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Posts tagged ‘situation’


When I studied the OU systems thinking modules, TU811 and TU812 (in that order), I remember getting a little agitated that TU811 used the term ‘situation of interest’ and then TU812 used the term ‘situation of concern’.  I did try at the time to understand the difference.  Looking back now, I did write a blog about this at the time but mostly I just decided that of all the new language I was coming to terms with it wasn’t worth trying to work that one out.

But recently, I have found myself coming back to this. I think I am mulling it over because I can’t decide which of the two terms to use in my thesis.  This is where my thinking is currently taking me.

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Not sure what it is but I keep seeing the phrase ‘health system’ at the moment.  It always seems to be in the context that it should be obvious to the reader what the ‘health system’ of interest is – as if it isn’t open to different understandings.

So let’s pick this apart a little…

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I can’t count how many times I’ve at least hinted at the phrase in the title of this post.  Following Ison (2010, page 231/232), my stock phrase is something like  “wellbeing and health concerns, are characterized by interdependencies, complexity, uncertainty and controversy and involve multiple stakeholders with different perspectives”.  It’s these type of characteristics that lead us to call health a ‘wicked issue’ or a ‘mess’.

But I suppose I’ve never really taken stock of just how ‘controversial’ health is.  I started thinking about this the other day and realised that a lot of the time the ‘multiple stakeholders with different perspectives’ can’t even agree how to word the questions, let alone any of the ‘answers’.  What’s more when people want to illustrate the ‘wickedness’, they often don’t even take on ‘health’ in its entirety they break it down into example issues or more focused concerns like obesity or sexual health – it seems that ‘health’ is so wicked you have to chunk it up.

So I thought I’d try and summarise my thinking on this controversial concept – in doing so I hope that I will bring into focus the nature of what makes the territory so difficult to negotiate through.  By the way, I’m making no attempt to ‘hide’ where my own perspective lies!

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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. Read more »

(T847, block 1, activity 4 – 7)

Bamberger et al. (2006) offers a classification of four types of politics that operate in organisations and wider society. Read more »

The UK government outlined their ambitions relating to the domain of wellbeing and health, in a range of publications including:

At the time of writing the related Health and Social Care Bill 2010-2011 is currently before parliament.

Stakeholders in the city where I work have responded to these changes as an opportunity for a step-change in the way in which we organise ourselves to work together to improve wellbeing and health and reduce inequalities in health. Senior leaders of the main statutory partner organisations have agreed to what is locally referred to as “a whole system approach” to the implementation of these changes. Read more »

(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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(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. Read more »

(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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(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. Read more »

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