Hmm..the term "sensemaking" is interesting and also piqued my interest. Mistakes happen, but I believe they only become failures when we fail to learn from them. Typically, projects (and products) don't fail to meet objectives from one issue or problem. What I often see is the inability to sense the impact of defects, issues, problems, or risks and the lack of timely resolution. If you can't sense the impact, then you may not focus resources on the issue and/or take the time to explore the underlying problems. This takes time, which seems to be in ever shorter supply. The lessons we learn need to be minimally captured using episodic approaches like post-mortems on project and lifecycle stages. Ideally, we need to find ways to move these learning opportunities into the mainstream of all processes so they become more real-time.
The challenge is to build in the discipline of continuous learning in our processes and our culture. This applies to all organizations, institutions, and individuals. Trying to understand a problem requires patience and oftentimes an ability to "unlearn" so that we remove biases when examining a problem. Most problems are actually issues that are not well understood so we end up addressing the issue but not the underlying problem(s) that caused the issue to occur. This is time-consuming and often relegated to only those issues that appear as urgent or significantly impactful. Getting to the root cause for issues allows us to gain a sense about what is really going on and allows us to apply first principles to reimagine one or more solutions to resolve or possibly apply innovation to create opportunity.
Sensing is actually a discipline within complexity theory and we are just beginning to discuss this in organizations and the design of products, services, and processes. As data and complexity continue to grow exponentially, the need for building sensory models around change needs to mature with both models and technology. When we encounter a problem, we need to find ways to apply the discipline of continuous learning into the emerging topology of sensory capabilities within and between products, systems, and organizations. Over time, we will develop recursive learning to accelerate our ability to respond and adapt. As patterns of learning emerge, they can be instantiated as synaptic responses to accelerate response time and overall agility.
More work to do, but the recognition of sensemaking in problem representation opens the door for many exciting possibilities.
The Value Enablement Group, LLC
Sent: 11-13-2020 14:00
From: Gabriela Pinotti
Subject: Post-Failure Success
What has been your experience dealing with a project that has failed? More importantly, how were you able to bounce back from it?
There's a lot of insight that can be gained from hearing stories of failure, especially when it comes to the lessons learned. As such, the JPIM article "Post‐Failure Success: Sensemaking in Problem Representation Reformulation" piqued my interest. The authors discuss the critical nature of prospective sensemaking as well as the value of leadership change behavior. Rather than falling into the temptation of skipping to a solution or dwelling on old assumptions when faced with failure, innovative teams engage in prospective sensemaking. This process involves redefining the problem by analyzing new assumptions and expectations of future events. Making the leap from purely retrospective sensemaking to prospective sensemaking requires leadership change behaviors such as risk-taking and the promotion of innovative thinking. This type of approach enables setbacks to transform into successful, innovative solutions.
Graduate Research Assistant