The use of Mental Models may seem odd in the context of designing Management System, but in fact it is highly relevant. Mental Models are what we all have. Mental Models are needed in order to understand the reality one face and from this be given guidance on how to act. Mental Models exist, whether we like it or not.
Shared Mental Models are often hard to establish, strongly impact a person’s behavior and are also hard to remove. Let me give an example of a Mental Model widely spread over the world.
Fat people have, yes, lot of fat in their bodies. Some food also has lot of fat. The Mental Model is; — “if you eat fat food you will become fat”. This Mental Model is very simple to understand and widely accepted, until recently. In deeper scientific studies, and via practical “experiment” it was found that “eat fat food” is not equal to “become fat”. Some even showed that eating a lot of fat food and instead minimize amount of food with carbohydrates made people less fat. Today (2015) there are a varieties of diets promoted by different people, but one generally accepted new Mental Model is that “it is not that simple to lose weight, just to minimize fat food”.
As we can see from the example above, Mental Models does not only determine “how we make sense of the world, but how we take action”. In the design approach of the Management System we said that we want people in an Organization to actively take part of, not only use the Management System but also develop it further. To be able to do this coherently it is essential to have a common Mental Model about the Management System. To do this we need to create a structure of the generic Management System. This is a structure of the Management System that will not change just because organization is changed, processes are changed, roles are changed, strategies are changed, etc. It is a model that is generic for the Organization whatever it decides to do. Still it has to be specific enough for people to be able to understand it and act accordingly. Like the example above, “eat fat à become fat”. Simple to understand, simple to act from.
This is where the Reference Model for a Management System comes into use. In the book Guide to Organization Design a good overview of system models from different authors and thinkers is presented. According to Naomi Stanford, the author of this book, you may use any system model to design an organization, as long as you use one. In the book each system model is shortly described with some main benefits and limitations. But, I present in this book yet a new reference model. I do this as I have the technocratic approach and do not believe you shall mix “soft” elements with “hard” elements. To mix these elements will only add confusion, make the design work less focused and ultimately hinders good changes to be implemented.