I would like to propose a new word for 'System' that refers specifically to living systems – that is, to systems composed of living vitae, which emerge from their communications and interactions. The expression and communication of interdependency and, particularly, mutual learning should be implicit in the term. The existing word, 'system', while useful for discussion of many kinds of systems, does not communicate contextual fields of simultane... Read more
Critical systems heuristics (CSH) and viable systems model (VSM): contemporary challenges to promoting systems praxis.
CSH and VSM derive from quite separate rich traditions of systems thinking, each with enigmatic original champions - C.West Churchman and Stafford Beer respetively. This session will open space to explore common and divergent lineages, challenges, and opportunities of each approach for the future prospects and developments of promoting systemic praxis in the Anthropocene. A particular focus will be on the peculiar capacity of both traditions to b... Read more
We live in a VUCA world - volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Meanwhile, the impact of climate change, conflict, globalisation, economic and social shifts means that change can come fast, be hard to predict and lead to emerging and unexpected outcomes to markets and contexts. Meanwhile, due to concerns about budgets, and demonstrating efficacy, the desire to predict, control and measure has never been higher - particularly for the public... Read more
Patrick Hoverstadt is Chair of SCiO and has written extensively about systems thinking and in particular about the Viable Systems Model in his book, The Fractal Organisation. Peter Miles was a director of the Complexity Society and is also a member of SCiO, and has observed that there are strong common themes (although sometimes using different language). SCiO has an outreach programme, and has previously explored this situation with complexity p... Read more
In 2010, the Secretary of State for Defence tasked Lord Levene of Portsoken to carry out an independent root and branch review of how the Ministry of Defence was structured and managed, to address the legacy of overspend and maximise the use of people and resources. The subsequent 2011 publication of Lord Levene’s ‘Defence Reform’ report, setting a new operating model for the MOD, hailed an unprecedented level of organisational transformation. ... Read more
Businesses have become very efficient at managing individuals in the form of human capital - defined as the skills, knowledge and experience of individual employees within the company. In the past, with relatively stable markets, this was adequate, but the current competitiveness in our markets have put pressures upon our margins as well as the need to respond quicker to our customers. It is therefore no longer sufficient to manage the individual... Read more
The interacting forces between the elements of Authentic Enquiry (AE) are not exposed for consideration by the usual linear 8 or 9 stage process. Paul's experience is that enquiry is non-linear process, involving several loops and iterations before progressing. He proposes that the elements of AE should form a system from which emerges knowledge generation. Might the nine-fold enneagram device provide inspiration for a more dynamic enquiry met... Read more
Peter will give an introduction to Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) and Decision Conferencing: what these techniques are used for; where they came from; and how they are used in combination to support collaborative decision-making. Case studies will be used to illustrate real-world applications, including options appraisal, strategic portfolio optimisation and systems engineering. Underlying core principles and methods such as scoring and ... Read more
Elizabeth Donnelly was first introduced to systems thinking in 2006 as part of her undergraduate degree with the Open University. Following successful study she was able to introduce elements of systems thinking to her work as the Head of Skills for the aerospace trade association, including an examination of personnel reduction at the Ministry of Defence. In 2013 Elizabeth began an MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice with the OU, which she is du... Read more
System dynamics (SD) is an approach that enables the behaviour of complex systems to be better understood and simulated. SD has been extensively applied to studying and managing complex feedback systems, such as business and other social systems, over the last 50 years. SD models represent changes in system behaviour over time by using the analogy of flows accumulating and depleting over time in stocks. Often these flows and stocks will be ... Read more
Why organisation and systems theory and practice will solve the enduring problems of government, and politics and more democracy (by itself) will not.
Having spent a working lifetime in and around government in various roles, I became more and more frustrated with its capacity - regardless of the party in power - to produce much beneficial change. I’ve watched able, well-meaning people themselves frustrated by Westminster and Whitehall. With a consultant’s eye it became evident that the problems lay with the system of government - problems common to most democratic countries. Analysing governme... Read more
Barry has a unique understanding of human systems, based on four decades of work with the power lab and the organization workshop, experiential educational programs which have also served as his window into human systems. His presentation will focus on the costs of system blindness and the creative possibilities of system sight. He is the author of seeing systems, leading systems, and in the middle.
Survival of the fittest (how understanding complex systems can provided insights to a Defence scenario)
Niki Jobson is a Defence Analyst working for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, an agency of the Ministry of Defence. The presentation will cover a number of concepts from Complex Systems Science (so includes some general systems concepts!) and how they were used as tools for thinking in a complex and highly dynamic Defence problem and to challenge existing ways of thinking. A key area of discussion will be the role of adaptation i... Read more
I joined the ICT industry in 1974, teaching COBOL programming. By the early 1990's I had opened the first computer training department at Tesco head office, been a systems programmer, written one of the first database systems to run on the IBM PC, and generally had a lot of fun. But I had also noticed that many of the best paid jobs I had done were on projects that either failed or were barely successful. My experience showed that the issues wer... Read more
Angus has a transdisciplinary biography that includes professor, entrepreneur, consultant, writer, meditant and photographer. • Most businesses have an intentional but inadequate and dysfunctional approach to managing identity. This session will propose that any organism or organization has its own organizational logic, which closes it off from being anything else, and anything else from being it. • A tool will be sketched that ca... Read more
Markets are the ecosystems in which enterprises thrive, survive, and periodically die. A successful enterprise understands its value in the context of the wider environment, and can constantly redesign itself as the ecosystem evolves. Understanding context when designing or re‐designing a structure is one of the fundamental capabilities of any architect. Whether their medium is buildings, landscapes, ships or enterprises, the value of an archite... Read more
Managing the complexity of the internet-based global market. During the last 20 years, the complexity of the Internet-based global market has increased to such extend that many conventional resource-allocation systems have difficulty in coping with the increased demand/supply dynamics. The talk will focus on new methods for managing complexity of the Internet-based global market based on concepts of adaptability and real-time decision making. Co... Read more
The public sector is beginning to apply systems thinking to society’s wicked issues. Through the relatively new profession of commissioning, an emerging culture and set of tools is pushing the boundaries of leadership, service development and the role of the state. A revolution is afoot. During the discussion we’ll explore the application of systems thinking to local children’s services – What are we here to deliver? How do we refocus the sys... Read more
Relational frame theory provides a systemic understanding of human functioning and provides the theoretical basis for acceptance and commitment therapy. With strong links to mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy provides a useful way to connect to our own and to others' emotional and relational needs. In the brief theory parts of the session we will look at the basics of the theory and the therapy. In the experiential parts, we will cons... Read more
This theoretical and experiential session explores the practice of mindfulness and the qualities of intention that may help cultivate a concept of the self as part of a wider interdependent and interconnected system. We will also discuss the role that mindfulness could play in developing adaptive relationships between humans and the natural world. Nadine specialises in mindfulness and nature-based approaches to coaching, facilitation, consultanc... Read more
Driven by market forces, organisations struggle to produce more or better with less. In times of crisis that seems to grow into a condition for survival. And yet, clearing all inefficiencies or not the right ones, could have just the opposite effect. Both organisms and the social systems they create need some excess of variety in any given moment to have requisite variety for their viability in the long run. Ivo will explore various manifestatio... Read more
Christine Oliver will present co-ordinated management of meaning as an ethical and practical frame for making sense of and orienting oneself within the system, treating ‘the system’ as constituting contextualised patterns of narrative and communicative interaction. Particular attention will be paid to our acts of interpretation within communication exchanges and their contexts of influence and consequence for the social worlds that we make. ... Read more
The rapid change, chaos and complexity of today’s global marketplace demands more progressive management. Transformation of organizations to an optimum level of performance can only take place if such progressive management is able to take a balanced view of the whole situation. W Edwards Deming proposed that such a balanced view would comprise four disciplines that he called ‘A System of Profound Knowledge’. These four, interrelated disciplines ... Read more
Dr Christoph Giagounidis is an occupational health doctor. Prompted by the rising number of stressed people he sees on a weekly basis, he is working on the connection between the health of workers and cybernetic deficiencies in their organisations, mainly through the writings of Stafford Beer. More and more, Beer's thoughts on systems 2 and 3 lead him to think that breakthroughs in ‘sickness absence management’ will only be achieved through a cha... Read more
Martin Egan brings more than 15 years of corporate experience in life sciences and healthcare, and experience as consultant with leading international consultancies. Martin Egan manages assessment and diagnostics at Walking the Talk. In this role, he oversees all assessments conducted globally and is responsible for accrediting Walking the Talk practitioners in using the tools. He has been the lead developer of Walking the Talks evidence-based me... Read more
Power+Systems - systems blindness and systems sight Benjamin will present an overview of the Power+Systems approach, developed by Barry Oshry over more than fifty years of experiential work and analysis with people in real life situations. The work helps to create ‘systems sight’ and help people to see the consistent and predictable patterns driven by human responses to the conditions of organisations – and to give people the potential to choose... Read more
Chair of SCiO, Patrick has worked as a consultant since 1995 with organisations in both the private and public sector, mainly on issues to do with organisational structure and change. He specialises in using systems approaches for analysing and designing organisations and work processes. Patrick is a specialist in working with very large complex organisations including whole sectors. He has developed methodologies for many difficult business prob... Read more
Ash is a software developer and coach who realised early on that most problems in software are organisational, not technical. The first systems approach he discovered was Theory of Constraints, and he has become notorious for drawing its logic diagrams to understand complex problems. Conflict, courage, and theory of constraints Conflict is an inevitable part of living in a complex system. It manifests in forms such as competition between indivi... Read more
Arthur passionately believes in and is massively frustrated by local government in equal measure. His current work is mainly in the voluntary sector, with organisations that realise that the issues they face are related to management not just people. Two quotes (NOT from his own writings, NOT from his book: 'Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’), which he is currently enjoying are: “The m... Read more
Jon and Angela will be presenting their new book, published recently by the Imperial College Press, as part of their new book series in complexity. They will argue that most of the current methodologies and paradigms supporting sustainability programs have limitations there is an urgent need for the application of analytical tools that themselves embody the principles of complexity management. They introduce a theoretical framework based on compl... Read more
Radical change, over short timescales, is needed in the electricity industry to meet consumer and environmental needs. Jane and Roger focus on how market, organization, and technology architectures can be developed using viable systems models and other systems techniques.
Managing high-complexity problems through methodical participation: experiences with the Participatory Innovation Model
Present-day societies are flooded with high-complexity or 'wicked' problems in cities, sustainability, justice, poverty, education and many other fields. They involve large numbers of inter-dependent actors, issues, disciplines and cultures. The usual means applied to face them lack capacity (i.e., requisite variety), because of their reductionism and authoritarianism, and often make things worse. The Participatory Innovation Model builds the re... Read more
Ferality is the bane of management. Ferality reduces agility, destroys customer service, increases business costs and compromises brand value. This unconsciously engineered sleeping partner within our business system, lying dormant for many years, has been awakened by the recent turmoil in our markets causing internal stresses that management have not been able to deal with. The speaker will argue that ferality emerged from the Taylorisation of ... Read more
Understanding organisations using ‘systems-thinking’ is well established, so what prevents us from turning the organisation into a ‘thinking-system’?
What do adaptive lean principles tell us about the way we need to design, build and operate modern businesses? Can we design organizations that are adaptive, innovative and engaging for employees and customers alike? Can we really change work climates in reasonably short time-frames? The organisational climate is the combined perceptions, feelings and behaviours of customers, staff, managers and leaders. Extensive research has proven the link b... Read more
Choice Dynamic International have created a unique approach to assuring the quality of caring and compassion CBAS, adaptable for use by staff in all health and social care settings. The overal aims of CBAS are :- to have confidence that staff are caring and compassionate in their practice to gather information which would inform action to enhance the experience of patients/service users to clarify and strengthen the accountability processes re... Read more
This session will offer a brief introduction into one perspective on formalising “systems thinking” and socio-cybernetics, using three scenarios to illustrate “the problem” as it presents itself; in the education area of government policy, in an evolving hospital system, and operation of a large business. Discussion will focus on the question of how to envision a management (governance, socio-cybernetic) system appropriate to such circumstances. ... Read more
Systemic thinking requires at least 2 types of thinking: open and closed. Open thinking is about the dynamic relationship of the organisation in terms of its environment, and closed thinking about those transactional acts that are worth improving or migrating to partners. Similarly, there are at least 2 kinds of knowledge management practice, one is about supporting the organization’s current strategy, the other is about crafting the strategy th... Read more
Strategy is a much used and abused term in business. Despite a huge literature and industry that has developed around business strategy, it has a dismal track record. This session looks at business strategy from a systems perspective, provides a short critique of traditional approaches, some radical perspectives on what strategy is and some very different models of strategy and its critical dimensions.
The Organisational Maturity Model (OMM) has been developed by SCiO. It is driven by a questionnaire and is designed to show the structural integrity of your organisation. The OMM allows managers to improve the capability of their organisation to operate more effectively and adapt to change. It does this by providing a framework to develop the structural integrity of the organisation. For an individual having an explanation of the systemic cause... Read more
This session will look at some of the practical implications of working on a “wicked problem” which involved multi-agency interventions using multiple methodologies. As well as a number of technical issues to do with handling each of these three aspects of a complex intervention, there were also inevitably several softer prac-tice issues: to do with the engagement of cli-ents, the thinking processes of the team and the slipperiness of the problem... Read more
SCiO has made the strategic decision to create a Professional Development Programme for the Systems Professional. The structure will be a portfolio of development modules built around three themes: Technical Skills, Craft Skills, and Theory. Patrick will lead a practical session on the craft skills of mapping levels of logic. This is a foundational skill with many areas of application, including: analysing organisations using VSM, structuring pr... Read more
While it is inarguable that many complex pro-jects have indeed over-run and under-delivered, it is profoundly untrue that this is an inevitable outcome. Rather, it is simply the case that the prevailing acquisition environment militates towards failure. It is unrealistic to depend on toolsets and skillsets that may be adequate for simple projects but cannot cope with complex-ity. They might work sometimes – but their success has probably owed mor... Read more
Jane has used an approach which attempts to map the various customer needs within complex public sector services for several client organisations. Jane will describe how the Circles of Need® approach has transformed the client understanding to such an extent that radical re-design has been feasible. In addition, she will reflect on the role and power of systems thinking and relate it to the roles in the VSM.
There will be a SCiO sub-group update, with an interactive element, this time instead of a workshop. Dave Mettam will be updating us on the Organisational Maturity Model produced for SCiO by the OMM sub-group.
This session will look at the way that recursive structures create dilemmas for organisations, how these dilemmas translate into ethical problems for the organisations and individuals involved and the role of leadership in resolving these ethical dilemmas. The argument is that this is a normal process for complex organisations and that using a recursive model provides a framework for understanding how ethical problems are formed and can be resol... Read more
In this talk Jane will explain how she sees modelling working within Stafford Beer’s Viable Systems Model – System 4 activity and how System 4 modellers can network across the recursions of a VSM based organisation to offer a service to the whole organisation. She will look at what has been achieved so far and what the next challenges are in building a fully functional S4 modelling service.
Mostly we tend to think about what "is", or what we think we think should be. This carries over into both problem solving and to analysing and designing organisations. Many modelling approaches have this bias towards modelling what is and I'd argue that this is true of both SSM and most approaches to VSM. In some other traditions of looking at the world, there is a deep vein of thinking focusing instead on what is not and seeing this as being eq... Read more
Overview the research approach I adopted as part of a DBA programme Explore the value of ‘Soft Systems Methodology’ in the context of this study Discuss the student dilemma Reinforce the importance of good supervision to academic rigour