What to Do When Folks Just Won’t Do Right

As I move toward a close to the Summer 2019 term, I feel a little sad that I cannot stay and learn more about soft systems methodologies from “Mr.-Professor-Who-Knows-His-Name.”  What a journey.  Great fun and great learning all along the way.

Question: Is it possible to align Human Activity Systems implementation and evaluation plans?

Absolutely.  As a matter of fact, there is a well-driven path.

Analyzing and Attacking Human Activity System “Wicked” Problems

According to the basic principles of the soft system methodology, “wicked” Human Activity Systems (HAS) problems usually require a unique one-time fix.  The fix is usually associated with leading those humans involved to the knowledge that there is a problem, the problem is associated with their behaviors, and that they should stop doing what they are doing and do something else.  The next step is to ensure the humans involved get the message that they should correct their actions and behaviors.

Implementing Change in Human Activity Systems

To achieve these outcomes, I began by designing an implementation plan for my conceptual soft systems change model using Lewin’s (1947) Three-Step Model of Change framework to gain a better vision for where the proposed organizational changes are required.  Specifically, I studied the eight-step soft system methodology-based concept I created to decide where I could “freeze,” “change,” then “refreeze” the implementation process to lock in the changes desired (Burns, 2004).

Next, I used Kirkpatrick Four-Level Model of Training Evaluation Levels 1 through Level 3 framework to create an instructional design model for teaching leaders and employees how to effect the change with the Level 4 desired results (the change achieved) in mind (Kirkpatrick & Kirpatrick, 2016). I locked the instructional design down with a few Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning checkpoints for measuring skills and learning transfer (Pollock et al., 2015) .

Managing Change in Human Activity Soft Systems

Finally, I integrated Total Quality Management (TQM) quarterly milestones audits to monitor and evaluate the desired iterative change and quality improvement process for at least one year so tweaks could be made when and where needed (Evans, 2002).

Now.  I feel the resultant HAS soft systems conceptual model implementation and evaluation framework I created for these assignments are both feasible and evidence-based.  But, I will have to wait to see how “Mr.-Professor-Who-Knows-His-Name” feels about my integrated training and quality improvement diagram.  I should receive that in a few days, and I definitely look forward to the value I am sure he will add to my plans.

Jennie’s Perspective

Based on my experience with correcting HAS wicked problems, I am confident that once the humans involved accept the need for change, learn how to effect the change, and recognize there will be follow-up and accountability for their role in and during the change – deficiencies within soft systems begin correcting themselves almost immediately after the “Go!” refreeze switch is flipped.

I honestly believe that no one wants to do a lousy job.  So in those rare occasions where this is the case, the wicked problem can still be corrected by targeting interventions higher up on the food chain. 

As Maslow (1943) once noted so many decades ago, once you meet people’s physiological basic needs for survival and safety, they will naturally begin pursuing their psychological needs (Maslow, 1943).  That is when the desire to KEEP THEIR JOBS becomes a dominant influencing factor.  After all, if you have an employee uninterested in quality control and improvements, should they be working for you? 

If your answer is “No!”  

Well. Then that opens up an entirely new avenue for you to resolve that wicked Human Activity System problem, right?  Document that bad attitude then call the Human Resource Department right away

I’m just saying, …


Burnes, B. (2004). Kurt Lewin and the planned approach to change: a re‐appraisal. Journal of Management studies, 41(6), 977-1002.

Evans, J. R. (2002). Total quality management. INFOR40(4), 364.

Kirkpatrick, J. D., & Kirkpatrick, W. K. (2016). Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training evaluation. Association for Talent Development.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological review50(4), 370.

Pollock, R. V., Jefferson, A. M., Wick, C. W., & Wick, C. (2015). The six disciplines of breakthrough learning. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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