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.
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.
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.
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:
The question is how to facilitate these two cultures / operating systems to better work together towards a common goal
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.’
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.
Dr. Sharp mapped over 1,000 idea life cycles, and noticed a variety of powerful patterns and themes had emerged.
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.
Whereas ideas that were successful had life cycles with positive flows more like the following two images:
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.
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).
“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.).
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.
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?
The following model will represent the framework for moving forward.
The next post will provide strategies, tools and techniques from the lessons learned from this research.
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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
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