OD41: Being a Systems Thinking Practitioner ∙ New Operating Models Handbook | LinkedIn newsletter curated by Raluca and Bülent Duagi, the Sense & Change team

OD41: Being a Systems Thinking Practitioner ∙ New Operating Models Handbook | LinkedIn

OD41: Being a Systems Thinking Practitioner ∙ New Operating Models Handbook

  • Published on October 27, 2020

Welcome to the OrgDev newsletter

We’re curating weekly resources that you can use for making your organization more effective. If you want to get the weekly edition straight to your inbox every Thursday, you can subscribe here.

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1. OD Goodies

Curated starters for this week’s edition:

  • Care4: Paul Tolchinsky is hosting a unique series of stories and lessons learned about leading change, inspired by the nearly 6 decades of doing this work. Food for thought from the session last week:

The wisdom is in the conversations we have.

  • PolicyLab: recently revisited the 56 distinct actions in the Government as a System toolkit featured back in OD23. Good source of inspiration for enabling change.
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  • Sketchplanations: sketch about the Cobra Effect – “(…) an unintended (and disastrous) consequence arises from a well-meaning solution.” detailed a bit back in OD32.
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2. Being a systems thinking practitioner

If you’re applying systems thinking in your work or if you’re just curious about this topic, you might be interested in a comprehensive occupation standard that details many aspects of this type of work.

Thanks to Benjamin Taylor and the Systems Community of Inquiry, we discovered that the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education in UK has recently approved for delivery the standard of Systems Thinking Practitioner, which has professional recognition by Systems & Complexity in Organisations (SCiO).

Occupation purpose

(…) to support decision-makers in strategic and leadership roles to understand and address complex and sometimes even ‘wicked’ problems through provision of expert systemic analysisadvice and facilitation.

Examples include: providing joined-up health and social services, reducing plastics use in the bottled drinks industry, developing sustainable international food production and supply systems, developing combined diplomatic and military options for unstable regions, and addressing climate change.

These problems have no single ‘owner’ or cause, and no simple solution; they require multi-disciplinary, multi-organisational responses with sensitive attention to diverse viewpoints, behaviour, culture and politics.

Here the 5 knowledge areas associated with this occupation:

K1: Systems thinking

Understands core systems concepts and laws that underpin and inform the practical methodologies and methods. • Aware of the inter-relationships between Systems Thinking approaches (including methods and methodologies), enabling comparisons of paradigms and underpinning philosophies. • Understands provenance of Systems Thinking methodologies and approaches in context of ‘schools’ of systems thinking and own ontology and epistemology. • Understands essential concepts of systems: complexity, emergence, boundaries, inter-relationships, multiple-perspectives, randomness, non-linear relationships, feedback loops, sensitive dependence on initial conditions, and unpredictability.

K2: Systems approaches

Has a sound working knowledge of at least three modelling approaches, as defined in the Systems and Complexity in Organisations (SCiO) professional standard framework, including at least two of the widely-used systems methodologies or approaches: Critical Systems Heuristics, Soft Systems Methodology, System Dynamics, Viable Systems Model. • Understands the applicability, benefits and limits of each systems approach for each situation, and how to integrate them into a broader methodological design. • Understands relevance of, and knows methods for, determining appropriate scope, scale and systemic levels, for understanding, diagnosing and modelling situations, or for system design.

K3: Intervention and engagement

Knows a range of approaches for delivering systems interventions with differing levels of complexity and ambiguity, including double loop learning, change methods, and learning cycles. • Has a working knowledge of at least two methods or methodologies for: intervention planning, information gathering, engagement and change implementation. • Understands strengths and limitations of each approach; knows when and how to use each approach to gain insight to the organisational/ societal/ political context. • Understands the principles of effective relationship building and stakeholder management and their application in a system intervention.

K4: Ethics

Working knowledge of ethics as applied to systems interventions generally, and as applied specifically to sector where practitioner is working. • Appreciates the regulatory environment, and the legal, health and safety and compliance requirements of the sector the practitioner is working in.

K5: Assessment and evaluation

Understands a range of quantitative and qualitative assessment and evaluation methods for determining the outcomes and impact of interventions, and for evaluating the effectiveness and impact of intervention decisions and processes.

We think that the world needs more systems thinking practitioners. This standard will guide us in our aspiration of improving our systems thinking practice and we hope it will be a useful read for you too – you will also find a summary of the occupation, 12 duties, 11 skills and 9 behaviors in the standard description. Enjoy! Link: Systems Thinking Practitioner

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3. New Operating Models Handbook

Another pick that you might find interesting is a “practitioners’ guide to new ways of working that enable upstream innovation in local government”.

The New Operating Models Handbook captures the ideas and experience of the 20 pioneering local authorities who made up the Upstream Collaborative.

These local government innovators are all experimenting with different ways to address complex challenges, by moving attention and resources upstream of service delivery to create the conditions that enable citizens to thrive. To do this they have adopted new ways of working – new operating models – that acknowledge the complexity and interconnectedness of social issues and the people and organizations that aim to tackle them.

The work of these innovators, and the experiences of the communities they serve, has informed the development of a framework which characterizes what new operating models in local government look like in practice. 

This handbook consists of 6 parts:

  1. Introducing New Operating Models for Local Government – link
  2. From the Margins to the Mainstream: How to create the conditions for new operating models to thrive – link
  3. Reframing Risk: How to adopt new mindsets around risk that enable innovation – link
  4. Asset-Based Community Development for Local Authorities: How to rebuild relationships with communities through asset-based approaches – link
  5. Meaningful Measurement: How a new mindset around measurement can support a culture of continual learning – link
  6. A Catalyst for Change: What COVID-19 has taught us about the future of local government – link

Among the most ambitious and highest potential initiatives are those that aim to tackle the underlying causes of social problems by heading ‘upstream’ to create the economic, social and community conditions for both people and place to flourish. Or, put simply, initiatives designed to solve problems before they happen.

Councils shared repeatedly that these new ways of working are simply “the right thing to do” and are driven by wanting people to live happier, more fulfilling lives. This is underpinned by a common belief within many councils that the status quo is ineffective and unsustainable.

Upstream initiatives are architectural innovations. To deliver them effectively at scale requires the adoption of new operating models.

New operating models don’t completely reject and replace the tools and approaches of the past decades, but are often overlayed on top of existing operating models where both systems continue to coexist. These new approaches are, however, starting to become more embedded and as they do so may supersede the legacy model.

If these snippets resonated with you, we invite you to explore the whole handbook:

Link – New Operating Models Handbook

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Thanks for reading

We hope you found something useful in this edition!

Please feel free to forward the newsletter to any colleagues who you think might benefit from these resources.

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This newsletter is curated by Raluca and Bülent Duagi, the Sense & Change team.

We’re using systems thinking, behavioral science and mental models to advise organizations to become more effective.

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OD41: Being a Systems Thinking Practitioner ∙ New Operating Models Handbook | LinkedIn