The practice of research

Spurred on by my Distinction for TU812, I signed up for T847 The MSc Professional Project.  It starts in November and will be the last module for me to gain the MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice (yeah, I know more letters but I have now moved on from the downer of my last post).

I’ve been in email correspondence with a couple of others who are also planning to do T847 – we’ve been wondering what we can do to ‘prepare’ over the summer.  Call it withdrawal symptoms if you like.

But, the emails have got me thinking – what am I preparing for?

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Lean and Vanguard

It seems that Lean and Vanguard can evoke extreme reactions from some systems practitioners, whilst others seem much more accepting.  So far they are the only things I have come across that seem to create controversy in the systems world.

I have to confess to feeling a little niggled when Lean and/or Vanguard are conflated with systems thinking amongst those who are not ‘in the know’.  But, what I have realised is, I don’t really know enough about either of those approaches to use others’ interest in them as a way of helping them enter the ‘real world’ of systems thinking and practice. Continue reading

Links between paradigm of social learning and juggling

Woodhill  (2002) identifies three elements for facilitating the development of social learning.  He points out that these are the three defining features of a paradigm for social learning.

– A paradigm is defined by its philosophical assumptions – a paradigm for social learning includes philosophical reflection.

– A paradigm is defined by its methodological approaches – a paradigm for social learning includes methodological pluralism.

– A paradigm is defined by its institutionalised practices – a paradigm for social learning needs institutional design.

As I read Woodhill’s commentary on what he experiences in the here and now and what he advocates is needed for a social learning paradigm, I saw a number of parallels with what we learned through the juggler isophor in part 2.

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Juggling and my situation of concern

(Activity 2.27, Table 2.3)

Back in early December, I identified my situation of concern and wrote a post giving an overview of the concern.  In short, this is a concern about the lack of systems thinking and practice in my workplace.  In that same earlier post I started exploring the situation through a meta-narrative.

I intend to use the process of TU812 to conduct a systemic inquiry into this situation of concern.  To be honest, the heavy workload of the course material has meant this has disappeared to the back of my head.  In fact, I have realised that I have not been very purposeful in that inquiry – it has been a bit purposive because the course suggested I did it rather than it being willed.  I think it is time to revisit that now – the situation of concern is still alive and interesting at work and now I have more concepts and tools under my belt it’ll be interesting to see how they help me.

So, I need to become a little more purposeful – to help with that I have now explored and defined the purpose of the inquiry – just so there is something I can latch onto…

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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

Getting to know the M-ball: Managing

(Activity 2.31 based on Ison (2010, Chapter 8))

The M-ball is for Managing.  Ison says it is:

about how the practitioner is Managing their involvement with the situation (page 58)

I have to say that I found Chapter 8 quite difficult to work with.  It was not the individual paragraphs or the concepts being introduced or used.  I just found it really difficult to get the overall thread, thrust and argument of the chapter.  There are sections that do not flow from their own headings (or at least how I understand/understood those headings).  And I lost track of how the juggler and the balls ‘worked’ for Managing.  But, this is after all an inquiry – it was up to me to take responsibility for understanding the discord I was (am!) experiencing.  So before I look at the particular concepts highlighted in activity 2.31, I want to summarise where that inquiry has brought me so far.

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Getting to know the C-ball: Contextualising

(Activity 2.30 based on Chapter 7, Ison (2010))

The C-ball is for Contextualising. Ison (2010) summarises it as:

symbolises the act of Contextualising a particular approach to a new situation (page 58)

So it includes choosing methods, tools and techniques and adapting the use of them to the situation as part of Practice Continue reading

Getting to know the E-ball: Engaging

(Activity 2.29, based on Chapter 6, Ison (2010))

The E-ball is for Engaging.  It is about the choice we make for Engaging with a situation.  Ison (2010) summarises it as:

symbolises the characteristics ascribed to the ‘real-world’ situation that the juggler is Engaging with (page 58)

Most of the concepts and ideas about Situations in the Chapter were familiar to me already – from management, development management and Systems courses.  However, reading the Chapter reminded me of the feeling I had moving from O’level to A’level Biology – I had to revisit what I thought I knew and learn a whole new level of subtlety. Continue reading