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


I’ve been quite fascinated with the concept of ‘authenticity’ since I encountered it in TU812 –  so I was a little surprised when I did a search that I have not written a post with this title before.  I did however mention the concept in this post where I mentioned the definition offered by Krippendorff

the pleasure of participating in togetherness in which one is free to speak for oneself, not in the name of absent others, not under pressure to say things one does not believe in, and not having to hide something for fear of being reprimanded or excluded from further conversation (Krippendorff, cited in Ison, 2010,311)

My fascination stems from the subjective nature of someone else experiencing you as authentic.  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

What do I do when I do what I do – revisited

I first posted my reflections on what I do when I do what I do in this post from 5 December.  This was before I had the opportunity to learn about the juggler and use it as a heuristic to reflect on my practice.  So I thought I would revisit the question in the light of material I have covered since then.

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I have now submitted my assignment and should be moving on from Part 2 to Part 3 of TU812, I’m quite reluctant to do so because I feel as if there is so much I haven’t got straight yet.  There was so much to get a handle on in that part of the course and I kind of fear that it is all going to fade away.

But I also want to acknowledge the fact that I am leaving the part of the course that Ray Ison has been the lead author – not just the study guide but his course text too.  I guess he is now a formal part of my Systems lineage and I want to take stock of what I ‘inherit’.  I have covered all the big stuff – like the practice dynamic, the juggler and various academic concepts – in other posts in this blog.  But there is something more I want to take with me – a few choice phrases that capture for me some of the spirit and principles of systems thinking and practice.

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Taking a design turn in my systems practice

Updated 15 February 2011

(Activity 2.33)

Ison (2010, 260-262) describes the concept of a ‘design turn’.  I am finding it one of the more difficult concepts to get a handle on so I will use this post to explore my understanding of the concept and apply it to my systems practice.

Before I do, I want to quote what is – to date – my biggest and most significant insight from studying TU812.  Of course, I kind of knew it before but having it pointed out made me realise its significance:

The direct consequence of the profound changes in the character and role of organised knowledge is that the future most now be regarded as increasingly a human artefact – an art-in-fact.  The future can no longer be regarded as a natural object, a fact already there or objectively determined by present trends.  It must be chosen.

Hooker (1992) cited in Ison (2010, 261)

So this is why design is important.  It is part of the way we choose the future.  Every design will create ripples that becomes its legacy or artefact.  So what is design?

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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

A reflection on juggling

Now that I have just finished working my way through the ball chapters in Ison’s book.  I wanted to bring together my current perspective on the juggling that is systems practice. Can’t decide whether it is taking the imagery a little too far but nothing ventured….

I am a juggler.

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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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