This blog concerns itself with organizations moving to business agility—the quick realization of value predictably and sustainably, and with high quality. It includes all aspects of this—from the business stakeholders through ops and support. Topics will be far-reaching but will mostly discuss FLEX, Flow, Lean-Thinking, Lean-Management, Theory of Constraints, Systems Thinking, Test-First and Agile.
For 15 years i've used Lean & Flow thinking to make decisions on what to do to help people improve their methods.. Understanding that we’re in a complex adaptive system I felt that I could get some general improvement by attending to the relationships in the system while looking at them in the context of the entire system.
I started working on defining an expert system about 6 years ago. In 4 years I built two of them – each having some success rate, but not greater than 50%. The problem was I could see what to do but it was often difficult to get folks to understand why. Part of the problem was me, part of the problem was the experience it took to understand the solution. But given we’re in a CAS, I felt the difficulty was inherent in the problem.
I persevered, however, and in the last year I’ve used Chris Alexander’s “Timeless Way of Building” approach. It led to the FLEX system and I found that I could convey what I do to people with a few years of experience. It was based on what I call natural laws – how the relationships between parts of the system worked. This greatly simplified the solution, but it was still complex. I had tangible evidence that I now had a better approach. It was still complicated, but it was more useful. I had pretty much relegated myself to coming up with complicated solutions for complex problems – not too bad, but requiring a lot of work.
Then I was introduced to Inherent Simplicity and started reading Dr Goldratt’s The Choice. I saw the relationship between natural laws and inherent simplicity and realized I could now explain things much easier. As I’ve been doing this the last few months, I’ve been seeing that I’ve let the common complex-philia that seems to be present in our industry make me hesitant on looking for a simple way to understand our complex problems. While I knew that complex systems don’t resolve down to understanding the relationships and that a deductive approach wasn’t going to work, I had had a considerable amount of success taking this flawed approach.
As I read the Choice, Dr. Goldratt’s confidence in his approach gave me confidence that inherent simplicity went beyond relationships between the components of the system but were a way of looking holistically at the problem in a much simpler way. I’m now convinced that inherent simplicity can lead to a consistently simple way to view our challenges. We’re not going for simple solutions, but a simple way to view things to make effective decisions. I can’t prove this yet, of course, but already the inherent simplicity approach is better than my earlier expert systems.
I’m convinced that trying to solve our challenges in seeing what to do with inherent simplicity is a worthwhile task. It is at least worth exploring. The alternative is to continue struggling with the limiting belief (whether accurate or not) that we have little power in making insightful decisions that have a predictable outcome.
I am not suggesting that other approaches are wrong. I’m merely stating that looking for more effective ones is worthwhile.
I would read The Choice. It's very clear with surprising statements that you can validate with your own experience.
What have you been reading about FLEX? I'd greatly appreciate where it feels complex to you. I have written it up as a guide to make it more applicable but I have likely left key things out in doing so. would like to remedy that.