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Major Concepts: Realsearch ||| Enterprise Model ||| Maturity Model
                        Knowledge & Agility ||| Agile System Principles
Book: Response Ability - The Language, Structure and Culture of the Agile Enterprise
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(Section from paper presented at March 1998 IEEE Aerospace Conference)
Download: Realsearch A Framework for Knowledge Management and Continuing Education
View Section: Executive Overview, 1. Introduction, 2. Objectives and Building Blocks,
3. Framework and Process, 4. Testing the Approach,
5. Conclusions, References, Appendix: Local Metaphor Model Example

5. Conclusions

Self discovery is a powerful way to assimilate and appreciate new knowledge. Working groups from industry that explored the early concepts of change proficiency at the Agility Forum sent people back to their companies with new visions of possibilities and new ideas on how to realize them. Many of them are making something happen in their companies as a result. Not because they heard a seminar. Not because they read a book. And not because they sat around a table and kicked around a few ideas. But because they tried to make sense of something that little was known about, and did it in the company of others with different backgrounds who also wanted a new knowledge and sense of understanding.

At this point the author suspects that the change issue-focus and RRS principles-base can be fruitfully employed as the basic analysis and application structure for any Realsearch application focused on business practices. This suspicion arises after seeing many different types of business practices comprehensively described as responding to a set of change issues. The change-issue structure is a tool that can fit almost any problem. Likewise, the RRS principles provide a reasonable general structure that appears to have broad applicability. Both are tools to make you think about the problem and the solution in broader terms.

Every workshop ended with a postmortem on the process. Suggestions for improvements as well as confirmation of good procedures were made each time, and many of the improvement suggestions were implemented immediately in the following workshop. Comments heard frequently focused on the high quality of the review articles, the desire to see new participants brought up to speed quicker (perhaps with off-line pre-tutoring or simply more in-depth basics at the workshop opening), and the desire for more specific break-out instructions and procedures.

Important things we learned in the first five workshops:

  • Limit the analysis activity to a single practice so that all tools can be exercised by the entire group. Our attempts to analyze two practices, in two half-day sessions, never produced a complete analysis of any one practice. There just wasn't enough time. An entire day can be devoted to a single analysis. This requires, however, a more careful subject selection to ensure it provides a rich learning experience.
  • Drive the analysis activity to produce, and leave behind, a complete strawman iconic model (one-page structured synopsis - see Appendix). Complete in the sense that both the iconic diagram and the observed RRS principles for a specific practice are developed and organized as a single-sheet hand-out. Strawman in the sense that quiet minds can later refine and augment what is necessarily the one-day blitzkrieg output of a committee.
  • Be very careful about mixing participants from different companies that are doing business with each other. If there are unresolved issues between them, the group chemistry can defocus the Realsearch activity.
  • Single-time participation should be discouraged. Wrestling with new knowledge in the Realsearch process cannot produce comfort, let alone insight, in a single exposure. By necessity a workshop host may have more participants present at the workshop they host than they field to other workshops in the same series. But hosting a workshop without fielding participants to other workshops diminishes greatly the value of the hosting experience. For one: the locally-specific knowledge generated during the workshop remains raw and unfinished as there is no follow-through. For another: though the host participants generally get good actionable ideas during their workshop, the Realsearch knowledge-focus remains confusing and provides no leverage.
  • Initially we devoted a single day to the application exercise, with a day-and-a-half spent on the analysis activity of two practices. Once an experience base was developed participants, and especially workshop hosts, wanted more time spent on the application exercise. The day-and-a-half we now spend on the application exercise seems satisfactory. Having cut back on the time available for analysis, however, has resulted in a need to focus the analysis on a single subject rather than two.

Comments from participants.

Some were unsolicited spontaneous email messages collected during the course of the workshop series, others were solicited as feedback on the Realsearch process specifically for this paper. We are still learning how to improve the process, but the written and verbal feedback indicates that something useful already exists.

John Bricklemeyer, Eastman Kodak (two weeks after his first workshop at GM):

"I thought that the session at GM was excellent. It was very timely for me as I have been able to utilize many of our learnings around guiding principles, particularly as they relate to a flexible manufacturing environment. I think that this site was an excellent example of how to use "out of the box" thinking to solve problems without spending huge sums of money to develop technologically complex solutions. The types of innovation that I saw at GM has caused me to approach many of our activities in a different manner in order to more fully utilize the assets that we already have in unique ways.

Jack Ring, working with Miles Burke Technologies:

"The Change Drivers and RRS principles are key features of a new methodology for the engineering of businesses as complex, adaptive systems. This methodology will be tested [in a product to be introduced by Miles Burke Technologies] in 1998 to determine whether it overcomes the deficiencies of current practices in BPR and Management of Change in commercial businesses and virtual enterprises such as Value Chains.

"Heretofore, learning environments have been largely limited to the teaching paradigm -- lectures, case studies and laboratories. This paradigm does not create a community with consistent intents, objectives, mental models and tenacity. The Realsearch approach facilitates not only analogical reasoning but also gets participants to the level of principle-centered reasoning.

"Industry, government and academia are facing an era of complex, adaptive systems. It is essential that we learn how to design and operate such systems. Musicians can learn at Julliard. Architects can learn at the Bauhaus. Physicians can learn at Mayo or Menninger. Systems practitioners have had nowhere to go that can immerse them in the Problem and help them experiment with Solutions. Realsearch creates an environment and provides the co-facilitation that maximizes adult learning.

"In every workshop, participants have come to realizations and conceived candidate solutions that surprised themselves. This is applied creativity -- innovation.

"The Underlying Principles, to paraphrase a Chinese Proverb: tell me and I forget, show me and I misunderstand, let me try it and I remember, help me have a success and I will apply it.

Dan Henke with Pratt & Whitney:

"The workshop forum provides a method to assess a number of management systems with a common set of rules and semantics. The review process is not intended to provide an immediate "flash of light" leading to perfect solutions, but rather to gain a deeper knowledge of how management systems work to provide adaptability in the business arena.

"....the forum [workshop] gave me the tools to look at the various systems I have worked in and apply a structured method of assessment about what made them effective and vice versa. We are in the midst of reorganizing the PW Space Propulsion Business Unit and I have consistently attempted to infuse the knowledge gained from attending the forum [workshop].

Pete Holmes with Pratt & Whitney:

"Even at this early stage, there is a change initiative that can be related to our workshop findings: Empowered IPD (Integrated Product Development) teams. I think we will begin to see action plans take form over the next few months.

Nicole Deblieck of Rockwell Avionics and Communications:

"The groups have done a good job looking at relations, interfaces, and systems which are generic to all organizations, but with enough detail to be useful to the host company. Many times during the workshop I have noted ideas about my projects, which have been generated during either the presentations or the breakout groups. I was pleased to see you working to generate a graphic to capture the key ideas. The workshop structure works well with the pre-reading, whole group presentations, and break-out sessions. The first two examples give enough time for group dynamics to be sorted out and some understanding for new participants on the concepts.

"I am currently working and planning ways to implement these new concepts on my current projects. I do find myself looking at all sorts of systems, work and non work, as frameworks and modules and evaluating how well they work. It has definitely affected the way I think of organizing interfaces, and systems.

Lisa Bogusz of Rockwell Avionics and Communications:

"I'm having a very interesting time with the development of a new product set to launch in 1998. We planned to release a sort of half-step of what the ultimate product will be, and follow that up the following year with the actual product. It took me about a half second to call forth my Agile principles and realize that we will get nothing reusable, scaleable, or reconfigurable out of this. Much to my surprise, after some discussion we agreed that it wasn't the right approach. We see this as an opportunity to implement some agile practices not seen here before.

Howard Kuhn of Concurrent Technologies Corporation: (Immediately following their workshop which explored new positioning strategy.)

"The most immediate impact of our workshop was to recognize the need to emphasize the role of our Fundamental Knowledge Base as a distinguishing feature of our capabilities. This will be a key ingredient in future marketing activities. In addition, we recognize that the ability to nurture this capability will be a major success factor in the future as knowledge workers, knowledge management, and knowledge exploitation take a more prominent role.

Patrick Kraus of Procter & Gamble:

"The workshops have been quite useful in generating thoughts related to my situation without necessarily trying to generate these thoughts. For me, this occurs for 2 reasons. First, I am physically disconnected from my problem because I am not in my office. Second, the workshops create a learning and question-asking environment that allows a participant to question things that he or she otherwise would not question.

"As a participant, the workshop environment (Realsearch) is the initial 'proving ground' for new skills that might not otherwise be taken out for a test drive. The workshop offers an intensive, but relaxed atmosphere to test out these new concepts and tools without risking judgement from your parent company before you are ready for it.

"I would prefer working only one 'Analysis' exercise so that we can carry it through the entire process (change issues, 10 principles, system definition, module definition, strawman diagram). I would like to see more focus on how the 10 principles manifest themselves in a known system. I think focusing on one 'Analysis' exercise will accomplish this.

"I would like to see the output of the 'Analysis' to be a strawman diagram [local metaphor model]. This would help focus the effort toward a concrete deliverable as well as summarize the findings of each break-out group so that a participant has some documented examples of using process before he/she returns home.

In Summary

Does the Realsearch process work? Does it produce a facility with new knowledge that has the depth of insight? How long does that take?

My observations are that little is evident after a single workshop, the light goes on during the second workshop, and something approaching insight occurs for some in the third and for many in the fourth exposure. At three days per workshop that's something like 9-12 days invested in high-leverage business-related learning with immediate application. Our sampling experience at this point is too small to make any strong claims, however.

Realsearch is not a recipe driven concept by design: 1) we need ways to differentiate our businesses, not conformity that eliminates competition, 2) the nature of the complexity we deal with requires complexity-compatible response, 3) though people are generally uncomfortable in the hard work of deep thinking/learning activity, that is what produces insight.

The future will continue to evolve the strategic themes of Realsearch and refine the process. We want to find effective ways to expand to larger groups and IntraNet delivery. We are still learning, but common ground revolves around a focus on real and interesting problems, mixed participants, running parallel teams, building local metaphors, issue-focus/principle-base, and making people think and create new insight patterns.


[1] Rick Dove, "Integrating People and Technology - A Consortia Point of View", Delivered at the 1991 NCMS Annual Meeting, 5/91. National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, Ann Arbor, MI.

[2] S. Goldman and K. Preisse (Editors), R. Nagel and R. Dove (Principle Investigators), "21st Century Manufacturing Enterprise Strategy", Volumes 1 and 2, Iacocca Institute, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA., 1991.

[3] Rick Dove, Steve Benson, and Sue Hartman, "A Structured Assessment System for Groups Analyzing Agility", 5th Annual Agility Conf., Agility Forum, Mar '96.

[4] Dan Seligman, "Brains in the Office", Fortune, Jan 13, 1997, page 38.

[5] Robert Kelley and Janet Caplan, "How Bell Labs Creates Star Performers", Harvard Business Review, Jul-Aug '93.

[6] Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation, Doubleday, 1986.

[7] Jack Stack, The Great Game of Business, Doubleday, 1992.

[8] John Case, Open Book Management, HarperCollins, 1995.

[9] Rick Dove, Essay Collection: "Agile and Otherwise", published monthly in Automotive Manufacturing and Production, Gardner Publications, November 1994 through December 1997 (and continuing). Collection available at

[10] Michael Porter, "What is Strategy?" Harvard Business Review, Nov/Dec 1996.

[11] Rick Dove, Sue Hartman, and Steve Benson, "An Agile Enterprise Reference Model, With a Case Study of Remmele Engineering", Agility Forum Report, Dec '96.

View Next Section: Appendix - Local Metaphor Model Example

(Section from paper presented at March 1998 IEEE Aerospace Conference)
Download: Realsearch A Framework for Knowledge Management and Continuing Education
View Section: Executive Overview, 1. Introduction, 2. Objectives and Building Blocks,
3. Framework and Process, 4. Testing the Approach,
5. Conclusions, References, Appendix: Local Metaphor Model Example

Features: Home | Library | Corp Info
Major Concepts: Realsearch ||| Enterprise Model ||| Maturity Model
                        Knowledge & Agility ||| Agile System Principles
Book: Response Ability - The Language, Structure and Culture of the Agile Enterprise
Book: Value Propositioning - Perception and Misperception in Decision Making

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