I am sure I am not the only ‘systems practitioner’-in-training who finds it difficult to introduce systems practice into their workplace. I think it is different if you are an ‘external’ consultant or facilitator because clients expect you to bring something that they don’t know yourself. But when you are an employee, colleagues (especially people who are more senior than yourself) don’t really expect you to innovate on how to do or think about things, just what you do.
So I try to do it by subterfuge. A little bit here, a little bit there. But the other day, I missed an opportunity because I was not prepared.
I’d managed to sneek the phrase “Viable System Model” into a document that some of the most senior managers in my organisation were going to read. I was standing outside a meeting room with one of them and he turned to me and said “What’s the viable system model?”. It was my big chance, I had about one minute but I floundered and burbled on. Opportunity lost.
It reminded me of the concept that entrepreneurs use – you have 60 seconds in a lift with someone important. You have to convince them of your business idea – are you ready to make your elevator pitch? Entrepreneurs prepare for that moment – it is supposed to be short, sweet, convincing and require no particular technical knowledge to understand.
So, am I ready for next time?
I’d have to cover off something to do with Systems to start with:
“VSM is one of a number of approaches which emphasise the relationship between parts, rather than parts themselves.”
Then why that it is important:
“These systems approaches are particularly pertinent for dealing with complexity – both complexity in the world around us and within our organisations”
Then back to the VSM
“VSM is a way of thinking about organisations in a way that emphasises the activities that need to be done and the relationship between them. Instead of thinking about organisations in terms of hierarchical structures and line management relationships”
Mmm don’t find that very satisfactory – I think the eyes may glaze over with the first sentence. I need to mull this over some more.
There has been progress. I had a think about the personal style of the person who asked me this question and realised all was not lost. He is the sort of person who likes to read and digest things. So I downloaded Fractal Consulting’s Paper on Modelling Organisations Using the Viable System Model and sent it to him. A couple of days later I got this reply:
It makes a lot of sense. I agree the hierarchical structure is sometimes conceived as a framework for attributing blame and perhaps a shift away from that would be very healthy.