A free e-newsletter spotlighting systemic thinking
and innovations in leadership, management, and organizational development.
Please forward to your colleagues.
March 16, 2004 Issue 48
must not, in trying to think about how we can
make a big difference, ignore the small daily
difference we can make, which, over time, adds
up to big differences that we often cannot foresee."
Marian Wright Edelman
what you do now when you don't have to do anything
that makes you what you want to be when it's
too late to do anything about it."
Robert J. Gary
Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight,
Innovation, and Action by Eric
E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs;
illustrations by Nancy Margulies
a growing number of organizations, leaders
are discovering that crafting powerful questions
is a key skill in today's knowledge economy.
Questions open the door to dialogue and
discovery. By generating creative insights
and breakthrough thinking, they can lead
to action on important issues and ignite
change. This 16-page volume provides a practical
framework for formulating powerful questions,
a set of skills for leading "inquiring systems,"
and examples of companies that have created
business value by improving the quality
of their questions.
#WC03, softcover, 16 pages, illustrated,
Resources on the World Café
The World Café: A Resource Guide
for Hosting Conversations That Matter
by Juanita Brown and the World Café
Community, illustrated by Nancy Margulies
#WC01, softcover, 28 pages, illustrated,
World Café: Living Knowledge Through
Conversations That Matter Dissertation
by Juanita Brown
#WC02, softcover, 342 pages, $20.00
World Café: An Innovative Approach
to Dialogue by Juanita Brown
and David Isaacs
#PG23, 5-1/2 x 8-1/2-inch laminated guide,
$5.00, volume discounts available
Rename The Systems Thinker® Newsletter
forget! Send us your ideas for a new name for
the newsletter by April 15, 2004. If we select
your name, you'll win a free registration to
the 2004 Pegasus Conference!
Learn more about the details
of entering the contest.
two complete issues of The
Systems Thinker to get a sense of the
newsletter's incisive content.
(Society for Organizational Learning) Upcoming
SoL Core Competencies Course on Building Learning
2630, 2004, Bedford, MA
Facilitators: Sara Schley and Peter Senge
Foundations for Leadership Program on Initiating
and Sustaining Profound Change, May
2527, 2004, Boston, MA
Facilitators: Robert Hanig and Peter Senge
The Seventh Annual Meeting of SoLLeading
in Action: Creating New Knowledge for Fundamental
Innovation, June 28July 1,
2004, Royal Sonesta Hotel, Cambridge, MA
For more information or to register, contact
Jackie Tabb at email@example.com,
or visit SoL's
Stories That Bring Organizational Learning Concepts
celebrated Learning Fables Series both entertains
and makes key organizational learning concepts
and practices immediately accessible to workers
at all levels.
. Each volume features hilarious (and thought-provoking)
plot lines and character illustrations.
. What's more, each volume concludes with a group
discussion guide that encourages you to apply
the ideas from the story to issues you face in
your own organization.
. Each volume comes in softcover or PDF format.
. Slide presentations for each volume are also
Come meet Otto the sheep, Boogie the caveman,
Emmy the lemming, and Sparky the penguin, and
see how they master the disciplines of organizational
Below are the four fables currently in the series,
written by David Hutchens and illustrated by Bobby
the Wolves: Surviving and Thriving in a Learning
Shadows of the Neanderthal: Illuminating the
Beliefs That Limit Our Organizations
The Lemming Dilemma: Living with Purpose, Leading
The Tip of the Iceberg: Managing the Hidden
Forces That Can Make or Break Your Organization
more about or purchase the fables
us at Pegasus Communications, One Moody Street,
Waltham, MA 02453-5339. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org,
or call 781-398-9700. Web site: http://www.pegasuscom.com.
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Pegasus Communications provides resources that
help people explore, understand, articulate,
and address the challenges they face in the
complexities of a changing world. Since 1989,
Pegasus has worked to build a community of practitioners
Newsletter, books, audio and videotapes, and
its annual Systems
Thinking in Action®
Conference and other events.
LOVE OUR CUSTOMERS SALE!
April 1, Pegasus will be resuming in-house Customer Service.
All order processing and fulfillment will be conducted by our
own staff through an in-house storage facility. As a result of these
changes, we'd like to offer you an incentive to move our inventory!
From now through April 1, take 20% OFF all
Pegasus products. Make purchases
on our web site or by calling 1-800-272-0945. (This
discount will not appear in your web shopping cart total, but will
be reflected in the charge to your credit card. It may not be combined
with other discounts and excludes newsletter subscriptions and conference
advantage of this deep discount to stock up on old favorites and
explore new fields of interest!
Foundation Funds Program That Brings Organizational Learning to Educators
of the Perfect Causal Loop Variable
Patient Safety with a Systems Approach
Foundation Funds Program That Brings Organizational Learning to
by Kali Saposnick
asked to design and direct an educational leadership program that
would ultimately improve student performance, Lynda Irvin and Julie
Schlichting saw the chance to create a unique curriculum. It was
1999, and the Illinois State University College of Education had
just been awarded a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Leadership
Challenge Grant to help K12 school leaders gain skills at
the personal, organizational, and technological levels. The grant
included three key components to guide the program design: the national
standards for school leadership, the Baldrige criteria for excellence
in education, and technology applications. To weave together these
seemingly disparate elements, Lynda and Julie adopted a systems
thinking approach to leadership development.
As they designed the new program, called Illinois Technology and
Leadership for Change (ITLC), the codirectors integrated many opportunities
for participants to collaborate in surfacing and examining the systems
in which they worked. Their goal was to create an environment in
which administrators could shift away from the tendency to blame
individuals or groups for problems in education toward identifying
concrete ways to produce effective school programs. Over the last
four years, the program has trained more than 1,700 administrators
from all over the state, 98 percent of whom would recommend this
program to their colleagues. In addition, Lynda and Julie's wise
use of grant money and matching funds has enabled ITLC to expand
into the Illinois School Leaders Development Institute (ISLDI),
which opens on July 1, 2004.
Stories That Illuminate the System
This spring ITLC is hosting "Leaders Paying Forward: Practicing
the Democratic Ideal," a conference to further participants' exposure
to the program, its conceptual frameworks, and essential tools for
leadership. One of those tools is the popular Learning Fables series
published by Pegasus Communications. Lynda and Julie began using
the fables in the program because the entertaining stories engage
participants, and the concise discussion guides effectively link
organizational learning lessons with practical applications in the
workplace. As Lynda says, "One of the things I know from being a
trainer and a school administrator for the last 20 years is that
you can spend 14 hours talking about systems theory and people will
probably tune out, but if you can give them a compelling story,
they get the point."
reading the interview
Learn more about
the Learning Fables
In Search of the Perfect Causal Loop Variable
by Lauren Keller Johnson
loop diagrams, one of the basic tools of systems thinking, can provide
new perspectives on a problem (learn
more about CLDs). But to create an accurate depiction of the
issue at stake, a group first needs to identify and properly name
the key variables. What makes good variable names, and how do you
identify them? Here are a few guidelines to get you started:
Use nouns instead of verbs, action terms, or words suggesting
a direction of change (e.g., "Number of Products," NOT "Sell
Revenue" or "Increasing Profits"). Nouns let the CLD arrows show
Use a neutral or positive term whenever possible (e.g.,
"Morale" NOT "Bad Feelings"). Such terms help you avoid confusing
double-negatives when reading a CLD.
Identify hard-to-measure variables (e.g., "Experience
Level" or "Trust") as well as more concrete variables (e.g.,
"Orders" or "New Hires"). Those intangible variables are often just
as important as the quantifiable ones.
Once you've properly named the key variables in your problem situation,
you can start to identify the causal relationships between them
and link them in one or more balancing or reinforcing loops. When
you have completed the diagram, walk through the loops and "tell
the story" to be sure they accurately capture the behavior being
described. Refining the variable names makes it easier to identify
the causal relationships between them. The resulting CLD should
yield rich insights and maybe even point a way to a solution.
the complete article, or see The Systems Thinker,
V14N1 (February 2003)
to The Systems Thinker
causal loop diagrams
Join us December 13 for the 14th annual Pegasus Conference,
"Building Collaborations to Change Our Organizations and the World:
Systems Thinking in Action," at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, Massachusetts,
USA. We're pleased to announce this year's remarkable line-up of
Peter Senge, author of
The Fifth Discipline and founding chair of the Society for
Christiano Schena, vice
president, Component Products & Control Systems Division, Caterpillar
Deborah Meier, author
of In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an
Era of Testing and Standardization and principal of the Mission
Hill School in Boston
Julius Walls, Jr., vice
president of Enterprise and Jobs Development for the Greyston Foundation,
and members of the Greyston Bakery community
Others to be announced
Each presenter has been at the center of powerful collaborations
among business, educational, and nonprofit organizations to address
problems too complex or challenging for lone enterprises to resolve.
PLUS, there will be:
Skill-building and application case study sessions
Three Learning Paths that delve into the fundamentals of
systems thinking and leading collaborations
Collaboration Clinic, for one-on-one coaching on your toughest
World Café conversations within and across sectors
Experiential learning experiences
Authors' Night, showcasing notable authors with newly released
Come to this annual gathering of our global community of learners
to co-create a conference experience like no other. Bring your current
and potential collaboratorsand your vision of creating a better
future for ourselves, our communities, our organizations, and the
Conference Registration Information
For a limited time only, register for the 2004 Conference for
on our web site, or call 1-781-398-9700.
SPECIAL OFFER! When you
register, you will receive 10% off Pegasus products purchased on
our web site, from the day you register until the conference starts
on December 1, 2004. (This offer is not applicable to other conferences
or newsletters and cannot be combined with other discounts.) The
sooner you register, the sooner you'll start saving on your
Pegasus purchases, so sign up today!
Patient Safety with a Systems Approach
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine's report "To Err Is Human"
estimated that as many as 98,000 Americans die annually as a result
of medical mistakes. The report sparked several initiatives, including
federal funding to study the problem. But two physicians claim that
these efforts have not led to safer practices. In their new book
Internal Bleeding: The Truth Behind America's Terrifying Epidemic
of Medical Mistakes, Dr. Robert M. Wachter and Dr. Kaveh G.
Shojania argue that to create real safety, healthcare professionals
must implement a coherent system that anticipates and prevents medical
The authors, pioneers in the patient safety movement, advocate a
"systems" approach to discovering errors. Drawing from examples
in the aircraft industry, they show how errors during flights decreased
only when pilots and other employees stopped keeping them secret.
Why? Because obvious errors, such as plane crashes, result from
a series of mistakes, not just one individual's failure, and detecting
even one error in advance could prevent a tragedy. The authors also
recommend increased computer usage to reveal dangerous drug interactions
and incorrect dosages, team training for health providers, and a
culture that supports openness around disclosing mistakes.
One obstacle to change is that few people feel comfortable divulging
errors. Another is the unintentional conflicts that have resulted
from numerous medical reforms. For example, one hospital's system
for reducing the work hours of sleep-deprived doctors-in-training
also increased the number of physicians handling a patient's case,
leading to a drop in continuity of care. Despite the obstacles,
medical professionals would benefit from looking systemically at
reducing error. Patients can contribute by asking questions about
medications and speaking up if they're uncertain about diagnoses.
Creating a culture of safety requires the input and ongoing efforts
of all stakeholders.
Source: Barron H. Lerner, M.D., "Healing an Error-Prone Medical
System," The New York Times, February 10, 2004
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