Pathways with purpose?

January 10, 2017

I’ve done the ascent and descent of the path to Llyn Bochlywd at the base of Tryfan in North Wales many times over the years. In a more sprightly youth jumping from rock to rock, more recently slowly and carefully with blood pouring from my head (eight stitches) after a fall at 3000 feet. I’ve done it with crampons in deep snow at -10º and in shorts during a heatwave. I’ve also done in pitch dark both with (and one very foolish evening) without a head torch. It is a route I know well. It used to be largely sheep tracks, these days much of it is a well engineered path. In good weather it is a stroll, if a steep one, that rivals the more popular Llyn Idwal round that has the same starting point. But even a familiar path in unfamiliar circumstances can be problematic. The time I descended in the dark I had overstayed on the summit of Glyder Fach for the sunset, overconfident of the time it would take me to descend. I managed to reach the Llyn before it became pitch dark but crossing the stream was a matter of fumbling and prayer. The descent was easier to follow, but then what was a clear track in the daylight over the marsh to safety became a confused mess of rock, track and stream that took an hour to navigate; normally ten minutes.

So why am I recounting this foolishness? Well it is in part a follow through on yesterday’s post about the importance of the complex to complicated transition in Cynefin. In the complex world we run parallel safe to fail experiments in order to find out where we should even travel. But as those experiments start to create a stable pattern I can move to a more linear iteration with a clear goal or end point. The iteration is necessary as the path may not yet be clear. Striding forward confidently is a mistake. In the dark, I back tracked or sidetracked to find the path if I lost it; I knew the perils of doing otherwise. So in making the shift from the inherent uncertainty of complexity to the scalability and predictability of the complicated is not always easy or quick. So in starting to think about that boundary as a transition domain I’m starting to think about ways of delaying or inhibiting the transition.

More on that tomorrow, and in the context of the Kanban conversations of this week.

Credit for the picture

2 responses to “Pathways with purpose?”

  1. James Hardcastle says:

    Thanks for evoking Tryfan – somewhere I haven’t bounded for more than 25 years!
    You describe wonderfully the boundaries that climbing and hiking place on our will to wander. It is a good anecdote to describe the issues of complexity and complicated.

    Boundaries are fundamental to my work with protected and conserved areas – national parks, nature reserves, community conserved areas and the like. Managing these areas – and the interactions between complexities of (often competing) natural value, systems and processes; and between the social and cultural complexities that they operate in – is a real challenge. Boundaries buffer against each other, and every management action has a reaction, every decision can meet derision.

    In very practical terms, I would like to explore how the suite of cognitive edge tools could be potentially harnessed to support protected area managers.

    I am involved in developing a global standard to guide successful conservation and equity outcomes from protected and conserved areas, globally. It is called the IUCN Green List, and is led by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

    How can the likes of cynefin and sensemaker help to navigate complicated pathways between competing complexities. The idea of boundaries as transition domains is of course highly visual for somewhere such as Snowdonia National Park – and indeed from Snowdonia to the Solomon Islands via Senegal and Suriname.

    Thanks for any thoughts on this – either here or via email to james.hardcastle AT iucn.org

    • Dr Wendy Eford says:

      James, Dave
      Similar insights from my observations and patterns seen in changing work systems.
      I’ve just come from a hike on Mt Bimberi , highest peak in the ACT (Australia). The route to the top of Bimberi is a somewhat more defined path than many years ago. It’s a protected wilderness area and reaching the summit is most easily done by people who know how to find their way around without the path. On Bimberi and especially for novices, it is still relatively easy to get off track even in daylight, let alone inclement weather and spend ages stooging around in scratchy bush on an ill-defined spur or being fed into an impenetrable gully. You have to pick being off track early.
      Similarly, the shift to open, agile work systems similarly gets people bushed. The transition to an agile work system looks simple enough – give people more choice and they will sort it out.
      Having used Sensemaker to look deep within such agile worksystems, it’s easy to spot that the transition is nowhere near as clear as is expected. It is also harder to manage with historical responses of training and rule setting.
      Add in fast paced change to the larger business environment and you have a recipe for uncertain, sometimes and definitely interesting results.
      I’d love to hear from one else out there looking at these work systems.

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