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I have been thinking about writing a lot recently.  It’s partly because I have been reading a fab book by Rowena Murray on ‘How to write a Thesis’.

The last time I wrote about writing, was in the TU811 student forum for the recent presentation.  Rather ironically it was written on 29 April 2017 – exactly 6 months ago.  I have copied it below (with minor changes) Read more »


I don’t know why this penny didn’t drop before – it seems so obvious now that it has….how systems thinking approaches and tools are sometimes framed as approaches for investigation and other times as approaches for intervention – or even as some sort of ‘woolly’ in between….

There was some person … who had caused the intervention to happen, someone without whom, there would not be an investigation at all…

Checkland and Poulter, 2010, p. 211 [my emphasis]

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Please note: if you are studying TU811 the contents of this blog should not be favoured above a detailed reading of the module material and assessment information and advice from your tutor.

 The OU module TU811 Thinking strategically: systems tools for managing change introduces the concepts ‘area of practice’ and ‘situation of interest’.  I studied this module in 2010 and I now have the privilege of being an associate lecturer on that same module.  The other evening I told my group of students that – with hindsight – I didn’t really ‘get’ the concept of ‘area of practice’ when I did the module and tried to explain why.

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My blog doesn’t get a massive number of visitors, but in the last couple of days I’ve noticed an increase in hits on some of my oldest blogs – the first ones I did as I studiously studied Tu812 Managing systemic change.  Today’s busiest post – Taking a design turn in my systems practice – was written on 16 January 2011.  That means that at this time in 2010 going into 2011 I was just grappling with the idea of the design turn for the first time.  It was ‘that winter’, the one with really really heavy snow.  I remember gazing out the window as slabs of snow slid down from the roof, enjoying the distraction from reading about the juggling balls and design turns.

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I find it suprising that academics are really strong advocates of ‘evidence based practice’ and seek to account for and justify every methodological design decision they make, but don’t seem to apply the same standard to the ‘project methodologies’ they tell/require their PhD students to use to manage a research ‘project’. Read more »


In the last few weeks I’ve been appointed as an associate lecturer (aka tutor) for the Open University.  I am going to be tutoring on TU811 “Thinking strategically: systems approaches for managing change” which I studied myself back in 2010.  My studying of TU811 preceded the launch of Just Practicing so I may end up blogging about the approaches as I re-discover the module materials – backfilling a gap in this blog!

Since I’ve been appointed I’ve been on induction – induction at a distance given that it is the OU.  It’s involved reading and watching short video clips about my duties and responsibilities, trying to master the ‘tech’ I will need to use, and, becoming familiar with procedures and resources.

I’ve realised that I am entering into a new (to me) ‘community of practice’ – Read more »


It’s funny how it is so easy to take a phrase – in this case ‘policy analysis’ –  for granted and assume you get what it means, but then the minute you start reading about it you doubt yourself.  I’m getting tied in knots about how to parse the phrase (a bit like second hand japanese car salesman.  Is it about second hand japanese cars? or a japanese salesman?).

Okay so this is my meandering about policy analysis and phrases that build on it. Read more »


I’ve finally got round to reading a book I have had for a while – the second edition of Beryl Ralin’s book ‘Beyond Machiavelli’.  The first 2000 edition is subtitled ‘Policy analysis comes of age’ and the second 2013 edition is subtitled ‘Policy analysis reaches midlife’.  It is entirely US based and traces the evolution of the policy analyst profession from its inception in 1960s american policy project to the present day.  There’s lots in there that I am mulling over, but I couldn’t move on without noting linkages with ‘systems analysts’ – another US profession that kicked off in the 1960s.  As Ralin says:

The imperatives of war had stimulated new analytic techniques – among them systems analysis and operational research – whose users sought to apply principles of rationality to strategic decision making (p.14) Read more »


I have just packaged up the third iteration of all the materials for research ethics – subject to final supervisor ‘tweaks’ they are done (hooray).  This means that the research proposal I first attempted last july and amended and re-drafted ever since is now ‘done’.  But I didn’t want to move on without posting some reflections on writing an action research proposal.

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When we use systems to help us understand the busy, messy world of human activity, we are in effect drawing a boundary.  We identify some things that are ‘in’ our ‘system of interest’ and that means other things are outside it i.e. not a focal part of our interest.  We do this whether we realise it or not – the problem is, if we are not being explicit about our choice of boundaries then we blur them for ourselves and other people.  Then we get confused and conflicted.

Take for example, the NHS planning guidance published in December 2015.  The word system is used in it a lot – it is all about ‘the system’ but here are some insights into my thoughts as I read it…

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