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Application for the Dana Meadows Scholarship 2009-2010 How did you hear about the Donella Meadows Fellowship? „I heard it through the listserver“ (freely adapted from Marvin Gaye, „I heard through the grapevine“) Since my first visit to the System Dynamics Conference 2006 in Nijmegen, John Sterman gave me the hint, I am member of the SD-Mailinglist. That is how I got notice from the scholarship besides actively reading Drew Jones’ blog „Climate Interactive“. Briefly describe your current work and work history. How long have you been at your current position? My current, or better to say starting to be work, was, is and will be around process consulting organizations and people (entrepreneurs) in order to lead them to a better future using the resources at hand in the most sufficient and value creating ways. My work history has been for over ten years in facilitating groups (across departmental boundaries) improving processes in service orientated (rail service, public service) and manufacturing (cars) organizations. It has been always the case that dealing with people coming from very different educational and work background (mine is economics and business administration) has been the basis for exceptional results (that have sustained over time to the good of the whole). For the last five years at BMW I have acted as an „intrapreneur“ initiating and forming new and innovative ways to co-create solutions to complex business issues bringing new approaches into sight and active play around the workforce. I have helped people to find their personal role in solving tough problems and systemic issues through exploring their strengths, play to them and combine these in a team orientated manner with other people’s strengths. The basis of my work is always driven from the customer’s point of view (mostly when I am part of the customer community, issues arise and find new approaches enjoying the joy that arises when things work well. Briefly describe other teams, or web of relationships, you work with and learn from? (networks, volunteer organizations, professional associations, etc.) During the International System Dynamics Conference in 2006 I got to know about the function of boundary-spanners. This role I tend to take always to adequately solve problems or even create new chances for organizations or the larger whole (community, society, climate) that people in their own departments are not aware of.
I am an active member of XING, a very similar business network like LinkedIn where I founded and moderate groups on „Lean Thinking“ and „System Dynamics – practical usage in business“. For a bit longer than one year I run a bi-yearly workshop conference (LTT Lean Thinkers Treffen) which is about learning together in an Openspace orientated format to make the talks in the discussion group more tangible. Across that I am recently very active in a local initiative „Genius Hellerau“ in Dresden, that focuses on how sustainable change can be initiated and brought into the region within communities Besides that I have other passions, that connect pretty much with sustainability issues (as Lean Thinking, where one tries to produce value for customers and the other stakeholders of the organization) such as urban planning (especially revitalization of old housing areas), alternative mobility ways and the necessary communication around that (e.g. railways, interconnection of different mobility modes) and ways on how organizations and groups learn collectively. A while ago a good friend from Australia, I met her during my „Business Dynamics Workshop“ at MIT Sloan and at „Foundations for Leadership“ done by Peter Senge/ Robert Hanig last March, invited me to Twitter and since then I connect with an even broader network around the issues described earlier. The connection via John Sterman and a few talks with our plant manager, Peter Claussen, at BMW Leipzig has led to further exploration and personal networks. Not too much time passed and after posting my experiences from the 2006 SD Conference in Nijmegen on the Listserver I got in contact with Pamela Paquin-Hall who is presently the head of the European Sustainability Group (ESG) of SoL. We had very deep conversations and she told me about her mother and that Peter Senge had been doing consulting with her mother some 20 years ago (Pamela had got the first impression of what systems thinking and sustainability is all about). This all led to a question, „Why don’t you come to Oman to the 3rd Global SoL Forum?“ and the dream became true as I applied for a scholarship (just had left BMW at this time, last April). Ever since I am thrilled by the experiences and people I got to know over there. Especially my connections with Team Academy (had heard about that crazy university in Finland without professors and normal lectures, but doing real projects with real customers, team learning based on dialog and team entrepreneurship). Presently –after recently moved to Dresden- I am right in the middle of working of setting up a similar thing in Dresden (Team Lea(r)ning Experience or Team Academy Dresden) in order to banish unemployment in Saxony and let people play to their real strengths and abilities to cocreate a better and sustainable future. Driving towards that (Team Lea(r)ning Experience in Dresden) I am always inspired by new communities that could either add value to that idea or where I can activily add value. Mostly the payback comes later (delayed feedback) and patience, waiting and looking for the right opportunity where the larger whole can be purposefully be served is one of my personal strengths. For friends and colleagues it always strange (and difficult) to see the deeper connection of different fields of interest I am playing the ball, housing reconstruction, lean thinking, systems thinking, urban planning, customer service, leadership developement, holistic thinking, knowledge worker 2.0, social media, Team Academy, System Dynamics, Edgar Schein, Peter Senge, Jay W. Forrester, climate change debate, alternative energy, alternative mobility concepts, ..... What analytical tools have you found to be most useful in your work, and why? I use quite a lot of inquiry and dialog around issues with that people are not happy with (these are for me the anchor points where the change towards sustainability can be easily
laid). For the last two years I have been using causal loop diagrams extensively to demonstrate and bring into the open people’s mental models in order to find the root causes and leverage points to sustainable change. This I have done mostly unconsiousnessly while talking with people about their current reality at their work place and how processes didn’t play to their expectations. What intuitive, emotional or reflective approaches have you found to be most useful, and why? I quite intuitively question (inquiry) people on their assumptions of what they think current reality is driven of. This leads generally to new solutions and innovative „out-of-the-box“thinking. What is your willingness to explore and better understand how your own life experience influences how you listen, talk, and think? Just during the System Dynamics Conference in 2006 when I got to know about the concept of boundary-spanner I understood why I am not too comfortable staying with just one group. During my school days I was an quiet outsider only to change after a threemonth school exchange in 1982, came back home and was acting as a connector of boundary-spanner between different people and groups to work and live together more smoothly. It only crossed my mind in 2006 when I had a longer talk with Laura Black. Slowly I have the feeling there are more past experiences that is driving me into the fields that I am passionate in. They all have something in common: I enjoy when people learn to learn and work is becoming more enjoyable and the customers/clients are enjoying the products and services. Please describe (no more than 500 words please) your reasons for wanting to be selected for the 2009-2010 class of Donella Meadows Leadership Fellows. Include what you want to get out of the Fellowship, what you have to offer to it, and how you will apply what you learn. The scholarship offers for me the great opportunity to bring in action at a broad and diverse team of participants my accumulated knowledge of almost 40 years of learning in different fields. The experience in several very different work environments where I always have focused on resource saving processes and methods of collaborative learning will give valuable input for co-creating the future to the better of all of us (and our generation to follow). Being part of the program offers the opportunity to bring action research not only amongst the small group but on the larger whole back in the local areas and communities where we are at work. What would I like to get out of the Fellowship? Certainly learning about other fields I am not aware yet and knitting a strong web with like-minded people across the globe working on a shared vision („co-creating the future we would like to see for our kids“). Levelling my strengths (next question, see below) with my –sometimes- counterbalancing personal „weaknesses“ What do I have to offer? Holistic thinking and Curiousity (finalizing in inquiry), ability and awereness to see chances and opportunities beyond the current reality, connectiveness in widespread personal networks around the globe (based on personal experience, SoL, moderated group around „Lean Thinking“, social social media and web 2.0), vivid information processor knitting a whole new set of resources to move current reality to next level. creative and innovative ideas. Providing value based on facilitating different ideas and approaches into one larger shared whole.
How you will apply what you learn? As the learning perfectly fits with my personal goals (learn to create value and bring others strenghts to florish) I will certainly apply in the process of establishing Team Academy Dresden (see my wildest dreams) and run it as an exceptional incubator for future activities towards team learning and team entrepreneurship in this world. On a smaller scale I generally put my new knowledge into practice in the various groups and online communities from where I get further input and feedback on the little interventions in form of questions, information and comments in general. Please describe a recent example from your work where you didn't have the outcome you hoped for or expected. This could be as simple as a frustrating interchange with a colleague -- in other words it doesn't have to be an analysis of a year-long intensive project. Please describe the example and share some of what you learned or concluded from it. The following is the short story of my greatest achievement (put together by several smaller projects, which are already in play in the larger organizational network). Working in the production control for almost two years I got the sense of the very complex system of a production plant, lots of blaming, turf wars, separated silos, divergent goals of different departments involved in the process. It just appeared to be more and more like a mess and a „little United Nations“ (as Edgar Schein frames similar situations so nicely). In spring 2006 while being in the cafeteria I got a short chat with our plant manager and he told me that he would give a lecture on „sytemic plant planning“ at the Technical University of Dresden in the following winter. So I offered to borough him my recently bought „Business Dynamics“, for preparing his course. He happily appreciated it and so it went. In my head thoughts were going crazy, a plant manager who got the complex system of the firm straight, even giving a lecture – great. Best time to get my thoughts and ideas around applying lean thinking into further spreading and working. Especially as the boss of my boss had been a former mentee of the plant manager. So I thought the ground would be fertile and ready. Working on getting to over 95% on-time production and delivery (despite the fact of still increasing production numbers and changing configuration of the cars) constantly –every day!- I was seeking the leverage point and discussed this with people on the shop floor who quickly bought into the idea, got students interested in doing the ground work (as basis for a thesis). Yet the outcome could not predicted in a structured way, especially the timing (when how much could be achieved was difficult and not really doable – based on 100% straight data). Then the strange thing happened, my boss was not interested and denied that the idea would be fruitful that I proposed (working on different approaches, with little pushing into the existing processes), mainly based on better and improved transparency of the process. Well before the final production most difficulties stemmed from and this was seen only hours or even days later when the cars approached the final finishing line. The idea behind my approach, was on the one hand, make difficulties as early visible, so the small things could be straightened out in a timely and effortless manner, teams would learn more smoothless together as they saw that not a person but the system was the reason for the difficulty, and finally this team learning could be slowly spread over to other production plants in an non-offending way (changes always intrigue resistance in one or the other way).
Also the connection to using system dynamics approaches (like reference modes and modeling on certain questionable processes) was part of the approach (medium- to longterm). Unfortunately, during my time with BMW, this never worked out. Only 2 years later, when a former colleague phoned me one day and told me that they would now build up on the ideas and grounding that I had set up earlier. What have I learned from that? When people tell you „that is a crazy idea“ just don’t stop it completely and build it in the back, focusing on a more generic solution that could be applied in other areas easily (this lowers also the risk that your peers, and bosses think that you have not done your job right). Always, always, always find out what your boss and his boss is driving. It could be that they are on a totally different track and following different numbers and problem (that are connected to your approach, and yet are not visible for them – mostly they are for you). If you don’t know what’s „cooking in the underground“ you can face severe problems to arise. If there is not change to do and good ideas are not bought in (even though the prototypes are working already!), it is probable that it is time to move on;-) A pity for the organization, and yet the time will come when you are the right person, after learning some new stuff outside the closed turf of the organization there will be time where you will be –eventuallyreinvited into it to help solving the complex issues that you have seen earlier. Never give up your dreams and stick to what you would like to accomplish in the world! Briefly describe what, in your wildest dreams, you would really like to accomplish in the next 10 years. The really wildes dream would be, to have established a running and prosperous Team Academy in Dresden and provide the „container“ where students, entrepreneurs, employees can work and learn together to create value for themselves, the clients they serve with their services and advices. Besides that the Team Academy will be a living incubator for innovative ideas and action learning that lowers the climate change thread, by spreading the word into other communities (virtual and real ones) around the world. Besides that building up a strong Ultimate Frisbee League in the Dresden area as a basis for true leadership development in K12 and above would be one of the foundations to make Team Academy Dresden a really special learning place in the world –embedded in the city of Dresden, the larger community and constant new influences from around the world. Actually I just initiated the topic on building a larger Ultimate Community via another group I actively moderate on Ultimate Frisbee. Anything else we should consider in reviewing your application? All started really off when I was studying in Bamberg (now a World Heritage Place) back in 1990 (right in the middle of „The Wall“ crumpling down and East-Germany just 30 min drive away). The city fathers in Bamberg demolished old housing only to rebuilt that in beton resembling the old one (wasting resources, decrease the „value“ of the city, not thinking creatively about new ways to use old housing) which now hosted a bank or other offices. I became active member of an initiative that fought for reuse the old houses in new ways by adapting to the heritage. Then I got notice of „The Machine that Changed the World“ by Womack/Jones at a friend’s place and it somehow connected to my
experiences in the reconstruction/old housing issue.d It is all about saving resources or at least use them in a useful way. Going over to Thuringia on weekend trips to learn more about Eastern-Germany and how people perceived the massive change over there and how the have lived in the past decades was a real „eye opener“ for. This served my natural curiousity perfectly. Asking people over there –without the intention to sell any service to them (as most other West-Germans did)- gave me already a feeling of what it means to be a process consultant, building an emotional relationship with people. Then in 1993 I had a two-months internship in Dresden – one of the most beautiful citiesat the Insitute for Archeology right in the middle of downtown. Again there it was, old housing and the question of reconstruction. Everything to build new? Tear down housing, where architects didn’t get a clue how to solve the problems at hand (just the easy quick an dirty way with later negative feedback, as I learned about 13 years later at MIT Sloan). I was part of the system (evolving city to West-German standards) and ever since I have taken part in it. So it was just a minor step to continue my studies (after I had to quit my economics studies in Bamberg in summer 1995) in Dresden, at the former GDR state university for railway systems. In between I had the chance to work three months at BOSCH in Bamberg, partly to earn some money and partly to see what a real factory is like. That really a different kind of organizational system (besides the urban system with all the apperent and non-apparent stakeholders). As we had to do a term of practical internship at a company at the University of Applied Sciences at Dresden, I choose to work in Dresden – in order to understand the people in this part of the country better. During my earlier study times in Mainz in Bamberg I have done several internships at banks, public power corporations (in Athens), forwarding companies, etc. in the Western parts of Germany) – so a great opportunity to be part of different community. It has been one the best decisions ever and I learned a lot in those 6 months working at ABB in Dresden. In the press and media in those days (not much different to today) we got just the facts about East-German companies that closed or how bad everything was. Now I had the chance to get some „undercurrent“ information that people told me who had worked for some of those companies. This even fired my deeper curiousity in poking into existing mental models of people asking „Why do you think this or that happened?“. I learned so much about the background of Eastern-Germany, Dresden and the region that later in the studies when students had come back from their internships, they thought that I would be one of them, as I knew so much background information no other people from WesternGermany could know about East-Germany. I was excetped as one of „them“ and ever since feel like it. These three years in Dresden had been one of the most joyful and learning times of my life and even when I started a job back in Frankfurt I never;-). Working at a logistics service provider in Frankfurt, dealing with combined-rail-roadtransport was another major step and the connections to larger systems should step up again. In 2001 I got the opportunity there to become quality manager for the running and customer-roll-out of a tracking-tracing program (which the customers didn’t want to use at that time – what to do?). I liked the program and the idea, that instead phoning and asking for information the dispo agents at forwarding companies should rather use the web based information tool, sticking to value adding activities they could do instead waiting in either a hold-line or getting the information. Unfortunately any change in the structure of the business processes resulted in direct error messages of the program, as the changes had not been programmed and so they slipped into an error archive. As you couldn’t „sell“ such service to a customer I was eager to find out the root causes and so my systemic and lean thinking started to grow. I guess that has been the start of my system dynamics „career“ which of course needed some further input and personal experience.
In 2002 while already in Dresden (the city had drawn me back since 1993 constantly) the river Elbe crossed the normal level of about 3 feet and rose to about 30 feet. In Dresden that is situated pretty close to the river this resulted in large flooding and damaging. As I was layed-off by my former employer I was eager to help and yet could only help at night (due to medication with antibiotica). A week after the water had been through the rebuilding and cleaning started in the city and the adjacent regions. A friend called my and told me that they would seek people to work in a call-center to organize the helpers who were „flooding“ in from all over Germany, Europe and even the US. I took the initiative, checked it out (while my wash was running in washing salon), brought my stuff home and started right away in a place that should be my workplace for the months to come. After two weeks the inner team of the organizator felt that people slowly dropped back into the normal work and somehow a more professional structure was needed to keep the help coordination running. We arranged for a funded project and I happened to be elected as project leader to run operations with 14 people and a few volunteers. It was a challenging time as most people were sent by the unemployment agency due to the education background (that in general didn’t fit the customer orientated and entrepreneurial attitude that was still needed). This happened to be the first when I had the chance to train and put my leadership capabilities into play. Of course not everything was easy and I got some bloody noses where I pushed people too hard in a role where saw them. Letting go and reframing where and how people could be most useful (for them, for the others and the organization, not to forget the citizens and other stakeholders) was quite some challenge and yet everything worked out pretty smoothly over time. I merely had the „strings losely“ connected putting obstacles out of the way for the team, pre-arranged grounding foundations for flawless service providing, got Palm Inc. To sponsor some PDAs to make the work in outer space in the city more resource saving (big folders could now stay home and people had the information at hand at the PDA). Everything was moving so smoothly that when I left and asked for a certificate, the woman of HR asked me, „What have you done? We haven’t heard anything from your team!“. This was not the last time I heard similar tones;-( For me the most essential thing is to accomplish the necessary task together with the people on the front (or shopfloor) and it is to their credit that things work perfectly. I am facilitating so that this can be done flawlessly and so I often done stand out of the rest – why should I, I wonder often? During this time in the call-center it happened to be that BMW was looking for personell for the new plant in Leipzig and so it went as it went. I applied and was taken due to my experience in the logistics company and my recent experience at the flood help. Very passionate with lean thinking (starting in December 2005 I moderate a group with about 1.500 members and bring topics to the table that are not just plain lean management stuff, but sneak into climate change, urban planning, health care, government, education, etc.) working for BMW opened another possibility to think and act holistically while being part of the initial creating team of the new BMW plant in Leipzig. In the beginning it was pretty much what you imagine a learning organization is like (coming with six months of experience in the flood help in Dresden, where I had been head of operations): cross-departmental learning, roundtables at a restaurants, learning by doing small experiments. Short: IT WAS AWESOME. Then we moved to the new plant in 2004 with an planned start of May 2005 (coming from 0 cars in production to about 700 per day by now!). It was –for me- all about enabling production to keep the steady high quality and eliminate eventually evolving problems. Process improvement of ist finest and again a different learning environment, now people and departments slowly separating and one had to adapt to the „system“ in order to find and implement the solutions (whereas before that was easier as we „newbees“ had been mostly hired due to our capability to foster the unpredictable and unknown. Then over
time it became quite obvious that people were often just acting in the departmental thinking and compliance to the boss to meet their numbers. Again the question: What to do? Lean Thinking games where people could physicially see and feel what their actions would cause other partner down the line sounded like a good plan. I invited colleagues home for a gaming evening where we played lean games (Airplane Game, where one has to produce paper airplanes – pretty much like the beergame and even extended in outcome). Looking at the web (one of the main tools for me in connecting with other people, fields and communities dealing with systemic issues) led to a call at John Sterman’s office at 11 PM at night one day. There it was the hook Ever since I am learning for myself on how to use SD for work and daily life issues and problems that I sense. As lean thinking is also a holistic approach around the system dynamics methodology my challenge at present is finding the way to connect SD to the deeper experience of people in the lean thinking world and beyond to make the usefulness visible to people who have not yet seen it.