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Transforming Fear to Joy

Co-authors of this three-part blog on the Adaptive Enterprise are STS-RT Discovery Team members:  Doug Austrom, Don de Guerre, Bob Laliberte, Helen Maupin, Bernard Mohr and Carolyn Ordowich.  Click here for Part II and Part III.

Our problem is not the complexity of our models but the far greater
complexity of a world economy whose underlying linkages appear to
be in a continual state of flux.  The continuity of emergent structure
derives not from stability but from adaptability.     Alan Greenspan

Since 2004, the Discovery Team (the Research & Development arm of the Socio-technical Systems (STS) Roundtable) has engaged in a multi-stakeholder action research process.  Action research or “learning-by-doing” is a co-learning process where a group of people attempts to

“. . . contribute both to the practical concerns of people in an immediate
problematic situation and to further the goals of social science
simultaneously.  . . . [This] dual commitment . . . to study a system and
concurrently to collaborate with members of the system in changing it
. . . requires the active collaboration of researcher and client, and thus it
stresses the importance of co-learning as a primary aspect of the research
process.”*

The figure below illustrates a simple action research process through which STS practitioners would engage with their clients in attempting organizational transformation.   Although only two cycles are depicted here, it follows that this process is a series of continuous learning loops whereby the learning is never complete.

Action research model for designing the adaptive enterprise
Simple Action Research Model (MacIsaac, 1995)**

The Adaptive Enterprise: Asking Questions

This action research process is being utilized by the STS-Roundtable Discovery Team, within its practitioner community, to ask and answer the following questions —

  • What has historically been the STS value proposition (i.e., our unique offering with respect to cost and benefit)?
  • What new forms of organizing are emerging in the world (i.e., the new context for our work as STS organization design practitioners)?
  • How do we now articulate our value proposition in the new context of the 21st century?
  • What are the implications of the above for STS design principles, values and processes?

To date, the STS Roundtable’s journey of discovery was built upon the following assumptions and beliefs about the guiding theory and tenets of our field of practice as STS Designers.

1.   STS theory states that all organizations are:

a)  open systems and as such need to continuously renew