JAN 21 SCiO Open Meeting – Winter 2018/19
An open meeting where a series of presentations of general interest regarding systems practice will be given – this will include ‘craft’ and active sessions, as well as introductions to theory.
09:30 – an introduction to the viable system model. Main presentations start at 10:00.
Session 1: Productive Organisational Paradoxes – Ivo Velitchkov
It is often said that organisations are full of paradoxes. But this refers to contradictions and tensions. It is understood as something that needs to be taken care of. When organisations are looked at as social systems, however, it becomes clear that they are only possible because of paradoxes, and particularly paradoxes of self-reference. Understanding how these paradoxes create and maintain organisations is an important skill for practitioners trying to make sense of what’s going on and improve it. The basic generative organisational paradox is that of decisions. It brings new light not only on decision patterns and dependencies, but also on understanding the nature of objectives, power, and relations with clients.
Session 2: Measuring Organisational Agility – Patrick Hoverstadt
Organisational agility is now a relatively hot topic, which it wasn’t when I first talked about this subject at SCiO 6 years ago. Since then, we’ve significantly developed and extended the model for measuring agility, so will be talking about the latest developments.
We’ll start with the need for business agility, going beyond the hype to look at the business reality and strategic importance of agility. We’ll then go on to look at the different aspects and elements of organisational agility, an overview of how we measure those and then go on to talk about the need for balance across the different aspects. We’ll then go on to look at different approaches to increasing agility and the use of agility metrics as an organisation design tool.
In the process, we’ll link the work both in terms of theory and practice to VSM and some other systems models and approaches. In particular we’ll look at the working of the 3,4,5 homeostat in VSM and the critical role that plays in organisational agility. We’ll link the modelling and practice of the homeostat through to some new developments in neuroscience and show how these are important both in terms of agility and in reference to Boyd’s OODA loop.
Session 3: Wicked Problems in Design and Ethics – Ben Sweeting
One of the most important intersections between design and systems is their shared concern for ethics. When we think of ethical considerations in either context, we often do so in terms of applied ethics—as the application of ethical insight to guide practice, addressing issues such professional standards of conduct, and our relationships to the environment and to each other.
There are, however, difficulties with thinking of the relationship between ethics and practice in this way. To see ethics in terms of application is to imply that it is external to practice, a view that can lead to us seeing ethical considerations as something to be traded off against other goals. In any case, it is not as if ethics is a settled body of theory that can authoritatively guide our actions. Depending which theories or ideas we refer to we receive different guidance as to what to do.
There are parallels between this situation and the wicked problems that are commonplace in design and systems practice, such that the ways in which we design and organise the world may have as much to contribute to ethical theory as vice versa. Drawing on ideas from design, systems theory and cybernetics, this talk develops an understanding of how ethical questions may be implicitly integrated within how we act in the world, such that they need not be understood in terms of external limitations or competing priorities.
Session 4: Coordination is not the answer to the division of work ! – Stephen Brewis
The Model T wasn’t Fords product, it was River Rouge, anybody could make the Model T but not everybody could make River Rouge. River Rouge was a special type of transactional organisation that gave it competitive advantage. This advantage comprised of Taylorising the activities by separating the Knowledge from the activity, and coordinating these activities by moving the car between stations, there was no communication/learning between stations, but demonstrated the benefits of efficiency through automation , Brains mechanise and automatons Automate. The Brains were in the few and the automatons were in the many, but the knowledge of the car was no longer present in the worker.
In the knowledge economy, where information rules, this is not sufficient, coordination is no longer the answer to the division of work. This talk will focus on knowledge and information using the fundamental principles of cybernetics and information theory to derive a maximally irreducible organisation set, capable of extracting the maximum amount of information from its operation, to maximise its decisioning effectiveness.
The talk will ground these ideas through a detailed case study looking at how by changing BT’s organisational structure the quality of its decisioning can be significantly improved.