An emphasis on the human side of systems, addressing creativity, empowerment, involvement and productivity issues through a synthesis of technology-of-mind, group-dynamics and interpersonal-power modelling.
There are four key components to an energy-dynamics assessment of a project or business-system:
- group-dynamics model of project stages
- personality-types model of workflow stages
- energy-flow and energy-block mapping
- modelling and education in power and responsibility
These components are described in the Details section below.
An energy-dynamics assessment may usefully be carried out within any project, business-system or workflow. Productivity improvements resulting from such an assessment would arise from improved recruitment criteria and task-assignments, improved traffic-flows and work transfers, and reduced intrapersonal and interpersonal conflicts.
Group-dynamics divides the life-cycle of a group or project into five distinct phases:
- forming – the ideas stage, identifying the purpose for which the group first comes together (proposal phase)
- storming – the discussion stage, in which details of ideas and relationships within the group become established (requirements phase)
- norming – the assignment stage, in which roles and tasks are established (specification/design phase)
- performing – the action stage, in which the group members carry out their assigned tasks (implementation phase)
- mourning – the completion stage, in which the group reviews the work done, and then disbands in order to make way for a new cycle (test/deployment/review phase)
xio‘s adaptation of this well-known model is intended for use with iterative system development cycles, in which the review at the end of each cycle provides the proposals for the next cycle – such as object-oriented software development and quality-improvement reviews.
The group-dynamics model maps exactly onto the Chinese traditional model of five phases ‘elements’, to describe five personality-types best suited to specific phases of a project or workflow:
- wood – type preferring the ‘forming’/ideas stage of a project or workflow (e.g. research, system-architecture, client-contact)
- fire – type preferring the ‘storming’/discussion stage of a project or workflow (e.g. facilitator, client-relationship)
- earth – type preferring the ‘norming’/assignment stage of a project or workflow (e.g. production management, designer, client-sales)
- metal – type preferring the ‘performing’/action stage of a project or workflow (e.g. implementors, production staff, sales-fulfilment)
- water – type preferring the ‘mourning’/completion stage of a project or workflow (e.g. testers, quality-management, accounts)
Other personality-type models such as the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) may also be used where appropriate. The advantage of the ‘element’ model is that it also indicates where these personality-types are least suited:
- wood – supports ‘fire’; disrupts both ‘earth’ and ‘metal’; if over-supported, may weaken ‘water’
- fire – supports ‘earth’; disrupts both ‘metal’ and ‘water’; if over-supported, may weaken ‘wood’
- earth – supports ‘metal’; disrupts both ‘water’ and ‘wood’; if over-supported, may weaken ‘fire’
- metal – supports ‘water’; disrupts both ‘wood’ and ‘fire’; if over-supported, may weaken ‘earth’
- water – supports ‘wood’; disrupts both ‘fire’ and ‘earth’; if over-supported, may weaken ‘metal’
Chinese element-theory also shows in detail how each personality-type may support or hinder the overall workflow, and suggests ways in which specific designs for information-technology systems may be used to support ‘gaps’ or weak areas in an overall workflow.
Energy-mapping uses a variety of concepts and techniques to identify and suggest optimisations for:
- traffic-flows and other physical energy-movements in a workspace
- transfers of task-responsibilities and other virtual energy-movements in a workflow
- management of physical and virtual ‘personal space‘ for staff
Some of the conceptual tools used in xio‘s energy-mapping are adapted from traditional Chinese feng-shui. Although the public perception of feng-shui is little better than outright superstition, the original core concepts are founded on precise observation of energy movement and human psychology, and have clear practical applications in current commercial environments. For example, excess ‘clutter’ in any form, whether physical or virtual, will obviously impede traffic and reduce efficiency; and the ‘open cubicle’ workspace layout commonly found in large offices is actually one of the worst possible layouts, as in most configurations every person has their back to the cubicle entrance – guaranteeing a sense of psychological insecurity, and hence reducing productivity. Energy-mapping not only identifies such issues, but also provides clear recommendations for their resolution – even where systems and workspace-layouts cannot practicably be changed.
Power and responsibility
Conventional models of power and responsibility in business-systems depend on formalised structures such as hierarchical ‘organisation charts’ and predefined job-descriptions. These structures are essentially static, and although apparently necessary in larger organisations, can easily reduce efficiency by inappropriate demarcation, inadequate feedback ‘up’ the hierarchy tree, poor communication ‘across’ the tree, and slow response to change.
By comparison, xio‘s model emphasises the dynamic nature of power and responsibility at the individual level – and the need to promote empowerment at every level within the organisation. Most conventional concepts of power – and the ones most often encountered in ‘office politics’ – are based on ‘power-over’, or dominance, and are inherently dysfunctional, usually impacting directly and negatively on workplace productivity. Because dominance/power-over concepts often seem to work in the short-term, but in practice reduce the overall availability of power in any functional sense, they are inherently addictive: and unless addressed as such can result in a rapid decay in productivity and morale, sometimes to the extent of destroying a project, a business-group or an entire organisation.
To counter this common problem, xio promotes a functional concept of power as ‘power-from-within’, derived in part from the standard physics definition of potential:
“power is the ability to do work, as an expression of choice”
(There are several important riders to that definition: see the item ‘Understanding power‘ in the xio ‘toolkit’.) To support this, responsibility is defined as ‘response-ability’ – the ability to choose appropriate responses to perceived circumstances. Power and responsibility are thus both identified as highly volatile, and highly dependent upon the subjective perceptions of the group as a whole and of each individual within it. In each environment, we aim to maximise mutual support – ‘power-with’ – within a group, and provide educational tools to help individuals identify and resolve habitual behaviours which would unconsciously restrict productivity of the individuals themselves and of the group as a whole.