Here we bring you the second clip from Todd Conklin’s talk at the HSE Virtual Series. The second section looks at the brittleness of our organisations and how many have failed to respond positively to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The clip builds upon the first clip on bouncing forward, and the full video is also available on the HSE Network.
And let’s start with this first idea. Our systems, by definition, are brittle. And you really see this, or in my experience, I saw this when we went to the sort of COVID response globally. You saw really a very, very good example of complexity become illustrated in kind of a horrific way.
Now, here’s what we know. There’s two things that I think are most important for us to think about when we think about our organizations and the systems our organizations represent in order to do work. Number one, we know this because of the theory of entropy. All systems are running degraded. All systems are moving from order to chaos.
All systems are really moving in a position where they’re slowly encouraging failing. So you know that’s true because that’s a biological fact. So it’s the notion of entropy. And I’ll give you an example. Have you noticed as you get older the people who designed webpages are making the typeface smaller and fuzzier?
That is in fact, that’s not you. That’s not your eyes. That’s entropy and that’s how entropy works. Knowing our systems are brittle really allows us the ability to move beyond where we were. In fact, I would suggest, probably we’ll never have a more ideal opportunity.
We’ll never have better worker engagement and stakeholder engagement to actually changing the way we do work than we do right now. Because we have the ability to look at a system that was brittle and failed and actually put in a system that has much more resilience and capacity.
Knowing our systems are brittle really allows us the ability to understand how we can make systems that, in fact, have less brittleness. They’re more resilient. Remember the notion is that we’re going to bounce forward. I think going back to the traditional way you did your work is probably a mistake.
This is an opportunity to really move forward based upon understanding what did not work and moving forward in that direction. So here’s a great example of that. As you restore operations, one of the things we’re doing is we’re going out and asking the workers, “How do you do this work now?”
Not how were you supposed to do it or how you used to do it.” But how do you do this work now and what do we need to know about how the work is done now?” So that’s a really great question and it gives us lots of information. Then we follow up with this question, “What did you miss while we were gone? What parts of the process, what parts of the system, what parts of the operations did we fill in, and actually remove burden off you? How can we actually make that process better, richer, faster?”
And by rewriting or maybe the better word is re-analyzing how work is done, that’s really allowed us the ability to quite effectively understand at a fundamental level that we’re moving from a brittle system to a system that has much more capacity to flex, to move, to recover, to extend, to actually manage variability.
Because we’re betting, and you can tell me if I’m wrong, but the bet is, is we’re not done with the surprise conditions. We’re just starting to understand the additional new surprise conditions that are going to fall into place for that.