Seeing the system • Meaning Guide


Source: Seeing the system • Meaning Guide

Seeing the system

There’s something missing.

The newly released UK apprenticeship standard for Systems Thinking locates systems practice “in arenas where complex problems exist that cannot be addressed by any one organisation or person, but which require cross-boundary collaboration within and between organisations.” This is great. It neatly identifies why the language of systems is coming back into vogue: As the world becomes more complex, we’re waking up to the fact that problems can’t be simply pinned down to one person, one team, one organisation, one population.

But I want to look at this quotation more closely, because it highlights what for me is a big gap in the systems world. In particular, I want to pull out the two concepts of “complex problems” and “cross-boundary collaboration”. Firstly, let’s just pause to appreciate what a wonderful thing it is to be able to read these two phrases in the same sentence in a government-backed standard! So how do systems practitioners actually create “cross-boundary collaboration” to address “complex problems”? How does it actually work in practice? Well, one of the things a systems intervention will invariably involve is some form of collaborative modelling. I’m using modelling here in a very generic sense; even if nothing is written down, and the intervention simply amounts to a series of conversations across organisational boundaries, this will still have the effect of shaping the mental models of those involved in the conversation.

But that’s not most people’s experience of systems modelling…

Continues in source: Seeing the system • Meaning Guide