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Complexity Thinking and the MOI(J) Model (Markus Gärtner)

On January 2, 2012, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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Last year I started to dive into the theory behind complexity thinking. What puzzled me ever since is the relationship between complexity thinking and the stuff that I learned from Jerry Weinberg. One sleepless night I stood up from bed, and searched my material from the PSL course. There I learned about a model that helps me leading people in different ways. While thinking over it, it occurred to me, that complexity thinking is a small subset of the MOI(J) model. Follow me on my mind-journey.

Complexity Thinking

Complexity Thinking evolves around three main concepts. That is, in each self-organizing there are several containers which determine the boundaries of smaller groups. Every organizational hierarchy could be thought of as such a container. But there are also others. In a matrix organization, containers also evolve around the project structures. Testers and programmers are also two different containers.

Containers themselves are defined by significant differences to other containers. There are also insignificant different between containers, and within containers themselves. Complexity Thinking states that the significant ones are meaningful for the work as a change agent.

The third concept has to do with exchanges. In order to self-organize, people in the system have to exchange their differences between each other. If there are too few exchanges, then the team will not be able to self-organize. The things we strive for as change artists are transformational exchanges, exchanges that yield a different behavior, a transformation.

As a change agent for self-organization this model helps us to find the right balance between containers, significant differences, and transformational exchanges. If people are stuck because they lack information from another department, organize an exchange between the two. If people self-organization is limited because the containers are not clear, then you shape these, or shape them differently.

MOI(J) model

The MOI(J) model consists of four aspects and two dimensions, on what leaders should take into account. The letters mean motivation, organization, information, and jiggle. The dimensions consist of observation and action.

In any group of people as a leader you can observe their motivation, how they are organized, and how information flows within the group, and beyond the boundaries. You can also observe whether the team is stuck in some particular sense.

Then you have different options to help the team, and lead them. You can change their motivation by introducing competition or by raising incentives. You can change their organization by promoting one of the team members. You can change their information flow by bringing in a colleague from that other department. Sometimes you can also jiggle the team, and show them new ways to handle the situation.

Now, complexity thinking appears to me to be a subset of the MOI(J) model. Transformational exchanges are changes that I may bring when I change their information flow. Significant differences can be mostly found in the way the team organizes their work, and what motivates them. Only the concept of containers is a bit vague for me in the MOI(J) model. It could have something to do with jiggling those boundaries once the team gets stuck. Yet, I found the MOI(J) model goes pretty beyond the Complexity Thinking model since it considers more variables for me as a system change agent.

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