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.

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

To institutionalise…or not to institutionalise?

Ison (2010, 9) highlights his concern that – to date – we have failed to institutionalise systems thinking and practice in society in general and in organisational practices in particular.  I noticed that some of my student colleagues have commented on the course forum or their own blogs about whether ‘institutionalisation’ is desirable or not – this resonated with my gut reaction.

Is this really something we want for systems thinking and practice? Continue reading

A Systems perspective on health and wellbeing

The other evening, I went out with a colleague and friend of mine – T. Well I say colleague, we used to work for the same organisation – now we work for different organisations but within the same partnership arena.  When we worked together, we routinely had a friday night drink during which we discussed society, organisations, management and so on – at the time he had just finished a social policy PhD and I was embarking on my MBA.

It’s been a while since we have seen each other outside formal meetings.  In our conversation the other evening, we started talking about complexity.  T has an emerging interest in the complexity of individual’s lives and the tension created when organisation’s have to be accountable for the ‘outcomes’ they achieve through their interventions.  Entire voluntary sector funding regimes are founded on organisations making claims for the outcomes they can create.

Contemporary public health research has an underpinning systems perspective.  The most reproduced model is that by Dahlgren and Whitehead which shows a series of influences on the health and wellbeing of an individual.  In Newcastle upon Tyne, I have been involved in work to raise awareness of this ‘holistic perspective’, most notably with our Mythbuster brochure.

What my discussion with T made me realise, is that to date, I have not seen health theory expressed using the language of Systems (the academic/intellectual discipline).  So here is my first iteration…

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What do I do when I do what I do?

(Activity 2.6)

It seems it is important that I get my head around this question.  I have decided to do it through iterative questioning – in problem solving, there is a way of looking at causes called the 5 Whys – essentially you keep asking why to every level of answer.  I am going to use a similiar approach but ask “And, what do I do when I do that?” to see how far I get. Continue reading

My situation of concern

(Activity 2.2, 2.7, 2.9)

Updated 16 December 2010

TU812 is structured in a way to help me to to conduct a systemic inquiry into my own systems practice for managing change.  I have commented on this in An inquiry into my systems practice for managing change.

However the module also encourages me to identify a situation of concern that I can also apply systemic inquiry to.  I have really struggled with identifying a situation of concern – narrowing something down from just a generalised ‘my work’ into something that is more subject to investigation.

Part of the reason for this is outlined in my post Writer’s Block – telling sticky stories in which I am a player does not come easily to me.

But I have I have finally had the – aha – moment.  I have realised my situation of concern has been staring me in the face all along – I have even posted about an occasion when I took purposeful activity to act in this situation of concern (Elevator Pitch). Continue reading

Writer’s block: a sticky story

(Activity 2.2)

In my last post, I ended up by saying that I often think too big about the situations I want to address – global warning, world peace, health inequalities and the entire UK public sector!   I suppose that is consistent with the approach to use of Systems in TU811 – there we worked on situations requiring strategic interventions and our assignments focused on distant news stories.

That approach does not seem right for TU812, where there is much more of a focus on you as a practitioner in everyday situations.  I therefore need to think more local, more immediate…..well more….everyday. Continue reading

Sticky situations

(Activity 2.1)

It is interesting that Ray Ison* uses the introduction of a IT ‘solution’ as his example of a sticky situation.  So far, my fellow students have also used IT examples.  Is it really that IT introductions fail more than other changes or that these situations are easier to remember than sticky situations only involving humans.   These are the everyday sticky situations, I can think of: 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