T847 as a part of my learning trajectory

Pre-amble – I have had this blog written for a while but kept it to a limited audience whilst I thought about it more and waited for my result.  I now have my result – a very welcome Distinction – but even with that great news, looking back at it all my thoughts about the experience remain.  So here they are….


At the end of TU812, I said that I was going on to ‘do’ T847 as part of my ongoing trajectory as a systems practitioner.  It’s ‘done’ now, the project is in so I have found myself thinking about whether or not the experience helped me develop my systems thinking in practice.

The question is – how did my T847 experience contribute as a ‘subsystem’ of a learning system intended to develop my mastery in systems thinking in practice? 

I am thinking about it in terms of Ison’s design turn – the module was designed as a system to… (that is what the module aims covered) but I am now looking at it in terms of how it was enacted and experienced…Of course, I can only reflect on that from the perspective of my own experience. Continue reading

My Research as an ‘event’ in a longer stream of inquiry

My last post set me off on a stream of thought in relation to what I am doing in my research – is it inductive? is it deductive? is it emic? is it etic?  I’ve started to realise that it is best to think of these pairs in terms of dualities, rather than dualisms. Through the research, there is an interplay.  But also I realised that my Research Project (with a big R and big P) does not stand alone – it is located in a wider stream of inquiry and it’s location in time impacts on what it is and how I relate to it. Continue reading

The sort out

I’ve been a little quiet of late… but it is because I had a mission.

I realised that I had two or three different e-folders where I had dumped documents and journal articles that I wanted to read and had forgotten what was there.  On top of that I had a box file of hard copy documents and then various docs and articles slotted in amongst the bookshelf of OU materials.  In essence I had lost track and it was time for a sort out.

So, I’ve started using Zotero – a great add-on for Firefox (my web browser).  And have had the long drawn out task of cataloging all the things I want to keep and categorising/tagging then so I know what I can find them in the future.  Getting rid of duplicates – both e-copy and hard copy..making it all manageable…and getting rid of things that I have moved on from.

On the one hand tedious but on the other hand an interesting reminder of half-explored interests – the notion of ‘leadership’ in a partnership/collaborative environment seems to be one theme;  issues of discourse in work settings – how it affects how we think and do but also how stories and language can be used as part of change; and, one area I dabbled in but now have a new fascination for – the notion of strategy-as-practice.  I’m left wondering – amongst it all – is there the kernel of an idea for my research project.  Even though I did not know it at the time, they all seem linked to systems practice so there may be something relevant.

The other thing it made me think about is ‘keeping in touch’ with published literature.  What journals should I get regular email alerts for?  Which authors should I keep an eye out for?  The one downside of the OU module approach is you don’t learn to research for yourself and how to keep up to date and in touch with the ongoing developments in the field.  Perhaps they should recommend particular journals as the end of a module.

Anyway – got to go – got a bit of reading to catch up on!  🙂

So what? My practice of making recommendations…

There is a ‘problematic situation’ running around in my head.  It’s been there for a few weeks eating away at me – and getting me in a muddle.  It is only in the last few days, that I realised that I have a ‘tool’ for that – systemic inquiry – a structured exploration of a situation considered problematical.

So what’s the issue?

When I received my mark for my TU812 project, I noticed that in the profile of marks my ‘weakest area’ – or the area that was less strong than everything else – was the marks allocated to ‘making recommendations’.  It got me thinking and I realised that this is feedback that I have had throughout my OU studies – MBA, development management, and in systems.  Not just in projects but also in tutor marked assignments.  All of them end with some sort of ‘so what?’ or ‘what next?’ or ‘what are you going to do?’ or ‘what do you want the reader(s) to do?’ and mark profiles or tutor comments have invariably reflected this as an area of weakness.  I think in the early days I put it down to running out of steam by the end of the assignment – and just shrugged it off.  But the TU812 project mark has made me think differently – made me realise a pattern over time.  I’d started to mull this over and think of it as an area for personal development.  I even emailed my ‘CoP’ group of systemsy students and sought their comments.  And then the other day, my manager was reviewing a briefing paper I had written and in his comments he said ‘the description and analysis is fine but then I am not sure what you think should happen next.  It all gets a bit damp at the end’.  I don’t think he really expected my reaction to be so emphatic – ‘oh no’ I exclaimed and dropped my head on the table.  I came up giggling and explained my recent insight.  We’ve agreed to focus on this personal development area together. Continue reading

The launch

Yesterday I had such fun.

I was invited to be part of the Open University’s Systems Groups launch of the four text books accompanying the Postgraduate Programme in Systems Thinking in Practice. The invitation came about a month ago when Ray Ison contacted me. It seemed like a great excuse to meet everyone so I said ‘yes’. Continue reading


There are times in a journey that it seems appropriate to take stock, look back, look forward and decide where to go next and how.  Now is one of those times.  I have now finished TU812 so I am leaving behind a learning system that someone else has structured and guided me through.  Now, I am on my own.  I need to be my own guide for a while. Continue reading

My journey through a landscape of practices

(Activity 3.29)

“Learning can be viewed as a journey through landscapes of practice” (Wenger, 2010, in Blackmore, 2010, 185).

Ever since I read it, that phrase has been eating away at me – triggering connections all over the place…

It has given me a sense of dissatisfaction with the way I wrote my post about being part of communities of practice.

I have also made connections with an exercise we had to do in the first assignment for the course, plotting our individual trajectories, the journey that led us to start TU812.  At the time that had value in understanding the importance of our history to our approach to the course.  I wrote my post called Legacy as a result of that exercise.

Finally I was reminded of the way I pictured the C-ball in Reflection on juggling as a sack full of concepts, methods and techniques and my responsibility to keep renewing the contents of that sack.

Making the connection between a journey and the sack made me start thinking…as I have taken my journey through landscapes of practice, what have I learned – in other words what concepts, methods and techniques have I gathered to fill my sack.  This has made me think very differently about my connections with communities of practice.

Continue reading

Juggling and my inquiry into my systems practice for managing change

(Activity 2.7, ref. Table 2.3 in study guide)

It seems like ages ago when I wrote the post “An inquiry into my systems practice for managing change“.  I am reminded now that this is a purposeful inquiry – the purpose I identified when writing that earlier post is to achieve a better level of ability to manage change systemically.

In this inquiry the situation is my current systems practice i.e. what I do when I do what I do.  I am concerned with developing my understandings and practices associated with doing systems practice.

The juggler isophor is introduced in order to help make sense of what I do when I do what I do (and why I do when I do what I do).  It is therefore a “system tool” that helps me make sense of the situation – a tool to use in my inquiry. Continue reading


One of the activities in Part 1 of TU812 asks us to draw a Trajectory diagram that shows our points of entry to the module.  Effectively, how is it we got here.

In my Trajectory diagram, I have a note ‘first exposure to word systems – King’s Fund work in Newcastle using whole systems’.  It set me thinking… Continue reading