Platforms for Critical Systems Practice: an Organization-based Action Research Project -- Alvaro CARRIZOSA de la Torre, August 5, 2002
46th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), Shanghai, P.R. China, August 2-6, 2002.
Sunday, August 5, 2002, 12:05 p.m., Critical Systems Track
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directed to the originator. These notes have been contributed by David Ing (email@example.com) at the IBM Advanced Business Institute ( http://www.ibm.com/abi ).
Ph.D. student from Colombia, Lincoln School of Management, UK
Exploring chaos and complexity in management from a critical thinking perspective
General research model:
Critical systems thinking, involving an area of concern in chaos and complexity theory
Account by Ralph Stacey 1996 Creativity and Chaos in Organization
Used Jackson 1991's framework to study at four level: Habermas, four interprevists frameworks, Burrell & Morgan images
Done in the regional learning skills councils in Humberside.
Wanted to become a learning organization.
Focused on the first self-managed team of consultants.
Field study for 18 months.
In-depth interview on the use of ideas.
Focus on perceptions and ideas on the approach used by managing directors.
Produced findings as research themes and some incoherences.
Approach at the whole.
Manifestation for the self-managed team
View supporting descriptions
View supporting intervention
Implications for practice
Incoherency 1: Abandon the technical interest without doing so
View supporting intervention: Determine regularities in behaviour
Approach: Motto -- improve business stabilizers, all unnecessary controls
At the whole: On intervening, dilemma: how to remove command-and-control without using command-and-control
At self managed team: Got greater freedom with team leader removed, but the ownership of the process was still attributed to MD, resulting in lack of trust and ownership.
Potential of abandoning the technical interest was not achieved.
Perhaps should distinguish between individuals and behaviours in control.
Incoherency 2: Making the practical interest technical, driving the organization to the edge of chaos
No one can be in control (Stacey)
Supporting intervention: Regulate behaviour to propriate conditions for mutual understanding
At the whole: aimed to regulate a learning culture
At the team level: still saw MD controlling the learning processes. Purposes weren't discussed. This created a counter-culture of individualism, i.e. don't perceive a self-managed team, just a
group of individuals.
Incoherency 3: Making the emancipatory interest technical: co-evolution and the forces of the market.
Changes in schema seen as liberating.
Supporting intervention: organization enslaved to one schema.
At whole: Organization evolving
At team level: Did see freedom, but saw structures and control to which they were powerless -- responding to the market.
Freedom that they say was not freeing them.
Emancipation was circumscribed.
Learning was instrumental and not emancipatory.
Incoherency 4: Assuming complex - pluralist contexts as normal, but acting according to complexity unitary problem context
Driving towards edge of chaos.
At whole, development of learning culture, but primarily in a unitary form
At team level, expected to learn, but saw unitary agreement from top management to change the team's modus operandi.
Imposed in arbitrary manner.
Reinforcement of a context where unitary assumptions were made.
Seen less as a problem-solving approach, it's making unitary assumptions.
Incoherency 5: The pervasiveness of one dominant schema versus the dynamic of changes in schemas
Radical changes in schema of primary tasks
Intervention sees one schema as most favoured.
At the whole: The organization can change its schema, but the learning system underpins and embraces the whole approach.
At the level of the self-managed team: MD promoted to "think out of the box", but team prevented from seeing in ways not considered by complexity and chaos theory.
Chaos and Complexity Theory (as Stacey) is not sufficiently coherent to be used in practice.
CST provides a valuable framework to inquire into Chaos and Complexity Theory.
Chaos and Complexity Theory uses functionalist / structuralist tools, but traps itself.
Incoherency 6: Social Constructism and Structuralism influencing control parameters
Claim of a social constructive approach, but it's clear that a structuralist approach is presupposed.
Recent book by Stacey: moving towards a more interprevist paradigm, but it's unsure whether he knows he doing that.
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