San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
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.
Session: Angela Espinosa - Organisations as complex viable systems: comparative insights from the VSM and CAS
In this talk Angela will provide a brief review of development of complex systems approaches to management and sustainability research. In particular she will brief the ‘Viability and Sustainability (V&S)’ approach, its methodologies, tools and some recent applications. Then she will summarise the theory offered by the Complex Adaptive Systems approach to this research field, and reflect on examples of application. A comparison among cases studies using the V&S approach and the CAS approach will be provided, and used as a basis for discussion of the differences and complementarities between these and other theoretical approaches to complexitywhich do also contribute to management and sustainability research.
Angela was born in Bogota, Colombia and graduated as a computer and systems engineer in 1981; she then got a PhD on Organisational Cybernetics from Aston Business School, UK in 1995. She worked originally as an Information Systems Manager, in private and public enterprises, and then as the Director of the Secretariat of Information and Systems of the Colombian President's Office (1990 – 1992). From 1993 to 2002, she taught systems and cybernetics in Los Andes University and provided consultancy for both private and public organisations. She led projects involving the restructuring of national auditing practices, the application of systems tools to national educational and environmental policies, and the introduction of participation in political systems. In this period, she published extensively in Colombia and lead hundreds of postgraduate dissertations in systems and cybernetics.
Since 2002 she has been researching at the Centre of Systems Studies, and teaching at Hull University Business School (HUBS). Since 2009 she has been half time in HUBS and half time an invited fellow at Los Andes Business School. In the last decade, she has focused her research on complexity, sustainability, and self-governance in businesses, eco-communities and networks and regions. She has recently published the second edition of a research monograph on an Imperial College Book Series on Complexity. with developments on theory and applications of Beer’s viability theory, in the context of sustainability research. It includes a summary of works suggesting new research directions, combining Beer’s viability work with state of the art complexity and sustainability research. She has also supervised many MSc and PhD dissertations, developed innovative modules on systemic and environmental management; published extensively in systems and operational research journals; and authored and co-edited several books on the application of cybernetics and systems thinking.
Session: Bryan Hopkins - Using systems thinking tools to identify training needs and evaluate training
Organisations often see training as an important way to improve individual and team performance, but may fail to consider how training relates to broader organisational issues affecting performance, or how it may complement ongoing informal learning activities. Systems thinking as a broader concept provides a useful way of identifying how training can be designed so that it supports individual and team performance more effectively. Tools such as Critical Systems Heuristics, Soft Systems Methodology and the Viable Systems Model can be extremely useful in helping in the design of training programmes. Systems thinking also useful for evaluating the outcomes of training, helping us to move beyond simplistic models which assume that liking training leads to improved performance. This talk will look briefly at some different ways in which systems approaches can play an important part in different aspects of training design and evaluation.
Bryan Hopkins is an independent consultant who specialises in helping international organisations and NGOs in the humanitarian and development sectors to develop training strategies and programmes and evaluate performance- improvement activities. Since 2011 he has been enrolled as a student on the Open University’s Systems Thinking in Practice Master’s programme, and has been using this as a basis for strengthening the use of systems approaches in his professional practice. One outcome has been a forthcoming book, entitled “Learning and Performance: A Systemic Model for Analysing Needs and Evaluating Training”.
Session: Joan O'Donnell - Reflexivity in Systems Thinking
How do we regulate ourselves in practice? How do we bring elegance and aesthetics to our work? How can single double and triple loop learning prompt greater reflexivity in practice? How can we embody theoretical knowledge in a way that encompasses all our being and act with deep awareness? How do we ensure that the quality of the interventions we make are enhanced by an awareness of our internal states?
This presentation will draw on a recent study I conducted with social justice advocates working in Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and from which a refined model of how levels of reflexive practice relate to effectiveness emerged. This may be of interest to Systems thinking professionals, who seek to deepen personal practice, or mentor others to develop their reflexive stance.
As an advocate who engages in supervision and peer mentoring of others working towards social justice goals, I have a strong interest in how our internal worlds engage in the systems we seek to change and how that becomes explicit or remains inaccessible to ourselves and others in how we move forward with situations.
Session: Tim James and Mike Haber - Systems thinking focussed workplace learning groups
Mike Haber, a University IT Team Leader, and Tim James, a Health Care Commissioner, met at a recent SCiO Development Day and discovered they were independently leading Systems Thinking focussed workplace learning groups.
In a time of tight or non-existent training budgets, both have tapped into a real appetite for bottom-up informal learning groups. They have also found a particular thirst among their colleagues for learning about genuine approaches to deal with complex organisational problems beyond the more typical Project Management Office style “solutions”.
The two groups are quite different in their approaches. One structured, one more free-form. One focussed on tools and process, one more about personal learning styles and perspectives of systems. This talk will explore their motivations, the similarities and differences between the groups, the reasons for those differences, and what can be learned from them for anyone thinking about establishing their own group.
When & Where
SCiO - systems and cybernetics in organisations
Pauline Roberts is the SCiO Open Day Director
SCiO is a group for systems practitioners and is based in the UK, but has members internationally.
Two of the features that distinguish SCiO from other systems groups are that it is focused primarily on systems practice and practitioners rather than on pure theory and that it is focused on systems practice applied to issues of organisation.
It has three main objectives:
Developing practice in applying systems ideas to a range of organisational issues.
Disseminating the use of systems approaches in dealing with organisational issues.
Supporting practitioners in their professional practice.
SCiO is a social enterprise and a not for profit organisation which is owned by its members.
Provenance and Purpose.
Created initally by a network of practitioners in the North of England, SCiO acts as an extra channel for disseminating to others their experience of practical applications, education and research in complex problem solving. The name stands for 'Systems and Cybernetics in Organisation' but can also be thought of as short for the 'Science of Organisation'.
Over the last sixty years the new disciplines of ‘Systems Thinking’ and ‘Managerial Cybernetics’ have emerged. The new thinking started from the consideration of complex problems faced during the Second World War; then later in the 1970’s the same patterns of thinking emerged with the new awareness of the complexity of ecological problems. The ideas developed and spread into other areas of science and in particular into management. In the last thirty years new insights and understanding have developed in the way to approach apparently intractable problems in many areas.
At this time the terms ‘whole systems approach’ and ‘systems thinking’ seem to be appearing more frequently in published policy documents and guidance on best practice in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, such as in the UK National Health Service; in documents on public health, sustainable communities, in education, in considerations of the environment, and in corporate governance.
The members of SCiO believe that the use of systems thinking and managerial cybernetics can have major impacts on the well-being of our communities, and our business and social organisations.