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System levels of the target system and the choice of practices

Role practices of creators/agents/IPU work with systems of certain system levels, take into account emergent properties of systems that can be found at the target system level of practice, but cannot be found at lower or higher levels. A method (a set of practices) can work with several system levels, but in general, it is important to remember that any work requires an understanding of practices at three system levels:

  • The one at which work is being done with the system. For example, management as organizational engineering.
  • Lower level. If the target level is an organization, then the lower level would be personal engineering (or traditional coaching, psychotherapy, training practices).
  • Higher level. If the target level is an organization, then the higher level would be some communities (a business-eco-system that includes the organization).

Roughly speaking, if you are building a wall, it would be good for you to understand walls (your level), bricks and what can be done with them, mortar (a lower level, but here you can also think about other wall-building practices, for example, sliding formwork - and there won't be any bricks there, just as there won't be bricks in large-panel construction, and you need to understand that too), buildings (a higher level, how buildings are made from individual walls - and there are brick buildings as well as buildings obtained using the sliding formwork method, or buildings obtained in large-panel construction). Since there are many system levels, it is necessary to focus on a fairly large stack of practices.

Coherence is key: you must pay attention to certain system levels, objects at these system levels, and further discuss practices for working with these objects.

Let's take the example of a dance performance as a system, which was discussed in the systems thinking course. Here is a typical moment from an open-air party (held outdoors, and not necessarily in the evening):

Try to focus on the follower:: role of the pair in the background, as indicated by the red rectangle in the picture. In the picture, it is easy to do so because the red rectangle helps you manage your attention. If you remove it, your attention will likely be drawn to the partner in the foreground: they are looking directly at you, closer and larger, and can be distracting! Now turn on the sound (it's noisy there!) and imagine from a static picture how things are happening in real life (everyone would be moving fast, spinning, blocking each other). In real life, there is no red rectangle to help you maintain focus. How many seconds in real life can you keep full attention on that follower, who is circled in red in the picture?

We will be interested in the practices performed by this follower (the person in the dance role of a follower). This person either knows how to dance or doesn't and wants to dance better. In an enterprise, it's the same, except that a dozen people in a team, a hundred people in a collective, thousands in a large enterprise are "dancing," and you need to maintain coherence in this chaos to track the practices of individual roles. Since there are many system levels in dances (as discussed in the systems thinking course), there will be many practices in dances too.

For example, one of the consequences of this statement is that a development program should be multi-level. The levels of this program should reflect the levels of the target system. Here is an example for the same dances, how a multi-dancer (someone who dances in multiple dance styles) could structure their mastery development program in the practice of social dance:

  1. Body Work (general body movement levels, efforts on the body scale, efforts and amplitudes in body parts). Ensure a straight posture (pose and muscular effort) and a soft back by working on relaxation in the chest and lower back area. Goal: to bring yourself into a working posture within half a second, as opposed to now, half a minute (dance time, not yoga!), maintain the twist, and do it while dancing, not in calm exercises in front of the mirror.
  2. General Dance Level. Achieve control over attacks (speed of force buildup in the impulse) in leading, understand inertia leading for "waiters" (rather than briskly stepping base) partners. And finally, raise your head from the floor! [notice that a practice of this level has appeared - "leading" - but the discussion then moves clearly to terms of lower-level practices. To correct the practice above, it is usually necessary to work at a lower level: to fix a wall, you need to work at the brick level. At the same time, the concepts of the higher level are not forgotten, i.e., the names of dance styles]
  3. Style-specific Dance Level. In tango: rhythmically come on axis on the strong beat to avoid under-reaching, squeeze forward and down (not up). Master the "back saccade." In modern swing: hold the rolling count firmly. In forro, practice turning the partner back.
  4. Composition/Performance Level. Exercise in musicality by Roni Saleh in the rhythm of slow 4-beat-beat-quick*4 (slowing down at the beginning of an eight-count, speeding up at the end, not speeding up at the beginning and slowing down at the end, as usual). [it seems to address a lower level, rhythm as "movement in time," but here it is used to diversify rhythmic patterns during dance improvisation, choreographer's work]
  5. Party Level. Invite at least one unfamiliar partner over the party.
  6. Community/Subculture Level of a Specific Dance. Attend at least two parties of different dance styles per week. Explore the ideas of tango nuevo, watch videos, read literature. Understand the trend of variety in styling while maintaining the urban kiz style. Check out the development of alternative music culture for different dances online. Write posts online promoting multi-dance/mix/nuevo/fusion dance culture.

It doesn't matter if you didn't understand anything in this example in the dance domain (you will understand little in a similar development plan for a company in an applied domain you are unfamiliar with). What matters is that you understand the principle of this multi-level development because you cannot develop on one level alone. It's the same evolution that occurs at many levels simultaneously - molecules and how they work change, cells and how they work change, organisms and how they work change.

The typical growth strategy of an enterprise (but also of a person, why not!): master some practices of working with objects of a certain system level, then grab practices of higher (supra-systems) and lower (sub-systems) system levels, as well as related practices. You started building walls (role of a bricklayer, "wall building" practice), then you began making buildings out of walls, making bricks and mortar for bricklaying walls, then added building design and finishing, and so on. After a while, this developer becomes the developer of brick houses in cottage communities, also owning clay quarries for clay extraction for their brick plants.