Research questions, hypothesis and views on causality

(T847, Block 2, Activities 1 and 2)

In TMA01 I stated the aim of my research project as follows:

to investigate the degree to which systems thinking is an ‘absent competence’ or ‘constrained capability’ amongst those involved in leading partnership working for wellbeing and health in an English city

Block 2 asks me to consider whether I should also use research question(s) and hypothesis as a way of tightening up the scale and scope of my research project.  It also suggests that I am clear on my perspective of causality. Continue reading

If systems thinking is the answer, what is the question?

May seem a little odd asking this question now, but it strikes me that this is part of that ongoing quest to ‘market’ systems thinking – as per previous posts on the Elevator pitch issue.

But it struck me recently that it is possible – and helpful – to apply the thinking that Ison (2010, 187) uses in relation to the idea of managing….. what is the system to which doing X is the answer (the how)? Continue reading

Ideas for my research project

(T847, Block One, Activity 1)

The quest for this activity is to identify particular ideas, concepts, theories, arguments, propositions, techniques, tools, case studies – in fact any material – that I have found particularly interesting in my studies to date.  An odd question because if I did not find all of it interesting I would not have got here.  Nonetheless, what is particularly engaging my interest right now?

Continue reading

If not a Project, then what?

I’ve got a feeling that this is going to be quite a long post because I have spent the last two weeks grappling in my head with something that concerns me.

I’ve never been one for Programmes and Projects – with capital ‘P’s – with all the trappings of templates and documentation and traffic light reports but recently I’ve found myself yearning for more structure and more shape to what I am doing. I’ve started to wonder if – in my wholesale rejection of Project methodologies, I have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

True it has been a bit of a extra messy time with particular big fluxes of events and issues over time.  Lots and lots of uncertainty – maybe the woolliness is getting to the point when I am lost – and if I’m lost then others around me probably are too.  I have started taking action at work to change this but I do want to explore – if not a Project, then what? Continue reading

Clinical metaphors

I have just realised how many medical-like metaphors are out there in the world of organisational research/development.  This insight was prompted by my reading of Coghlan and Brannick (2010) which took me off on an interesting tangent…

We ‘diagnose’; talk of organisational ‘pathologies’ and go on to ‘intervene’.

One such example is in the use of the Viable Systems Model – the model can be used as a diagnostic ‘tool’ and Hoverstadt (2008) draws attention to a range of ‘pathological’ archetypes.

So I started to think about what was behind these metaphors… and the possibilities and problems they could bring. Continue reading

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

Elevator pitch – revisited

It was a while ago now when I wrote my post called “Elevator Pitch“.  I know it rang bells with a few of my fellow students  because the idea of the elevator pitch has come up in module forum and email exchange since.

Distracted thought process….are we yet former students or ex-students, I am not sure? Former or ex- has the built in message that you have stopped learning which seems very non-systemsy – perhaps this is like being a ‘provisional’ driver…mmm back to the point

It is raining today (no allotment  😥 and Alex busy with his French) so I found myself flicking through a recent book purchase called “Gamestorming: a playbook for innovators, rulebreakers and changemakers” (Gray et al, 2010, O’Reilly).  To my surprise I came across a ‘game’ called Elevator Pitch. Continue reading

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

What does ‘critical’ mean?

I have been reading about critical social learning systems and it has set me thinking – what is the difference between social learning and critical social learning.  Or perhaps more specifically, what did Bawden and his colleagues seek to emphasise and draw attention to when they chose to use the prefix the phrase with the word critical?

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