The Diagnostic Project Proposal

Here's where we can discuss projects we are considering, ongoing projects, project results, and so on. This is a tremendous opportunity to share with others what we have learned.
Jack Harich
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, US
Contact:

The Diagnostic Project Proposal

Postby Jack Harich » Sun Dec 17, 2006 1:36 pm

See this link for the first pass document. The full title is Taking Up Where Limits to Growth Left Off: A Diagnostic Project Proposal.

On Thursday, December 14, 2006 I had a one hour conference call with Phillip, Steve, and Andrew of the sustainability department of Hatch. Hatch has a staff of 7,500, of whom 5,000 are engineers. The purpose of the call was to propose a project that takes up where Limits to Growth left off. I had the initial idea Wednesday afternoon. I started a writeup Thursday morning and got far enough along for the concept to be understandable. I asked them to read the first page closely and skim the rest. At 6:00PM on Thursday we had the call. These three Hatchies are in Australia. Hatch is headquartered in Canada, which makes it easy for Phillip to swing through Atlanta. We have had several earlier calls about the work at Thwink.org and how to apply it.

For the Hatch website see this link. For their sustainability page see
this link.

To my great surprise the call went better than expected. Using the first page of the document for reference, we discussed the overall concept and then each of the six components and the role of a process that fits the problem. When we got to the "(4) A highly qualified, well managed team" component for success, Phillip, the department manager, said "Hatch or any good large consultancy can do this. We know how to manage projects." He then discussed what that meant, in terms of difficult, cutting edge engineering projects. Their staff has some SD expertise. The importance of finding world class team members, advisors, and consultants was mentioned.

At about 45 minutes into the call we talked about Phillip's passing through Atlanta in February so he and I can meet up for two days. In conjunction with that I pointed how I wanted to involve Interface Carpets and Ray Anderson in the project, as a sponsor. Ray is famous for promoting sustainability in the business world. It turned out that a Hatch project was already underway to invite Ray to the opening of a Hatch facility that was designed with high sustainability in mind. The end result is Hatch will try to arrange a meeting with Ray when Phillip is in Atlanta in February. By good fortune Interface is headquartered in Atlanta.

Here is the very serious sustainability department of Interface:
http://www.interfacesustainability.com

We shall see where this proposal goes. We see it as a long shot at this point. It needs much improvement. But this is how big new ideas start: very small.

Comments and suggestions on the proposal are welcome.

Thanks, Jack
Last edited by Jack Harich on Fri Sep 21, 2007 10:34 am, edited 2 times in total.

Steve Gale
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2006 3:25 pm
Location: Wollongong
Contact:

Continuing LTG

Postby Steve Gale » Fri Dec 22, 2006 3:39 pm

Just a public update on where we are at- Ray Anderson is out of the country until 7 February so Philip will miss him this trip. But I will try to set up a late March-Early April meeting. If possible to align with the conference in Atlanta that Jack is angling to present a paper at.

Michael Hollcraft
Posts: 42
Joined: Wed Dec 06, 2006 12:09 pm
Location: New Carlisle, Indiana

Bleeding Edge

Postby Michael Hollcraft » Wed Jan 24, 2007 11:48 am

Jack,

As I was thwinking a bit about our conversation yesterday, a few questions and observations came to mind. In your Diagnostic Proposal (Draft 2) you wrote:

“Phillip’s opinion was that this project, aside from its slightly academic aspects, is a typical challenging engineering project. Hatch and many other consultancies could manage a project like this using the same highly refined processes they apply to other similar projects.”

As I was thinking about Phillip’s statement, it occurred to me to ask you and Phillip if Hatch has already done any bleeding edge projects comparable to the LTG project or to a full-scale sustainability project like Ray Anderson is doing at Interface Carpets. I did skim one their projects, Alberta By-Product Synergy Project http://www.hatch.ca/sustainable_develop ... ta_bps.pdf which is very interesting, though I’m not sure if it’s truly comparable to what we would be trying to accomplish.

For me, it would be helpful to read and hear about other truly comparable bleeding edge projects Hatch has done, how they managed them, what highly refined processes and strategies they’ve used, project outcomes; and, how they evaluate project success. I’m asking this question because I’m not convinced that the Diagnostic Project is really “typical” as Phillip describes it.

Speaking of Interface Carpets, do you think it would be helpful if we went on a plant tour of their facility? In my career, I have toured at least 300 light industrial/distribution plants, and would be willing to ask Interface if they would give us a tour. My thought was to set it up for Tuesday 02/06/07 at 1:00 PM, as a last appointment before going to the airport. For me, it would be very helpful to actually see a sustainability project in a real-world context. It may also lead to some contacts and other insights. Would you like me to try?

The Ph.D question…As I was mulling over Key Inputs 3 & 4 of your Diagnostic Proposal, it occurred to me that the LTG project team involved Ph.D’s. Were all of the LTG team members Ph.D’s? Do you think it is significant that a university, M.I.T, provided the LTG team a “home”, and not a global consultancy firm?

Jack Harich
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, US
Contact:

Postby Jack Harich » Wed Jan 24, 2007 3:45 pm

Michael,

Regarding has: “Hatch has already done any bleeding edge projects comparable to the LTG project or to a full-scale sustainability project like Ray Anderson is doing at Interface Carpets?”

Good question. It depends on what “like” means. Hatch probably has done projects “like” the LTG project or components of what Ray has done with his company, if like means applying existing technology in novel ways to good size projects. If “like” means managing a project that invented and applied new technology, then Hatch has probably done this on a small scale. But on a large completely new paradigm scale, I expect they have not. This is not the domain of consultancies, but of R&D departments and universities.

Actually there is no organization in existence that has solved a problem of the size, complexity, and difficulty of the global environmental sustainability problem. This problem dwarfs any problem society has ever formally tackled.

“Like” could also mean managing a project of similar difficulty and complexity, but not size. Hatch probably has done this. I think that is the meaning Phillip used.

This brings us to a key point: Phillip, Steve, and Andrew have the confidence they (and similar engineering consultancies) can apply Hatch’s expertise to successful management of the Diagnostic Project and the entire Change Resistance Project. I think they can too. To me, even the discovery of major scientific breakthroughs is a project that can be managed to make it happen – if the new knowledge is discoverable.

The project doesn’t have to actually discover the foundations of memetics to solve the problem. That is merely one route to the solution. There are others. For example, system dynamics can show us where to push on the human system, and experimentation can show us how to push there successfully, all with only a black box understanding of memetics. We simply continue to use simple estimates of meme strength and infectivity, as calibrated by real world measurement. However, discovery of the foundations of memetics would reduce the need for experimentation and measurement by an order of magnitude, because then we would have a glass box model of what happens in the model’s memetic nodes. But lack of discovery would not block project success. This is vital to risk management.

- - - - - -
Regarding: Speaking of Interface Carpets, do you think it would be helpful if we went on a plant tour of their facility?

Hatch and I discussed the desirability of contacting Ray and how to do it. That’s one topic I’m sure we will discuss when he and you are in Atlanta. Let’s discuss this then.

You must remember that Interface is probably flooded with “I can help you solve the sustainability problem” wannabees. Without a solid plan that separates us from the pack, we won’t get far. I think it will be easy to develop such a plan. One component is Interface becoming a project sponsor. Another is Ray writing the preface to the Analytical Activism book, once we can convince him it is a better way.

I’d suggest a plant tour at another time, as part of a greater plan. The tour itself would teach me nothing and it would subtract from your SD and memetics training time. Re: “it would be very helpful to actually see a sustainability project in a real-world context.” – Yes it would be helpful. But is it the best use of your time and mine? You can read about what you would see in far more detail than any tour will ever offer.

Tours are superficial. But meetings are a whole other story. What I have in mind is a meeting with their sustainability dept to present a better way for them to leverage Ray’s influence and the dept’s work. Letters from Hatch and others should make that meeting happen. I have deliberately postponed contacting Interface until the time is ripe.

- - - - - - -
Regarding: Were all of the LTG team members Ph.D’s?

I think most of them were, because that was where the expertise lay at the time. It was also a very academic project, rather than the more practical, industrial one I have in mind, where proven expertise is all that matters.

Re: Do you think it is significant that a university, M.I.T, provided the LTG team a “home”, and not a global consultancy firm?

The “home” needs to have the necessary prerequisites for project success that a project home typically provides. MIT had these. These days, I think that most universities are lagging behind the quality and quantity of even basic research, compared to corporations. There is no question they are behind in applied research. Just look at what Edison, Bell Labs, Zerox, Intel, Sony, etc have done. Everything is shifting to being done faster and cheaper by corporations.

There was no global consulting firm that had the expertise that the LTG project needed in 1970, when it started. Only MIT had it. That has changed.

GREAT questions and observations!

Thanks,

Jack

Jack Harich
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, US
Contact:

Postby Jack Harich » Wed Jan 24, 2007 4:23 pm

Michael,

I noticed in an email today that: "Dear Professor Moran, I am interested in pursuing a Ph.D in Ecological Anthropology and will be coming to campus in two weeks, on Wednesday, February 7th, 2007, to explore your graduate program."

Sounds like you may be extending your trip. If that's the case, then we should be able to have time enough for study of SD and memetics, as well as a field trip to Interface.

Jack

Michael Hollcraft
Posts: 42
Joined: Wed Dec 06, 2006 12:09 pm
Location: New Carlisle, Indiana

Professor Moran is at Indiana University-Bloomington

Postby Michael Hollcraft » Thu Jan 25, 2007 10:23 am

Jack,

Professor Moran is at Indiana University-Bloomington. I'll be meeting with him and touring the labs on Wednesday the 7th.

Michael

Steve Gale
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2006 3:25 pm
Location: Wollongong
Contact:

What Hatch can contribute

Postby Steve Gale » Tue Jan 30, 2007 9:31 pm

My apologies. It has taken a while to get a reply up. Much of my time is spent in areas with little or no internet coverage and when I'm in the office I seem to have endless meetings.

In regards to what Hatch can bring the project. There are two possibilities here as an and/or:

1) Project Management.
No we have not led a bleeding edge R&D project before. However we have developed technologies inhouse or for clients that have involved R&D, piloting, demonstration plants and full scale up. I don't call them bleeding edge as they were things that whilst innovative were in disciplines that we have a depth of skill. In the current context we have no inhouse skill in memetics and social modeling. What we can offer is a project management process that I think we can tailor to the project. My interest is in the success of the project and if someone is better equipped with a better process and willing to do it then I will defer to them.

2) Project Home.
We have major offices in Toronto, Johannesburg, Perth and Brisbane along with minor offices in several other cities, eg Pittsburgh, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Wollongong, Melbourne, Newcastle, and Shanghai. The social, data and built infrastructure of the major offices is particularly suited for the type of project at hand. Our work is all about creating ideas, modeling designs and then translating the successful ones into a pictorial and written medium for construction. I believe we could provide both a real and virtual home for the project. The key weaknesses that I see are that our social environment is predominantly engineers and not a mix of professions as is found at academic institutions and that our major offices are not immediately convenient for the likely core team.

I suggest that the way to answer doubts and get better understanding is to stage gate the project. This way we can re-evaluate participants, sponsors, supporters, etc at each gateway.

So let us consider what we need to achieve at the end of a concept, pre-feasibility, feasibility and detailed stages. The resources and effort usually ramps up through the stages but you only increase the investment once you are confident of the results from the previous stage. I think this suits the project as it may need to iterate within the early stages several times before it can advance and the investment of resources increase.

This means that concerning the project outline prepared by Jack, we need to make that the overall scope for the project. I think we need to make it quite clear what we want to deliver.

Then we break down the total scope into sub elements that are focused on at each stage. This will highlight who and what is needed when. Time and budget in this project needs a high degree of elasticity, however we must manage the scope and deliverables. Each stage-gate will provide a mini review and it would not surprise me if we found after the early stages Hatch's role became smaller. I say this as I think this project has the potential to become huge and will need more/bigger players. If that is what project success requires then as PM we would do it. It may even be that what Hatch does is merely be the incubator for the project and get it to a point where a more capable/appropriate organization provides the home.

Jack Harich
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, US
Contact:

Postby Jack Harich » Thu Feb 01, 2007 12:43 pm

Steve,

This was a very helpful message. It helps Michael and I see where Hatch’s thoughts are moving to and what we will be discussing this coming weekend.

I’ve been giving this change of gears some serious thought. Things are moving from an informal one person project to a formally managed team project. For this project to succeed, it is quality of decision making that matters most. This has been true for the preliminary work I’ve done, and it will be just as true for project management.

A casual look at the literature on large scale engineering projects shows too many were dismal failures. The successes were those using systems engineering. See this entry in Wikipedia on Outstanding Systems Engineering Successes and Failures.
And see this PDF file paper for one viewpoint on how project management of large scale engineering projects can be improved. It proposes an evolutionary gradual change approach combined with parallel competing teams on key tasks.

From this I conclude that we can start with a Concept phase followed by other early traditional phases, but before we do any serious work we will need to develop a custom project management process that fits this project. So what I’ve done is begin to develop some ideas on this, so that together we can resolve the very high risk of project failure due to flawed project management. I’ve ordered 3 books related to this subject and will be looking for more, as well as papers. I’ll be trying to transparently and virtually work with you/Hatch via the website on this. And of course we will talk about this on the weekend.

Regarding your comment on a key weakness: “Our social environment is predominantly engineers and not a mix of professions as is found at academic institutions.” – I see your engineering environment as a strength. Academics are usually much less efficient than engineers at solving real world problems. They are far more interested, due to system incentives, in publishing and maximizing the size and prestige of their research programs. A successful global engineering consultancy like Hatch would provide exactly the kind of glue and discipline academic specialists need to jointly create the required breakthroughs to solve the sustainability problem.

Re: “Our major offices are not immediately convenient for the likely core team.” – I expect that this project will rapidly move to a multiple team one. For example, we may have modelers at MIT, experimenters at many places (especially in the EU due to its pro-sustainability), Jack and Michael in Atlanta/Athens on glue work and memetics, and a project mgt and process mgt team with Hatch in Australia. Such a distributed team used to be a recipe for disaster, but thanks to modern software and the internet, high quality virtual collaboration is now common. However, studies have shown that it is mandatory to regularly get participants physically together, especially for kickoff.

Maybe Hatch will be the incubator, we don’t know. What really matters is taking some strong first steps.

I think it’s just marvelous that Hatch is seriously considering putting this embryonic project under its wing. It looks like that for startup Hatch would be playing the roles of sponsor, project management, project home, and possibly more, at least until we can get others involved. I really want to thank you for this. It is going to make a BIG difference, in our lives and those of our descendents.

Mucho gracias,

Jack
Last edited by Jack Harich on Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Steve Gale
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2006 3:25 pm
Location: Wollongong
Contact:

Systems Engineering

Postby Steve Gale » Thu Feb 01, 2007 5:18 pm

Hi Jack,

We don't call it systems engineering but reading the Wikipedia section it is obvious this is what we call system integration or as we often refer to our people "project integrators".

I don't want to blow the Hatch whistle but this is something we do well. In our core fields we have extreme depths of specialty but we are too small a company to have all the specialties in house so we integrate our specialties with those of several other vendors to create projects.

In some ways it is like making a jigsaw puzzle come together and where we only control directly 10% of the bits and have to direct blindfolded people on where to place their bits.

The difference with this project is maybe we are blindfolded as well.........(Hence bleeding edge)

In being honest we have not perfected the art of managing a major project remotely and electronically. I think the reasons for virtual team failure would likely be:

1) The participants don't fully understand their role and responsibilites and what others are contributing. This can be overcome by more intensive kick off. Not just a few days but a couple of months of wrangling over who is doing what and what are the warning signs that they are off the rails. (create a team game plan)

2) The participants have other imperatives (or other imperatives thrust upon them) - they are distracted by other pressures eg other projects, business admin, etc. On this one the team needs to be quite explicit on how it is going to work and establish individual rules on what is expected eg Hatch PM will give a minimum 20hrs each and every week, failure to do this creates a hold point. The PM is perhaps the critical role as it can stop the whole project. The sub elements can have a bit of faltering whilst others continue. However this is likely to lengthen the project and cause some tardy handovers.

3) The team glue breaks down and individuals drift apart. The PM needs to monitor this and keep regular communication. It's like managing a team of football players playing in the dark and only the PM has the IR goggles. The PM's job is to share the visibility with each of the players and help them to "see" as much of the field and the other players as possible. The more team interaction in one place the better. I'd be keen to see how we can go with video over IP or at least videoconferencing. (Being together in one place is by far and away the best)

4) Turnover of people- need to integrate new players into the team.

5) Changing scope- The scope is likely to change and the form of the deliverables change as alleys are explored and found to be blind and unexpected twists occur. This needs to be clearly communicated, understood and returned so that everyone knows they are heading in the right direction- even if this means some groups that were making good progress have to retrace their steps. (there is often an unwillingness to let go)

All of the above are easier to manage in the face to face environment. But with the right approach and commitment I think we can do it remotely.

Personally I am a manager who works on a "performance specification" basis. I describe the end point we are seeking and then allocate sub elements of that to the teams with their bondary limits. Then let them work out how to achieve the goal. This differs from the micro manage approach which defines the role of each individual and the path each team will follow.

I find this approach works best when the outcome is innovative- we know the destination we want (from the functionality/perfromance we seek) but we don't know the pathway to get there. Sounds rather like systems engineering.

The budget and time will be rubbery. The perfromance outcome will not change or only change slightly. The pathway to it- completely unpredicatable. We have a good idea of the start and end but no idea of the journey.

I'm still working my way slowly through your book. Coupled to a very slow reader I'm also very heavily loaded. But I am making some very good notes as I'm going along. After yours I have to review a small book for Keith and then I'll get into the business dynamic modelling book you often reference and Vensim (Have the book on my desk). As I figure I need to understand some of the process if I am to contribute to managing it. So we have a crossover of disciplines here.

Jack Harich
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, US
Contact:

Postby Jack Harich » Fri Feb 09, 2007 7:03 pm

Steve,

That was a very helpful review of how we can avoid failure and your approach to project management. There are further risks. But if we can manage the big ones then we can certainly handle the rest.

I like your observation that it’s best to set goals rather than means, and that “the budget and time will be rubbery.” This project is all about quality of output, which is the goals. Due to the scientific frontier nature of this project, how long and how much it costs to achieve our key goals is not that predictable. So I welcome your “performance specification” approach.

Great to hear you are diving into learning system dynamics.

The February 3 and 4 meeting with Phillip, Michael, and Jack went well. I especially liked Phillip’s low key attitude. He is not a hard driving businessman type. Instead, he’s a likable, engaging, let’s-paint-the-picture-together kind of guy/manager. Michael is great too. As an anthropologist and writer/consultant, he has mastered the material at Thwink.org faster than anyone I know. And when we got into system dynamics training on Feb 6, he was able to begin contributing innovations AS HE WAS LEARNING, such as discussing the probable elasticity of memes. To my knowledge this is a new abstraction.

We agreed that our long term goal, 50 years or more, is a permanent race to the top. Our medium term goal is solving the global environmental sustainability problem. Our short term goal is, as Phillip put it, to “prove or disprove” the existence of the Dueling Loops structure.

Notice how our short term goal is not to execute step 2.1 of the System Improvement Process. That is the goal of the entire Diagnostic Project, which will take years. The short term goal of testing the existence of the Dueling Loops will allow us to leverage the proof, if it’s found, into all sorts of things that can accelerate the project.

We all carried away todos. Phillip will be brainstorming how to make this project succeed and move forward on helping to make a grant happen. Michael will be spreading the word in the academic community, starting in his field of anthropology, and continuing his quest to find the first principles of memetics. Jack will do a write up on these goals and how we can get started on the project. This document will serve as a way for Steve to begin picking up his role as project manager and for the team to begin to see what lies ahead. It may also contain some of the items we will need for writing up the grant, with the assistance of a professional grant writer.

Phillip left on Feb 4. Michael stayed two more days, for a visit to a nearby campus and some training on memetics and system dynamics. But perhaps it will be best if he tells the story of how that went, plus his day on Feb 7 at Indiana University.

Overall, the project is picking up steam rapidly and seems on a good trajectory.

Jack

Jack Harich
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, US
Contact:

Postby Jack Harich » Sun Feb 11, 2007 8:44 pm

As promised, I've done a writeup of our goals and related considerations. See Thoughts on Success, which runs 14 pages. This paper is designed to generate some interesting discussion and gently move this project into what I hope will be a very productive direction.
Last edited by Jack Harich on Fri Sep 21, 2007 10:35 am, edited 2 times in total.

Steve Gale
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2006 3:25 pm
Location: Wollongong
Contact:

My Thoughts on Success

Postby Steve Gale » Tue Feb 13, 2007 5:57 pm

The paper prompted a series of thoughts with me that I'll try and list in order and deal with the question at the end of the paper last.

Firstly I am yet to be convinced that the social problem is insanely difficult. I think all sorts of issues surrounding it and associated subproblems are insanely difficult however the core problem itself may well be extremely simple. In my experience the best solutions always are the simplest. Usually problems look much simpler in retrospect. A classic example is perhaps the Gordian Knot solution. I would like to see the AA process be like Alexanders' sword.

Has a thorough search been completed to identify all previous attempts at solving difficult social problems? The results of this search will provide several answers- A better definition of the problems (and sub problems), what has been tried before and succeeded/failed and why, who has tried. This provides a basis for launching the project with some of the dead ends already crossed off, some possible successful experiements and potentially some skilled team members or allies.

On the Toyota story a few points lept out at me. The first is that the team was set a target to better the best cars in the world. This target was held to through thick and thin. I have see the results of sticking to a target. The harder the challenge the more people rise to it. I see it as humans we do the minimum necessary to clear the hurdle (or have the hurdle lowered). When we find it is not easy to clear we either give up or try harder. The art of team building is selecting a team that motivates itself to clear the hurdles. "Can't" is a challenge.

It seems to have taken the Toyota team some time to realise that innovatively solving multiple problems with one solution was the key. Perhaps this was because they are used to working in specialist areas with high barriers between them and ultimately all they were doing was an incremental improvement on best to date. I would expect that where a team is far less familiar with the territory participants will seek multidifaceted solutions much faster.

The combination of taking "Can't" as a challenge and exploring new territory is what I would like to term a "pioneer ethos". The best way to describe this would be It hasn't been done so we must assume it can be done.

Moving onto the project schedule (program, Gantt chart, whatever) on page 7. Firstly I think we need to work backwards again starting with a world in harmony with nature (and ideally society) let us call it Utopia. Leading to Utopia will be a series of actions that must be implemented. On the environmental agenda these will be very tangible construction/restoration projects such as reforestation, renewable energy, new agriculture, etc. These will take time to establish but are essential to stave off or minimise collapse. Before this there is a planning phase of what needs to be done and before this consensus needs to be reached. Before consensus can be reached the HLP to change civilsations priorities must have been identified and to identify these the social systems that cause change resistance must be understood. Just working from memory LTG forecast collapse around 2050. I am concerned that merely having the answers (or partial answers) by 2050 is not enough. We need to have completed the social and physical transformation by then. This is telling me we need to squeeze the diagnostic project and successive projects into a much shorter time frame.

Looking at the scope of stage 1, 2 and 3 it will need a ver powerful "coalition of the willing". The UN supported by several major global corporations comes to mind. Perhaps this is the end home and not unrealistic to target the project that way. I quite agree that we need to get started now. We need to get a sensational run on the board that captures attention and we need to promote this widely.

A couple of downsides of early success are that some people will declare victory way too early and thus support is lost. Worse is that the "bad guys" can plainly see what is afoot and mobilise to styme further success. Perhaps even starting their own team to use the same methods to undermine the work of the "good guys".

The series of phases as proposed poses some problems. Much as a recipe for stage 1, 2 and 3 is the same the temporal separation of each stage means that the mechanics of how the team worked previously is likely to have been forgotten when the new team starts. A better approach would be to keep the one team rolling continuously with team members changing over time. A small drfit into and out of the project allows the "project entity" to stay alive and efficient.

I very much like the idea of engaging NGO's to do the experimentation. This in itself may well result in the solution we seek. There are 2 issues we need to manage though. Firstly setting up and monitoring the experiment. It will be extremely difficult to track who is doing what, where, why and what results they encountered. Secondly with a series of small "attacks" using AA the dominant organism may evolve itself or the socio-political system to adapt. It may use AA process itself to disenfranchise activists. Can it be proven that AA techniques cannot be used in this way?

With the targetted first big win being proving the duelling loops structure exists do we need to go back a step and challenge the duelling loops structure? What other models have been created that predict system behaviour? Are they better or worse than duelling loops? Again this is a research step to find what has been done where by who and with what results. Identifying more blind alleys, prospective ground and allies.

In terms of team structure and management what will be the best? Is entrepreneurial corporate style the best? Or is there better again? What is wrong with project management? It is about managing processes and systems under the constraints of resources (all types) and time to deliver an outcome with a certain degree of risk.

I put a circle around and triple tick next to not being able to attract world class staff at first- after all I'm just some engineer kicking around a mid sized engineering company. And I wonder if the situtaion really will change once we get to first base, perhaps improve a little. I do believe that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. We just need to set the parameters right in order to empower them.

I don't agree that there will be a relentless series of small step incremental improvements with occassional large discoveries. This is in my experience the innovation path for product improvement. New invention takes much bigger strides. I think once we find the uncharted territory in which we need to work (walk) we will very quickly make new and large discoveries and find more peoples actually inhabiting the areas we explore. Think Marco Polo, Magellan, Columbus. Explorers, pioneers.

The final question: How to rewrite the scenario.

Ok- for the time challenged and sleep deprived who are fitting way too much into their day already. I'll keep it brief, take some big leaps and leave a few pot holes (and gullies) for others to fill.

Success must be defined upfront. In the macro this is the vision for the project- why are we going to commit resources to this project, what will the world look like if we succeed? This will be the key attractor for supporters. This vision must be different from what any other project is currently undertaking. Each of the project stage gates must be similarly described- how will the world be better for what is achieved at each stage gate. Then milestones within each stage must also be described. The milestones must be achievable targets for the team at the time. The PM shoots for the vision, the team shoots for the milestones. The two dwell in different timeframes.

The scope needs to be prepared. I am in favour of preparing a macro scope that describes how the entire project from now to ultimate success is prepared. This can be broad brush and even just headings waiting to be filled in years from now- placeholders. This shows a logical progression of tasks we expect will be required to achieve the vision. The current scope gets more detail, enough detail that it describes to the team each step that needs to be undertaken to reach the milestones and the stage gate. The scope needs to include how does the result generated by the team get turned into success- eg knowing the answers is good but knowing how to use the answers to solve the problem is best. So scope up who the message needs to reach, how they are influenced to then use it.

With the scope in hand the resources required can be estimated. Again these should be for the macro project but with more attention on the present phase. The resources will be the $, the skills, the equipment, etc. I would anticipate that as this is largely a cerebral process followed by a marketing and sales type effort to get the outcomes adopted then it will be primarily people time, PC's, travel, etc. At this level the skills need to be defined as what are the core skills required in the team and what can be sourced from outside eg time on a supercomputer, some particular modelling skill, etc.

The schedule needs to be prepared on the assumption that the core team is available and extended team can be provided. This needs to be squeezed to fit achieving the outcomes and preventing collapse as discussed above.

The scope and schedule will need constant monitoring and updating as the project progresses whilst the vision remains the same. This necessarily means the resources required will change- most likely expand. The project management will primarily be a strategic level process of monitoring how the detailed work is fitting towards the end vision, recognising when it has been taken off target and returning the project to target- lots of rabbit holes to disappear down and explore. Co-operation amongst the team will be essential. A level of administrative management will also be required to meet the needs of the resources eg people joining and leaving the project, paying for services, receipting funds, etc. This needs to be decoupled from the project management and run by an administrator.

With the roles defined the task then remains of filling them. Most likely we don't have the people we need now so how do we attract them or develop the people we have so they can do the role becomes part of the plan.

On planning we have above enough information to know at a strategic and tactical level where we are. We develop the strategy for how we are going to develop the entire project and then create a tactical plan for how progress towards each milestone and stage gate contributes to the strategy. The strategy and plan are unlikely to change over the course of the project- they are aligned to the vision. The plan links together all the threads of scope, schedule, resources and shows how they are deployed under the strategy.

When we are at the level of creating the strategy and project plan we know we have a vessel ready to launch on the greatest voyage of discovery yet undertaken!

By the way we have locked in 23rd April for Philip and Ray to meet in Atlanta and this project is on the agenda.

Jack Harich
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, US
Contact:

Postby Jack Harich » Tue Feb 13, 2007 10:23 pm

Wow, what a post, Steve! This is a lot to digest.

I've spent an hour with a printed copy of this post, reading it and making notes, and thwinking. (A dangerous thing, but still legal :-)

These are very good observations. They allow others to see the style of your thinking and PM style. Best of all, this shows you are ramping up and ready to jump in!

I think there is so much that could be said, that we'd do best to start with a one pager of our very short term direction, and all agree on it. We need to focus and gel. Would you like to take a first pass at that or should I? Or would it be better to try to develop it in a conference call with you, me, Michael, and maybe others at your end?

The purpose of this short document would be to allow us to launch the launch, so to speak. It would set the goals we will focus on for the next 90 days, with a rationale per goal. There would also be a 90 day strategy. We may be able to get into some assignments.

On where to put my time short term, I suspect the biggest payoff will be in designing an experimental program to test the existence of the Dueling Loops, in helping Philip with what he needs to paint our approach to Ray and win him over, and in helping you to gather the info you need to create a more detailed short term strategy and plan than the above document. Soon I hope to help the professional grant writer. But all this can become part of the above document. I see myself as a humble team member working for a great PM!

I need to finish up processing Michael’s very fine comments on the AA manuscript. This has taken 2 days so far, and looks like 2 more to go. If I stop now it will be harder to restart. Then I will do a detailed reply to the many points you raised in your post.

Congratulations on scoring the meeting with Ray. Now the pressure’s on Philip! :-)

Jack

Steve Gale
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2006 3:25 pm
Location: Wollongong
Contact:

Getting the project rolling

Postby Steve Gale » Tue Feb 13, 2007 10:44 pm

Hi Jack,

Firstly - go to bed. This is way too late for you to be Blogging!

In terms of putting something together I cannot be relied on right now. I really want to work my way through your book so that I can at least get my understanding of the topic above bootlace level. Also we need to get a formal Hatch commitment so that resources are properly committed - otherwise I or whoever PM's will just let the project down.

So much as I encourage Haste in my previous post, I am personally not in a position right now to hurry! Hypocrite that I am.

We will need a clear ask and outline for Ray though so I suggest you work with Philip to get this together.

Steve

Jack Harich
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, US
Contact:

Postby Jack Harich » Mon Feb 19, 2007 2:46 pm

Steve,

These are GREAT thoughts. I found them very stimulating and productive.

Thinking about your points and this project has caused me to add this paragraph to the last chapter of the Dueling Loops book, which is now Taking Up Where Limits to Growth Left Off:

“Each breakthrough discovers an important new principle of cause and effect. If the required breakthroughs do not come, this project will fail. This is because the problem is so complex that an engineering approach must be taken. Engineering is the application of established principles to real world complex problems in a systematic manner. But if there are no such principles, then engineering cannot be used. This leaves only trial and error based on educated guesses, which will take so long that catastrophe will arrive well before the problem is solved.”

Regarding your: “Firstly I am yet to be convinced that the social problem is insanely difficult. … In my experience the best solutions always are the simplest.” - I agree. I hope a simple solution to such a complex problem is possible. If we can find the right high leverage points (HLPs) this hope may come true. But the historic pattern has been that complex difficult problems require complex solutions. The Manhattan Project and the Apollo Program are typical examples. Even democracy, which on the surface seems like a simple solution, is not. Take a look at the length and complexity of a few constitutions, their amendments, and the related laws to clarify the constitution. So we need to be realistic. But conceptually, I think a simple solution is possible: push on the right HLPs.

Regarding your: “Has a thorough search been completed to identify all previous attempts at solving difficult social problems?” – A good question. No. That would take months of a team of academic specialist’s time, using a defined criteria and custom evaluation process. What I did as a preliminary alternative was to examine meta-studies and books on this issue. The results were disheartening but very educational.

For example, take a look at “Better Environmental Decisions,” 1999. I examined this in the Fall of 2001. The book promises: “This important book integrates the perspectives of distinguished analysts from diverse disciplines, all linked by a common emphasis on how to better understand environmental problems and make better environmental policy.” Page 40 has a diagram of the conventional problem solving process. It has these steps:

1. Formulation of objectives
2. Identification of alternatives
3. Evaluation of alternatives
4. Choice
5. Legitimation and implementation

My handwritten notes on this page say where is step 1.5? This process is missing the system understanding step, aka analysis. Steps 2, 3, and 4 are solution convergence. Given this process flaw, it is no surprise that “Better Environment Decisions” are not being made. People are jumping to conclusions.

Page 224 contains a golden nugget: “New decision making patterns come only after the underlying structures that give cultures their characteristic shapes are themselves changed.” The word “structures” is italicized in the original. But this insight never affects the total process. It was discussed in the book from guess what: a command and control perspective, and a Classic Activism perspective of the right “values” will solve the problem. Ironically, after mentioning the importance of structure, the chapter never gets into real structure via system dynamics or causal loops. It limits itself to event oriented thinking. This is endemic. On the good side, the chapter on this gets into analysis of firms and why they do what they do, including behaving unsustainably. However I found the analysis to be shallow, because it was not process driven and did not use the right tools.

I could cite a dozen other books and articles, but this one is representative. The sad pattern is no high level process for solving the complete problematique, and no use of the right tools, like system dynamics and memetics. A thorough analysis of what others have done might find a few useful tidbits, but not as much as you as an engineer would normally expect. This is because the entire environmental movement is living in the wrong paradigm, including academia, as Michael Hollcraft has recently observed.

Regarding your “When we find it is not easy to clear we either give up or try harder.” – Or after an iteration that has failed, you can ask why are we having so much trouble achieving our objectives, and improve the process.

I like your “pioneer ethos” phrase.

Regarding your “Firstly I think we need to work backwards again starting with a world in harmony with nature” – This is a conventional futurist approach. Many have tried it. That’s why they come up with conventional solutions that mysteriously fail. Why is this? I suspect this approach too easily and quickly causes desired (but shallow) solutions to surface, and then be rationalized. Please see the page at http://www.thwink.org/sustain/FAQ/index ... alApproach where you will see this is the committing of an “analytic sin.” It too easily leads to what Morgan Jones describes as “We commonly begin our analysis of a problem by formulating our conclusions; we thus start at what should be the end of the analytic process.”

Envisioning the future can be a good way to explain or justify our findings to others, however, because so many people find this a more tangible way of thinking than starting with true analysis of a system’s structure for diagnostic purposes. Probably most engineers even think this way, due to the types of projects they have worked on. Engineers build visions. But doctors diagnose first and treat second. We have a sick social control system, so I suspect we are more like doctors here.

Re: “I am concerned that merely having the answers (or partial answers) by 2050 is not enough. We need to have completed the social and physical transformation by then. This is telling me we need to squeeze the diagnostic project and successive projects into a much shorter time frame.” – Yes.

Re: “Looking at the scope of stage 1, 2 and 3 it will need a very powerful coalition of the willing.” – Yes. This can be produced as an outcome of early problem solving work. For example, if the Proper Coupling Package works, it will produce a powerful coalition of corporations who desperately want to solve the sustainability problem. And study the Transformation Strategy Map in the AA chapter on Solution Convergence. It has a Guiding Coalition solution element emerging as part of a successful transformation. This is explained. But all we need to get started today is a small group of the right orgs and individuals.

Re: “We need to get a sensational run on the board that captures attention and we need to promote this widely.” – Yes. Hopefully proof that the Dueling Loops exist will start that run. After the first such experimental proof, the rest should be much easier.

You ask if the “bad guys” could see what we are doing and somehow block our success. That is just part of the problem to solve. This is contingency analysis and planning.

Due to the principle that the truth has no higher master, ultimately I don’t think there is a winning strategy to block a dominant race to the top and other promising lines of attack. But if we falter in process execution, it would be easy to fail. Out maneuvered by the “bad guys” would be only one way.

Re: “The series of phases as proposed poses some problems.” – This is for visualizing process execution, rather than staffing. Sorry I didn’t mention this.

Re: “With the targeted first big win being proving the dueling loops structure exists do we need to go back a step and challenge the dueling loops structure?” – Yes. That’s what an attempt to prove it exists or not would do. Perhaps you are asking if we should logically challenge it? Of course. We need to be skeptics. But sooner or later, we need to move into empiricism.

Re: “In terms of team structure and management what will be the best?” – A good question. I’ve ordered some books about this sort of thing for mega projects and innovative corporations, so that down the line we can address this. But to get started on a small project, with a team of 5 to 10 full timers, I think traditional PM will do, with a small modification that recognizes the scientific frontier nature. Later as things grow, we can move to the way the best orgs in the world do it: large corporations, if this is the best approach. Or we may be able to perfect a “mass collaboration” approach that is not that centralized. I’ve got a book coming on this topic.

Re: “I don't agree that there will be a relentless series of small step incremental improvements with occasional large discoveries.” – My reading of past mega projects that have succeeded or failed, plus books like “The Elegant Solution” and books on Edison’s invention factory, shows otherwise. But it may be that we are defining “large discovery” differently.

Re: “The scope needs to be prepared. I am in favour of preparing a macro scope that describes how the entire project from now to ultimate success is prepared.” – Fantastic!

Re: “With the scope in hand the resources required can be estimated. Again these should be for the macro project but with more attention on the present phase.” – Yes. I expect we will only be able to make accurate budget estimates for the startup phase. Even this will be guessworky, maybe plus or minus 50%. But after that, today we don’t know within an order of magnitude how large the project will become.

This problem can be partially or totally resolved by a successful precipitating event. If it succeeds, then most existing environmental orgs will now be using the same broad approach we are. It would be like adding millions of staff and billions of dollars to the project in the span of a few years. Thus we also need to pay some attention to solving the Transformation Problem. It increases chance of success by over 100X.

Related to this, my plans for the two books are to keep polishing them and wait until there is a bit of a buzz about them or we have some influential endorsers like Ray. Then we can contact the preferred publisher, Chelsea Green, and they will probably get behind this effort.

Thanks for such quality thwinking. Hatch is indeed bring a lot of expertise to the table.

Jack

Philip Bangerter
Posts: 15
Joined: Fri Feb 16, 2007 10:40 am
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Contact:

Postby Philip Bangerter » Sun Mar 11, 2007 7:06 am

Great exchange of ideas guys :!:

Sorry to have waited a month to respond/read the document.

Jack - you will have seen from this why I love having Steve in the team - I am absolutely hopeless at getting things done, but he is an achiever of the highest order. But I just love telling people about what "gets done" - & this is usually enough to keep momentum in our enterprises.

Right now, Hatch is very focussed on some short-term issues, so we have been dealing with those - and in fact it is really Steve's fault that I haven't posted recently - he keeps flooding me with great ideas for Hatch's SD business aimed at the short-term issues. My brain is close to exploding :?

This short term stuff has helped a little however - our boss, Geoff, is still letting us drive our own bus at the moment, which is good news for thwinking. I let him know I was meeting Ray soon and he was suitably impressed (he having read Ray's book, which I think was his "getting it" event).

Anyway, I don't have any comments on all that project stuff - that is quite clearly your territory - but I did read it and agree with the flow of ideas, opinions and conclusions. I'll just let you know when I have anything worthy to add - it happens every now & then.

Roll on Atlanta in April :twisted:

PJB

Jack Harich
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, US
Contact:

Postby Jack Harich » Thu Sep 20, 2007 10:52 pm

All,

We have some very good news. The Diagnostic Project is rolling again. Please see this News link for the 2007-9-20 entry.

"This is very good news" is an understatement. :-)

Jack

Robert Gowans
Posts: 42
Joined: Mon Aug 27, 2007 10:33 am
Location: Sweden
Contact:

Postby Robert Gowans » Fri Sep 21, 2007 3:05 am

Jack,

Great news!

I noticed last night that the EU is offering 50% co-financing for projects like this (and they have a big budget):

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/fu ... feplus.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/fu ... nt_env.htm

Of course, any project needs to be sponsored by a european organization of some sort - so this may not be applicable in this instance

Anyhow, thought it was worth sharing and may help generate other project ideas.

Rob

Jack Harich
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, US
Contact:

Postby Jack Harich » Fri Sep 21, 2007 9:27 am

Impressive. The EU continues to lead the world in The Age of Transition to Sustainability.

Maybe we can target some of our marketing plan to EU orgs, with the angle that pursuing something like The Diagnostic Project is something they should consider. We could show that this project would have much more leverage than what most "actions" are doing.

People and orgs in the EU are much further along (on the sustainability bandwagon) than anywhere else in the world. So I wonder if that's where we need to focus anyhow?

Jack


Return to “Projects”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest