A Eurostar high-speed rail engine in historic St. Pancras station, London. Image taken by the author.

Several years ago, I was introduced to a beautiful little framework that addresses the idea that organizations have to be edged towards transformational leaps by stepping through smaller, gradual changes. Bob Fee, founder of the Graduate Program in Design Management at SCAD, introduced me to it. This is a model you can apply whenever you’re trying to make a big change. But be warned — the model helps us understand why big changes can’t happen overnight.

Bob makes this idea memorable by calling it the “A, B, C, Q” process.


Pictured: Statues of two men in traditional martial arts poses facing one another, ready to fight. Photo taken in front of the Standard Chartered building, Forum, Hong Kong, Central.
Pictured: Statues of two men in traditional martial arts poses facing one another, ready to fight. Photo taken in front of the Standard Chartered building, Forum, Hong Kong, Central.
Pictured: Statues of two men in traditional martial arts poses facing one another, ready to fight. Photo taken by the author, in front of the Standard Chartered building, Forum, Hong Kong, Central.

Awhile back, a New Yorker article (“Why Doctors Hate Their Computers”, November 2018) lodged itself in my brain and wouldn’t leave. The article shares an insider’s view of a large-scale technology project that did not have the desired consequences. It reads like a laundry list of the problems that I keep fighting, one way or another. Every time I think I understand a root cause, or have some kind of insight, some new manifestation of this crops up in my own practice, and I fall back to try to figure it out. You could say I’m obsessed.

Nobody should ever…


The Zakim bridge in Boston, with some dramatic light on the water

A couple of years ago, trying to explain what Deep Why is all about and fresh off of an inspirational few days of systems change leadership hosted by the Society for Organizational Learning, I sketched out a little video. I’ve since used Peter Senge’s illustration of the rubber band stretched between two fingers as an explanation to many clients of why they’re feeling what they feel during a major change initiative. It is a simple and compelling illustration.

As a technology solutions designer that often replaces core systems in organizations, I’ve had to learn a few things about how…


A field is never just a field. Do you submit, or resist?

Every 23 seconds someone, somewhere, asks for “a new field” to be “added to the database.” Several times per month I am the lucky recipient of such a request. I often wonder about my role in hoarding so much data that if every human who will ever live works frantically until the heat death of the universe we won’t be able to make meaningful use of it all. I also sometimes wonder if we are tearing small holes in the space/time continuum in our race to coerce ever-tinier bits of matter into storing All! The! Photos! of adorable wombats.

But…


A steel sculpture at the IIT campus in Chicago, Illinois. It is industrial, yet human scale, almost like signposts indicating different directions.

In a prior essay, I asked how data systems could be humanized. A humanized system is clear in its intent, goals, and uses. It is transparent and trustworthy in how it collects, interprets, and uses data. It is equitable in its design and execution. And it has the potential to be used generatively.

I believe that we must understand power before we can take any other steps toward creating humanized data systems. While we may often conflate power with authority or control, it can also mean influence and agency. Unexamined power plays a decisive role in why our enterprise data…


A building in Lynn, MA painted with the words “Not Long Now.” Image courtesy of the author.

If you recognize yourself in the words “founder” or “innovator” and you work in the nonprofit sector, you may be a lot like me. You have started at least one organization in your life or put a significant amount of money to fund an organization to do something about whatever is eating at you. The slow pace of change also eats away at you. You have a bias toward immediate action. When you feel despair at all that’s wrong with the world you combat it by looking for something to fix. You are, in fact, driven — sometimes frenetically —…


A classic Underwood typewriter, the height of technology in its day.

It’s no secret that nearly all of our large-scale workplace systems are pretty lousy. A friend of mine calls these “sociopathic technocratic” systems, and I call it Bad Tech. Bad Tech is built without regard to the actual needs or jobs of the end users (the data producers), but are required because they benefit someone else entirely (data consumers, usually the bosses and boards who need reports and metrics). In reflecting on two decades building enterprise technology systems I have to admit I have been unwittingly complicit in creating Bad Tech, and I’m tired of it. …

Jenn Taylor

Operationalizationer — one who defines a fuzzy concept so it becomes clear, measurable, and empirically observable. Founder @ deepwhydesign.com

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