A Lot of Work, Reflection and Education

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From my career, I have very subjective experience, but very common from startups and middle-sized to big tech companies. Overloaded everyone from linear managers and above to c-level. Hectic calendars. Many calls and meetings. Often making anything except important and not in-hurry a. And really lack time to think, only to decide.

Even worse, often it’s much work because some time ago it was solutions to problems, which were decided to do in the company: how people interact with each other, what is flow from ideas to customer delivery, what are internal steps in the flow. We can’t find the problem here without feedback from outside of our system, because we can’t find and solve problems which we bring together without new knowledge in this area.

So why does a lot of work okay? Why should it be expected? Why do we need to suffer without joy from work? If you or your company avoids doing this is great! Please write, I want to ask a few questions.

It’s just very understandable. Because making an order with education is a much more difficult problem than the existence of chaotic education: here read some articles and here listened once a week talk from the last conference about A, so we applied it as B, and now we have a problem C. There is also a huge consulting industry, that wants to sell you problem solutions.

Lack of correct feedback. If we don’t understand problems, we can deal only with consequences. And solutions can worsen the situation without trying to find the root cause. And I’m skipping here, that the root cause can be as the system interacts with other systems in more complicated imaginable ways.

We are like in the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle but in a negative scenario. We have a problem, we plan and do something, but make things worse. And on the next twist, we go deeper into dive. And need to solve something worse. Or accidentally we make something better and everything goes fine until the context change again.

I’m intentionally avoiding any examples because their context describing will be out of the article’s limit, but please try to think about examples from your experience. It will be much more useful.

We are often very biased people. Generalising our own experiences leads us to mistakes. Without new knowledge addition, we respond the same way if it was good, or the opposite way if the solution was not so good without considering many context changes.

But what and why do so few talk about it? There is no widespread education. Cybernetics and Common System Theory are not so stylish.

And also it’s about huge changes of mindset. It works only for corporate education on a level that approves it. If the director of one department approves education, it will work at most in this department, not in another. So it has little sense to educate linear people and management, because of not so-wide authority. But to ring bells to a higher level is much more difficult why? Because they are busy and it’s tough to understand the problem is often not in people, but the inbuilt system.

Advice? Let’s start from the hardest level (3) to the easiest (0): Level 3 – the hardest:

  • Dive and understand systems, social and technical.

Level 2 – very hard:

  • Approach higher level supervisor with stated problems and best possible approaches

Level 1 – hard:

  • Find a community for discussing problems
  • Ask why for things more often
  • Reserve time for reflection
  • Reserve time for education

Level 0 – the easiest:

  • Sorry, there is no simple advice

Instead of conclusion: A lot of work and a lack of time to reflect and think are one of the system’s internal signals that something can go better and need to dive into. Sometimes making things better doesn’t work and it’s okay. You tried, this way your win with a such experience more than without attempt.

Can be further reading:

  • Ackoff, Writings on Management, the whole book is great, for our topic part about Systems is more useful, Amazon
  • Very logically structured for more detailed diving into theory: Ackoff, On Purposeful Systems, Amazon

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I’m Alex, a software engineer with technical and engineering management experience from startups to middle-sized and big-tech companies. Loves to make effective and friendly team processes.

You can freely drop a message to [email protected] or linkedin.com/in/aptakhin to greet and ask questions about any topic.

I’m also mentoring pro bono at vektor.ai/user/aptakhin

Good guys reference: now working at Prestatech in Berlin and making B2B fintech solutions. We are small and hiring: apply.workable.com/prestatech