a driver of organizational engagement, authenticity, agility, innovation, and change-capability.” I strongly recommend others to consider this excellent program. It is a complementary offering to GPM’s sustainable project management training and practices.

The first post dealt with understanding the organizational ecosystems and the impacts of change on people and cultures. The second post, the one before this, provided background on how to identify two organizational “operating systems” that do not traditionally work well together. This post provides background on the strategy and research on new idea life cycles and the resulting model to analyze these project initiatives. The final post, the next one, will deal with the strategy, tools and techniques of how to empower the two “operating systems” identified in the second post to successfully implement important organizational change and deliver the expected project outcomes and benefits.

The program provided invaluable lessons, tools and techniques including an exceptional model for dealing with the different political landscapes and “operating systems” within organizations and providing strategies for how to use this insight to better implement change. Particularly multi-stakeholder and transformational change.

 

Recognition

This post’s graphics and content were adapted from the Harvard University Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership November 2017 program presentations by Dr. Leith Sharp.

 

Context

Decisions for new ideas and projects often die from any number of events. The question from the last post was how can we work with these two operating system in a manner that is comfortable to both of them that will help facilitate organization change of new ideas? Or how do we work with organizations to mitigate some of these cultural and stakeholder related threats.

Exhibit 2: Lack of Decision-Making Agility” (Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

In the previous post we identified two key organizational operating systems that often do not work well together, but are both required to proactively enable the development of new ideas and deliver organizational objectives successfully. These two operating systems and their key descriptors are outlined below:

Exhibit 3: Optimize Synergy Between Both Operating Systems (Sharp, 2017-2, is licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

The question is how to facilitate these two cultures / operating systems to better work together towards a common goal

Exhibit 4: The Power of a New Shared Objective (Sharp, 2017-2, is licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Forensic Idea Flow Mapping of New Ideas Life-Cycle

In 2014, Dr. Leith Sharp of Harvard started mapping the journey of new ideas through time using a new technique developed by her team called ‘Forensic Idea Flow Mapping.’

Exhibit 5: Basic Concept of Forensic Idea Flow Mapping of New Ideas Life-Cycle (Sharp, 2017-1, is licensed for sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Dr. Sharp identified the timeline on the horizontal access and the progress on the vertical access. The idea is that each stage has a pivot point where the new idea can go upwards in a positive new direction or negatively fall backwards or fail and stop at that pivot point. Below is an example of what these forensic idea flow maps of new ideas life-cycle looked like.

Exhibit 6: Sample Forensic Idea Flow Mapping Life-Cycle of a New Idea (Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Dr. Sharp mapped over 1,000 idea life cycles, and noticed a variety of powerful patterns and themes had emerged.

 

Exhibit 7: Inventory of Sample Forensic Idea Flow Map Life-Cycle of New Ideas (Sharp, 2017-1)

 

Dr. Sharp also researched and identified where the Command and Control Operating System (CCOS) was involved, where the Adaptive Operating System (AOS) was involved, and where both of the Operating Systems (@) were involved at these key pivot points.

Many of these new ideas that Dr. Sharp mapped and analyzed had life cycles that looked like this which did not appear to make upwards progress and kept going up and down. There appeared to be friction from various sources impeding the progress of these new ideas.

Exhibit 8: Sample Forensic Idea Flow Mapping Life-Cycle of a New Idea (Sharp & Hsueh, 2017-1, is licensed for sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Whereas ideas that were successful had life cycles with positive flows more like the following two images:

Exhibit 9: Sample Forensic Idea Flow Mapping Life-Cycle of a New Idea (Sharp & Hsueh, 2017-1, is licensed for sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Exhibit 10: Sample Forensic Idea Flow Mapping Life-Cycle of a New Idea (Sharp & Hsueh, 2017-1, is licensed for sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Dr. Sharp started to refer to these idea flow maps of new idea life-cycles as “Squiggles”. Her research identified strategies for facilitating new ideas to move from friction to flow in organizations.

 

The Squiggle

So… what do we mean by squiggle? The fun part of this exercise of analyzing the idea flow maps of new idea life-cycles was reviewing the documented original plan with the “official” story compared to the actual real-world experiences. In almost all situations the perspective was this (with the actual experience different each time).

Exhibit 11: Disconnect between how new things get done and the Official Story (Sharp, N.D. & Sharp, 2017-1, is licensed for open sharing & adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

“Every new idea, project or enterprise has a life cycle from inception to completion that is as unique as a fingerprint. This is because every idea exists within a unique context, faces a unique constellation of risks and opportunities and requires the engagement of a unique constellation of stakeholders to engage” (Sharp, N.D.).

Exhibit 12: Unique Life-cycle of Every New Idea (Sharp, 2017-1, is licensed for open sharing & adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Each idea has its own unique stakeholder ecosystem, risks, opportunities, assets, context etc..

Dr. Sharp and her team developed a Forward Idea Flow Mapping Template to work on analyzing new ideas to identify best practices. This model allows for forward idea flow mapping in order to design moves, track moves & record the actual story. It is important to socialize a visual and verbal lexicon to enable design thinking for idea flow. The project team must start explaining the actual idea life cycles visually using a model like this.

Exhibit 13: Forward Idea Flow Mapping” (Modified Slightly from Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-4, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Conclusion

The challenge we now have is, how do we present a strategy or model to help the two operating systems work together that has been demonstrated by research to facilitate success of new ideas?

Exhibit 14: Cognitive Bandwidth (Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

 

The following model will represent the framework for moving forward.

Exhibit 15: Healthy Idea Flow needs adequate iteration between operating systems (Modified Slightly from Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-2, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

The next post will provide strategies, tools and techniques from the lessons learned from this research.

 

References

 

Anderson, Marc. (2009). The role of group personality composition in the emergence of task and relationship conflict within groups. Journal of Management & Organization. 15. 82-96. 10.5172/jmo.837.15.1.82. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/269638378_The_role_of_group_personality_composition_in_the_emergence_of_task_and_relationship_conflict_within_groups

Buchanan, D., & Badham, R. (1999). Politics and Organizational Change: The Lived Experience. Human Relations, 52(5), 609–629. http://doi.org/10.1023/A:1016930112943. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/001872679905200503

Dizikes, Peter. “Putting Heads Together – New Study: Groups Demonstrate Distinctive ‘Collective Intelligence’ When Facing Difficult Tasks.” MIT News, 1 Oct. 2010, news.mit.edu/2010/collective-intel-1001.

Eisenhardt, K. M., Kahwajy, J. L., & Bourgeois, L. J. (1997). How Management Teams Can Have a Good Fight How Management Teams Can Have a Good Fight. Harvard Business Review, 75, 77–86. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://hbr.org/1997/07/how-management-teams-can-have-a-good-fight

Feldman, David Henry. Beyond Universals in Cognitive Development. Ablex, 1994.

Haidt, Jonathan and Iyer, Ravi. (2016). “How to Get Beyond Our Tribal Politics.” The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-get-beyond-our-tribal-politics-1478271810

Haidt, Jonathan. (2013). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://www.amazon.com/Righteous-Mind-Divided-Politics-Religion/dp/0307455777

Hibbing, John R.; Smith, Kevin B.; Alford, John R.. (2013). Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences. Taylor and Francis. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://www.amazon.com/Predisposed-Liberals-Conservatives-Political-Differences/dp/0415535875

Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.

Kim, W. C. and Mauborgne, R. (2003). Fair Process: Managing in the Knowledge Economy. Harvard Business Review, 81(1). Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://hbr.org/2003/01/fair-process-managing-in-the-knowledge-economy

Lencioni, Patrick M.. (2006). Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors (J-B Lencioni Series). Wiley. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://www.amazon.com/Silos-Politics-Turf-Wars-Competitors/dp/0787976385

Martin, N. A. (2012). Project Politics: A Systematic Approach to Managing Complex Relationships. Ashgate Publishing Limited. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://www.amazon.ca/Project-Politics-Systematic-Approach-Relationships-ebook/dp/B0091QC2G4

McCalman, J., Paton, R., & Siebert, S. (2016). Organizational Politics and Change. In Change Management: A guide to effective implementation (pp. 256–281). Los Angeles: SAGE. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/change-management/book241248

Pentland, Alex. Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – the Lessons from a New Science. Scribe Publications, 2015.

Pinto, Jeffrey K.. (1996). “Power & Politics in Project Management.” Project Management Institute. ISBN-13: 978-1-880410-43-1. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at http://my.safaribooksonline.com/1880410435

Rock, David. “Managing with the Brain in Mind.” Strategy Business, 27 Aug. 2009, www.strategy-business.com/article/09306?gko=9efb2.

Sharp, Leith. (N.D.). “Idea Flow Mapping.” Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership, eesl.sph.harvard.edu/idea-flow-mapping.

Sharp, Leith & Hsueh, Joe. (2017-1). “Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership 2017 Program – Module 1: The Secret Life of Ideas.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Department of Environmental Health

Sharp, Leith. (2017-2). “Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership 2017 Program – Module 2: Idea Flow.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Department of Environmental Health

Sharp, Leith. (2017-3). “Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership 2017 Program – Module 3: From Friction to Flow.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Department of Environmental Health

Sharp, Leith. (2017-4). “Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership 2017 Program – Module 4: Ideas and Context.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Department of Environmental Health

Sharp, Leith. (2017-5). “Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership 2017 Program – Module 5: Working With Our Social Algorithm to Unless Flow.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Department of Environmental Health

Tjosvold, D. (2008), The conflict-positive organization: it depends upon us. J. Organiz. Behav., 29: 19–28. doi:10.1002/job.473. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/job.473/abstract

 

Peter Milsom

Peter Milsom is an entrepreneurial advocate for sensible, sustainable change delivery practice. Peter has come to realize that sustainability is the perfect catalyst for Project / Programme / Portfolio / Risk / Value / Business Case and Benefits Management improvement. As an entrepreneurial methodologist Peter's unique value proposition is the vast array of tools and techniques that he brings to every engagement using the most cost effective and efficient methods based on the situation and tailored to meet your needs. This is based on his unique combination of experience and extensive training / certifications in change delivery, value / risk / benefits management business case, and business architecture.

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