On Friday 30th June I presented at my second LAST (Lean, Agile, Systems Thinking) Conference. These are great events and this year had video-link keynotes with Peter Senge and Norman Bodek!

This year I once again focused on systems thinking as the prime theme though introduced the Australian Archetype Study findings and revisited Gareth Morgan’s organisational metaphors.

Key points for this in charge of process/business improvement and change programs:

  1. Understand what a good outcome means to those impacted by the change (cultural archetypes)


  2. Ensure that you have a shared approach to communications (cultural communications)


  3. Understand how people see how the organisation operates (organisational metaphors)


  4. Embrace systems thinking principles and understand that organisations are complex socio-technical systems (systems thinking)

  5. Use effective visualisations to communicate your intent (implied throughout)

  • Note for those that attended – I have added a bubble-map at the end of the pack that summarises the key points we discussed.

The presentation is attached below. It went something like this:

Cultural Archetypes

World views are largely driven by culturally-informed norms. While the studies referred to were at a country level – the concepts are applicable down to organisations, functions, teams, roles, …

The idea of what a good outcome is (or ‘quality’ in the case of the study) is hugely dependant on cultural factors. Appreciating these factors, and that they are often wildly different from each other, is the main message here.

‘Quality’ means different things to different countries – in Australia it is all about “relationships”. To me this explains:

  • Why we have a tendency to prioritise “heroes” over continuous process improvement

  • Why much of the Eastern philosophies of business are variously adopted as methods and tools but generally fail to shift the way we manage our organisations

Cultural Communications

Even if we are successful at clarifying and agreeing what a good outcome is, the way in which people expect to engage in conversation and negotiation toward that outcome can vary significantly – in duration, in style, language, and expected outcome. The communication patterns of “When Cultures Collide” by Richard D. Lewis (2006) were used to illustrate this.

Organisational Metaphors

Gareth Morgan’s “Organisational Metaphors” were used to illustrate the different ways in which we perceive of organisational behaviour and operating norms. See Organisational metaphors and culture change and Images of Organisation for more. The main point here is that the way in which people perceive of their organisation should inform the approaches and language of change and improvement efforts.

Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking is (or should be) at the core of all process improvement and change management initaitives. Implications for organisational change were discussed including the challenging concept of sub-optimisation – when you improve the performance of any part of a system you are likely to decrease the performance of the whole system. Systems thinking and effective visual models can highlight the inter-relationships that need to be managed. I used my favourite (example of how traditional organisation structures might look in managing our climate system.

A PDF of the presentation follows – please acknowledge sources and respect copyright materials.

Contact me if you would like me to present to your workplace or at an event on this or other topics on this website.

LAST 2017 website version – Archetypes – Metaphors – Systems : LAST 2017

Written by Imre Hegedus


Process Management – avoiding process heroes and process victims (Article)

Organisational Metaphors and Cultural Change (Article)

Images of Organisation (Library)


Business Process Management – Insights and Practices for Sustained Transformation - $69

Business Process Management - Strategies to Improve Performance - $69

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