The Variety Calculus was developed by Dr Gordon Niven and Lt Gen Sir David Capewell as an approach to addressing the increasing complexity of military operations and operating environments. It is a synthesis of concepts from cybernetics, complexity theory and systems thinking that seeks to provide a way of thinking about human organisations and purposeful endeavours that can inform how we can develop structures, processes and relationships that a... Read more
At the September 2020 SCiO Open Day Ray Ison and Ed Straw drew on their newly published book ‘The Hidden Power of Systems Thinking’. They presented a case for the importance of Systems Thinking in Practice (STiP) for addressing a range of current crises including the climate emergency. They argued for a theory of change from within civil society and a need to move from understanding to action. In 2018 Somerset County Council (SCC) gained a nat... Read more
SCiO DACH Buch Club mit Dr. Martin Pfiffner und seinem fantastischen Buch „Die dritte Dimension des Organisierens“ erschienen 2020 bei Springer/ Gabler mit 348 Seiten für 34.99 € als Taschenbuch. eBook ISBN: 978-3-658-29247-8, Softcover ISBN: 978-3-658-29246-1 Donnerstag den 28.01.2021 von 16:00 bis 17:30 Uhr GMT virtuell Die 1. Dimension; die Aufbauorganisation Die 2. Dimension; die Ablauforganisation Die 3. Dimension des Organisierens; das ... Read more
If systems thinking offers great power, what does great responsibility look like? Benjamin developed the ‘four quadrants of thinking threats’ with the involvement of the SCiO Board (but accepts all responsibility), a simple model seeking to help us all to identify some of the inherent risks in the potential of systems thinking, cybernetics, and complexity to help us to ‘see more’ and ‘know differently’. We will explore physically and intellect... Read more
The latest Gallup data demonstrates that 66% of the workforce is either sabotaging their workplace, or do not care, and six out of ten millennials are looking for a new job. In contrast, in the highest performing organizations, 70% of the workforce is actively engaged with their workplace, drive everyday innovation, create unparalleled customer value, and grow both personally and professionally. Understanding leadership as an organizational syst... Read more
Presentation is in Dutch: In common parlance ‘systems thinking’ is understood as ‘thinking in systems’ (as the title of Donella Meadows’ posthumously published, widely read book suggests). It relies on systems concepts — such as stocks, flows, feedback loops, network and hierarchy — to structure the problem solving process in relation to particular design challenges. ‘Systems practice’ goes beyond that. It is ‘systems thinking and doing’, or ‘sy... Read more
Systems have formed a significant part of science over many-a-year... scholars such as; Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Peter Checkland, Ross Ashby, Russell Ackoff, Stafford Beer and many more have discussed, debated and placed front and centre the importance of ‘Systems Thinking’ in helping us to deal with, make sense of the complexities that we witness first-hand every day. With many black swan events in recent times, all of which seem to have a natur... Read more
This session is a brief introduction to what Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH) is, how it fits, where it applies, how it works in a nutshell, and how it relates to other methods in the Systems Thinking meta-approach. There’s also a simplified practical example of CSH in practice, and hopefully a chance for some discussion about applying the method. About Tony: Tony is a specialist in organisational improvement, including leadership and manag... Read more
Presentation given to IPMA: Megaprojects are complex organizational structures that have a great influence on their parent organizations as well as on their environment. In order to be able to design and steer these complex systems, a suitable focus is necessary. This is provided by the approach to organizational viability. Viability expresses that large and megaprojects are to be designed in such a way that there is sufficient capacity to functi... Read more
[presentation is in English] In the world of New Work, Teal, Agile, Self-Organisation/Self-Management, Systems Thinking and Blockchain, talk about governance is the new black. Just try to remember how often you recently read about teams experimenting with new ways of collaborating and deciding together. One example could be Zappos, a daughter company of Amazon, which got known for using a governance framework called Holacracy. Its implementation... Read more
Patrick will introduce us to how the strategic fit between organizations drives their strategic direction. His work, which he developed together with Lucy Loh, is the first significant new approach to strategy in a long time. He unfolds a vital perspective for those who wish to understand how to maneuver their organization to change its strategic fit to their advantage. The framework allows one to examine both your own and your competitor's stra... Read more
Language is often a problem in complex organisational change, with different departments and stakeholder groups using the same words to mean different things, and using different words to mean the same thing. As systems practitioners, we are constantly building models of organisations and their environments, but we too bring our own language and assumptions, and it’s often apparent that the models we create to tame complexity make little sense t... Read more
In the age of the Anthropocene the need for new ways of thinking and acting has become urgent. But patterns of obstacles are apparent in any action, be they corporate interests, lobbyists, or outdated political and government systems. In this presentation Professor Ray Ison and Ed Straw will show how and why systemic failure in governance is at the heart of the collective incapacity to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies. They will go... Read more
The meeting is held in Dutch: SCIO-NL meeting in September 2020, in which we talked about the housing situation in the Netherlands. We explored ways in which we could use systemic models and reasoning to get a grip on some of the unwanted effects we see. We talked about causal loops, shared a VSM-like perspective regarding different recursive levels that play a role (from national government to individual citizen), and discussed looking at the ... Read more
Global economy putting pressure to digitalise at day to day interactions and business (micro) level. Digitalisation will transform not only the way we make business, but the way people interact, live in our cities and communities, commute and travel, and consume. It is difficult to appreciate the depth and consequences of this transformation and, I think, ST could make a difference.
This topic is aimed at taking stock of members’ experiences with using the VSM explicitly in combination with other methods. What went well? What did not? I will introduce the topic with a (very) short introduction of my own experiences (including causal loop diagrams, Deming and Cybernetic Big 5 Theory)
...- the high and low co-operate in the general system of unavoidable concatenation: People I talk to often seem a little wary of the term “systems thinking” – a bit abstract, perhaps, and far too intellectual. On other hand, anyone who can appreciate complex drama, from Shakespeare to modern TV shows like The Wire, is arguably already doing it, that is thinking, to some degree, systemically. These complex and involved dramas invariably reflect... Read more
...The Hyperobjective Media and Agency in Co-creative Design Processes: The session by Marie Davidova will focus on Systemic Approach to Architectural Performance (SAAP) design field and hyperobjectivity of its prototypes. The field discusses the question of cities’ adaptation to climate change and biodiversity loss. Current environmental ecology research shows that species that have adapted to agricultural land hundreds of years ago are recentl... Read more
The presentation is in Dutch: SCIO-NL meeting in July 2020, in which Joost van der Leij explains the VSM in a simple way from a top-down perspective. He emphasizes the recursion levels from a management perspective, distinguishing between senior and junior management.
The talk will look at the underlying concepts, design and practice of War Rooms as decision environments for dealing with complex and fast moving situations. Starting with Blackett’s invention of the War Room, through Beer’s Cybersyn to the work we are currently engaged on and its use with client in tackling complex strategic issues. We’ll talk through the difference current technology offers and the different ways our modern War Rooms can be use... Read more
The Viable System Model is one of the key capabilities that SCiO has focused on. It’s an implementation of cybernetics. “Viable system” suggests living system — and vibrant systems feel alive. Are they? Can organisations be organisms? And what difference would that make? This questions our questions and stimulates provocations. At a time when science is regenerating, does management need to as the same? If we start thinking organically, how many ... Read more
In common with all living human systems, organisations need differences to develop and transform. And yet, in organisations, as in all living human systems, we often dismiss, attack or try to convert differences. Indeed, we are primed neurologically to do this – our Flight, Fight, Freeze responses. Agazarian’s systems-centered method of functional subgrouping offers a way to lower our reactivity to differences, and to increase our capacity to sta... Read more
The theory of Constructed Development (as per Stevens’ 2019 PhD thesis) is a measure of a person’s awareness of their constructed intentions in the moment; this measure is time and context-specific and determines how much of their thinking is at choice. This choice leads to a number of possible responses in the moment. The individual’s capacity to choose their response in the moment informs personality and thus behaviour. When applying this theor... Read more
Training is an investment, much like introducing new technologies or processes, that organisations make in order to improve their performance. However, it is harder to evaluate the success of training than of 'hard' changes like technology or process. Since the 1970s the training profession has largely drawn on variants of the so-called 'Kirkpatrick framework' to evaluate training, even though there is a general agreement in the profession that i... Read more
Presentation during the SCiO DACH Camp in Aalen Germany about the application of System Thinking methods for the management of megaprojects with a special view on the pathological archetypes which were given in using the viable system model for the diagnosis of systems.
Alan is a leadership performance coach, working with people handling the complexities of technology, people and business in our hyperconnected world. He was around when the first computers hit the workplace, and his consulting career began when ideas like systems thinking, complexity, change management and transformation started to appear. A few years ago, frustrated that most of the advice was about trying to change others, he decided to focus... Read more
Systems thinking is a large field with different approaches. These approaches share a common system theoretical basis, but the specific interpretation is always different. System thinkers often dare to overlook the fact that their developmental stage determines their interpretation. People evolve (as individuals) differently, but according to predictable patterns. In this evolution, one gradually lets go of the ego and can think more fluid. In p... Read more
Causal Loop Diagrams (CLDs) are a useful tool in the kitbag of any systems practiotioner. They are used to make our mental models explicit so they can be shared, challenged and understood. CLDs enable us to capture the parts, connections and feedback in a system. They can be used to build consensus, agree definitions, identify leverage points and explore consequences of potential interventions. They enable us to share our ideas and communicate o... Read more
Many organisations are preoccupied with Strategic Planning and the use of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with a clear desire to ‘get to where they want to go’. On this journey, many fall foul of ‘The Tyranny of Meaningless Metrics’ (songs of the Sirens) Worst still, if they do reach the destination, they may discover where they wanted to get to wasn’t the destination actually required to grow or survive after all! (“Alice: Would you tell me,... Read more
Three Horizons is a simple and intuitive tool for thinking about the future. It grew out of a wealth of experience in future thinking, notably in strategic scenario thinking. It is an easy to use but potent way of thinking about working towards the future in the present, including maintaining the best of the present system. It helps groups explore systemic patterns to identify which of the dominant patterns are no longer fit for purpose, how the ... Read more
If your occupational health and safety policy states a commitment to providing a safe workplace, reporting accidents, continual improvement etc. have you considered this from a cybernetic viewpoint? Most organisations govern their safety management by trying to achieve Zero Harm through implementing corporate risk assessments, but accidents still happen, and management hunts down someone to blame for poor safety statistics on the management revie... Read more
This talk examines System Thinking by exploring the following themes: 1. System Thinking is embedded within a philosophical framework which is totally different from that of so-called “standard thinking” found in what may be called the Newtonian sciences, such as classical physics, DNA/ molecular biology, the monogenic conception of disease in Biomedicine, and so on. 2. Modern science beginning in the 17th century in Western Europe (which was/is... Read more
Claims are frequently made about changing THE system. Many talk about Whole System change. Then there is systematic change as well as systemic change. What do practitioners do when they engage, or claim that they engage, with these types of change? What are the elements of systemic praxis (theory informed practical action)? What are the implications for the use of methods and methodologies? And for situational change which constitutes an impr... Read more
It is often said that organisations are full of paradoxes. But this refers to contradictions and tensions. It is understood as something that needs to be taken care of. When organisations are looked at as social systems, however, it becomes clear that they are only possible because of paradoxes, and particularly paradoxes of self-reference. Understanding how these paradoxes create and maintain organisations is an important skill for practitioners... Read more
Ford's unique product wasn't the Model T - it was River Rouge: anybody could make the Model T but not everybody could make River Rouge. River Rouge was a special type of transactional organisation that gave Ford competitive advantage. This advantage comprised of Taylorising the activities by separating the Knowledge from the activity, and coordinating these activities by moving the car between stations. There was no communication/learning between... Read more
Organisational agility is now a relatively hot topic, which it wasn’t when I first talked about this subject at SCiO 6 years ago. Since then, we’ve significantly developed and extended the model for measuring agility, so will be talking about the latest developments. We’ll start with the need for business agility, going beyond the hype to look at the business reality and strategic importance of agility. We’ll then go on to look at the different ... Read more
One of the most important intersections between design and systems is their shared concern for ethics. When we think of ethical considerations in either context, we often do so in terms of applied ethics—as the application of ethical insight to guide practice, addressing issues such professional standards of conduct, and our relationships to the environment and to each other. There are, however, difficulties with thinking of the relationship bet... Read more
This session looks at organizational crisis – one that poses an existential threat to an organization, and at the VSM conditions, which can be used to understand and predict such organisational crises. The findings of a quantitative phd-study with 135 organizations shows that the (absence of) system viability is significantly and strongly connected with the occurrence of Organisational crisis. We discuss the limitations, implications and conseque... Read more
Sooner or later, most Agile teams find that it’s hard to sustain change, and harder to still to encourage the wider organisation to change with it. How about we turned it upside down, inverting the organisational pyramid so that supporting change becomes the organisation’s responsibility? How might we make that work?
The pain, the potential and the need for paracetamol: bringing systems thinking to complex soft systems for vulnerable people
Wiltshire Council has been using systems thinking as its improvement approach for eleven years; over that time the council has applied the approach with its principal delivery partners in increasingly large systems. One reason for this evolution is that the approach has proved better at tackling complex ‘hard to solve’ problems than other methods (which often did the opposite). Over the last 18 months, we have focused our keenest attention on wh... Read more
Peter will provide insights from the use System Dynamics modelling over a 20yr career in health and social care consultancy. He will provide people with a walk through of some existing models (see here) and explore some of the pitfalls and benefits of the approach. There will be an opportunity to explore both quantitative and qualitative elements of systems and how they feature in SD modelling against a background of the culture and expectation... Read more
In elite sport recognition skills, pattern recall and decision-making are critical success skills that impact the outcome of a game. How good the decisions are, is determined not only by the quality of information available and the quality experience athletes draw or on the athlete’s self interest, memory and outside stimulus but the relationship between the coach and the athlete. The hockey coach / athlete relationship can be visualized as a cy... Read more
Jonathan will talk about his experiences in designing and managing IT led transformations that use a combination of both waterfall and agile approaches and the issues of dealing with these two very different project methodologies in parallel.
As companies increasingly need to collaborate to deliver large projects, and as the world of work gets evermore complex with short-term contracts and the ‘gig economy’, it is getting harder to structure organisations that are fit for purpose and adaptive to changing needs. In this session Alexandra will share with us her experience and some of the ideas and tools she has developed to work systemically in organisation design and think about questi... Read more
John Warfield and Aleco Christakis developed the field of Interactive Management in the US in the 1980s, and Christakis subsequently evolved it into the methodology Structured Dialogic Design. In its various forms (and under different names) it has been widely applied across the globe in enabling groups to tackle wicked problems and complex challenges, but is not well known in the UK. This presentation will outline the methodology, it’s provenanc... Read more
This presentation will outline the STREAMS ideas and Philosophy. STREAMS is a set of ideas about how to build and manage an Enterprise based on a common, rigorous STREAMS Philosophy. It leads to methodologies, methods and techniques for building, managing, evolving and innovating Enterprises that can be applied in practice but, like an Engineering approach, its methods are grounded in rigorous research and understanding. Common to the three mai... Read more
Between each of the VSM constituent systems there are feedback loops. An explanation of the nature of the kinds of processing that each feedback loop may require to support the principle of “Clear Line of Sight” on a coherent basis such that the impact of inferential distance can be reduced and at the same time detect anomalies associated with “Inversion of Control” and their impact.
Many of us are searching for 'neat and complete' answers to the messiness and complexity of (organisational / social / economic / ecological) life. Me too, though I've always known it's impossible. Then I stumbled across Bongard games on meaningless.com thanks to Mike Haber, and discovered a way to demonstrate - through experience - why it's not possible. I'll invite you to experience the joy of Bongard, and lead a discussion on Meta-contextualit... Read more