Open Meeting and AGM - Spring 2017

£10 - pay via eventbrite please
Event date: 
Monday, April 24, 2017
09:30 - 17:00 (09:30 is an introduction to the viable system model. Whole day starts at 10:00)
Open Meeting
Room 1.035, Dover Street Building, Manchester Business School, Manchester, M13 9PL
(All Welcome)
Event Details: 

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.

Please note that the AGM will follow on from the open day (for members)


Session: Michael Walker - From Maidstone to Vilnius: A practitioner’s journey into theory with the VSM

Mike is a currently a consultant supporting ‘transformational’ projects in UK local government.  His previous career has included roles in the Civil Service, Higher Education and a range of Local Authorities, including as Head of Performance & Risk at Swindon Council and Senior Business Change Manager at Trafford Council.  Mike has also followed the well-trodden path of the Open University STiP course, due to complete the MSc this April.

Mike will be speaking about various transformations in local government which he believed closely aligned with the VSM, and which formed the basis of his paper, ‘The Search for Viability: A practitioner’s view of how the Viable Systems Model is helping transform English local government (and how it has passed unrecognised)’, which Mike presented in August 2016 to a symposium in Vilnius, and which is due to be published in Systems Research and Behavioural Science

As well as exploring these examples of transformation, and also why the model might still not be viewed positively in local government, Mike would like to consider with the group his personal journey from working in a Kent council to presenting at a conference in Lithuania, and how we might look again at the age-old tension between theory and practice.


Session: Arthur Battram - Miles Runs the Gurus Down: what we can learn from Miles Davis

Miles Davis merely changed the face of music 4 or 5 times in his career. To be a successful jazz musician and leader is a challenge; to sustain that over more than 30 years is astonishing. He was an indifferent trumpet player and had a reputation as a difficult and arrogant performer. (His controversial personal life has also come under attack, but that falls outside the scope of this work.) Yet aspiring jazz musicians dreamt of playing with him, and all his alumni cherished the experience.

How did Miles do it? I think I know.

The answer to what can we learn from his approach can be found in the ecology of jazz in New York, in the late ’50s and the early to late ’60s, in the nature of the musical employment field at that time, and in his recruitment and HR practices, his succession planning, his learning facilitation, his responsiveness and flexibility, his focus on craft and excellence, and his focus on his key purpose.

Arthur Battram wrote a book: 'Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management' a long time ago, which is being reissued by RedQuadrant in a new enhanced edition with bonus tracks and previously unreleased alternate takes. His next album has the working title of Consensual Communication. In addition to his solo work, he composes and plays keyboards with RedQuadrant, the well-regarded fusion outfit.

Session: Natalie Marguet - Organisational Decision Making: What lies beneath managers’ decisions

Natalie Marguet is currently a PhD student at Alliance Manchester Business School.  The session focuses on an emergent and unexpected finding of her PhD that is aligned with VSM.

Her PhD uses Personal Construct Theory and organisational sensemaking to explore the ways that decision are actually made within organisations. The research considers three interconnected levels of decision making (individual, group and organisation) and utilises a  long standing and well proven 'thinking device' known as a Repertory Grid. The visualisation of the intertwined individual and group decisions permitted a description of the organisational decision from the decision makers themselves.  Further providing the ability to map and quantify the interwoven terrain of an organisational decision. Thrusting managers to refocus and move beyond words, assumptions, clichés and banalities and engage with a reflective person centred approach to decision making practices.  From such a perspective, Stafford Beer's (1979) Viable System Model emerged, supporting a view that the viable system model is not simply a theoretical framework of how a system should operate.  The findings demonstrate that systems do operate in accordance with VSM principles.


Session: Sam Williams - Systems Thinking and Doing in Defence – the misadventures of a boundary spanner and other experiments

Adoption of systems thinking and systems approaches in a hierarchical public sector organisation such as defence can be challenging. The Systems of Systems Approach (SOSA) change programme has spent the last 5 years trying to help the MoD tackle complex problems and improve coherency across defence. This presentation will be an interactive discussion on the application of Systems Approaches and how we communicate them to a non-expert audience in an attempt to make that ‘leap of faith’ for adoption of Systems Thinking and System Approaches more achievable in the business. The talk will give an overview of what SOSA has been doing in the last 5 years, how we are using hindsight to support foresight and how some of that learning might be applicable to other complex organisations. Some audience participation will be required.

Sam Williams has spent the last 20+ years trying to understand and tackle complex problems in Defence. Sam is part of the Systems of Systems Approach team in the MoD, her current work includes promoting the awareness and adoption of applied systems thinking and systems approaches in Defence. Always keen to find new ways of bringing systems thinking and doing to life in both the work and education context, she spends her time trying to bridge the gaps between different fields of knowledge and experience. Sam is Chartered Engineer, an INCOSE Certified Systems Engineering Practitioner and an active STEM ambassador.

Event Type (Tag): 
Pauline Roberts