Woody Allen once said “Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem” and he was onto something. In our increasingly connected world, many IT consultancies are still clinging to methods and methodologies that presume that innovation and creative problem solving is something that can be managed via command and control. The reality for many modern organisations is clear and unambiguous. Their projects do not meet their expectations. Many projects outrightly fail and many studies such as the Standish report paint a picture that is not rosy.
The reality for organisations large and small, is that for today’s fast-paced, complex problems, the level of understanding required for participants just to feel “informed” is difficult to achieve and maintain. Problems are rarely simple matters of cause and effect, meaning that participants often need to learn to understand. As a result, it is very common for project teams to initially experience a phase of “divergent” thinking.
With some projects, the divergence is not acute, and as deeper understanding of the problem space grows among participants, the path becomes clearer and the group begins to converge towards a lasting solution to the problem. In the figure below, we have shown how this looks over time. In the middle of the picture, we show the area where divergence is at its peak. It is no surprise that the risk for any project is this period, where divergence is at its greatest and organisational “chaos” is at its peak.
The essential difference between a simple (tame) and a complex (wicked) problem is the strength and length of this divergence. Many projects fail to ever reach the “summit” where divergence ends, which allows the team to proceed down the easier path of convergence towards the solution. Many organisations fail to recognise the dynamics behind this divergence and apply the wrong tools, processes and methods to deal with this source of organisational pain.
Seven Sigma professionals are recognised specialists and recognised leaders in the discipline of organisational sense-making. We long ago recognised that the project “chaos” symptoms, such as rampant scope creep, vague requirements and poor estimates, have deeper root causes than mere faults of a “process” or lack of “correct” application of a specific methodology. The true root causes lie within the factors that act as opposing forces to group convergence as shown below.
Seven Sigma professionals are trained practitioners of several tools and disciplines that are aimed at tackling the forces that prevent convergence and shared understanding. Our core competency, where we are uniquely world-qualified, is in using the Issue-Based Information System (IBIS) notation for Issue Mapping and Dialogue Mapping. We augment this with tools that help us model business processes and information architecture.
This skill forms the gap that many other technology firms miss. Whilst they are good at installing complicated IT systems, they are not as proficient outside the realm of the technology itself. This perceived gap between “IT people” and “the business” is in the head-space around recognising the nature of problems, the root cause of project chaos and the patterns and practices to bridge this gap.
Seven Sigma excels in both of these disciplines. Not only have we successfully completed many traditionally difficult IT projects successfully (such as SharePoint), but we perform specialist facilitation and sense-making services for many organisations in disciplines as diverse as local government planning, collaborative community engagement, enquiry by design workshops, infrastructure project delivery and organisational relationship building.
Few, if any, IT companies can stake this claim.