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INCOSE UK RIG: The Special Theory of Holes

INCOSE Rail Interest Group

Wednesday, 17 May 2017 from 17:30 to 18:30 (BST)

INCOSE UK RIG: The Special Theory of Holes

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The Special Theory of Holes: A Systems Thinking methodology Applied to the Exercise of Power

Kindly hosted by 

Systems and Control Research Centre
School of Mathematics Computer Science and Engineering
City, University of London

Arrive from 17:00 for a 17:30 start


After starting his career as a train driver, Scott Meadows moved into operations and performance at Network Rail where he worked with cross-industry groups to improve the industry’s safety and reliability performance. He is currently a principal consultant at Altran, working on the Programme and Systems Integration team for the Thameslink programme. Drawing on the doctoral research he started at Leeds University at the Institute of Transport Studies, he has written a systems model of power based on his experiences in the UK Railway Industry. 


Power is like gravity and electricity. We know it exists through its effects; we often however, explore its consequences rather than the medium itself. We all work in or for organisations where the perception of power is distributed among many actors and, when we get that distribution wrong, the effects are adverse.

How do we explore power, its nature and basis, then? Can we use systems thinking to understand the power environment and to predict and prevent problems that may arise from the perception of power distributions?

The answer is yes: through system dynamic modelling. Here we can start to model our power environment, explored through three recognised faces of power, how power is developed and exercised. But we can also add a fourth face of power, in terms of system feedback, an element that is often overlooked.

This is the Special Theory of Holes. It is a systems dynamic model of the exercise of power, taking the inputs to ‘A’ who exercises (Overt, Covert and Latent power), over ‘B’, who has power exercised over them, to achieve something, classed as an output. However nothing exists in isolation. ‘B’ sometimes responds in ways we don’t account for or fully understand: this is their feedback to the system of power exercised by A. If we want to improve working conditions and the efficiency and efficacy of our organisations, dismissing system feedback can be costly. It is here where modelling the power environment can help us understand the exercise of power in play, and identify if it is reducing our overall capability.

Scott hopes that the presentation will offer systems thinkers a vision of how they may be able to use their skills to deal with problems at work that they previously thought that systems thinking could not reach.

Arrive from 17:00 for a 17:30 start

Do you have questions about INCOSE UK RIG: The Special Theory of Holes? Contact INCOSE Rail Interest Group

When & Where

Tait Building (Room C308)
Northampton Square
EC1V 0HB London
United Kingdom

Wednesday, 17 May 2017 from 17:30 to 18:30 (BST)

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INCOSE Rail Interest Group

The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) is an international professional society for systems engineers whose mission is to foster the definition, understanding, and practice of world-class systems engineering in industry, academia, and government.

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