Friday, 15 March 2013

Systems thinking needs time

(Click for source)
I seem to have a love/hate relationship with systems thinking. I love the potential that it has to help us redesign our services around the needs of our students but I'm hating the amount of time it's taking. 'Hate' is too strong a word but it does take a lot of time and that is something I don't have at the moment. Having said that, I'm convinced that it can help us do things better, I just need to stick with it and calve out some more time. Related to this I had some advice from Systems-Thinking-Pete the other week and he said I could blog it, so here goes.

You should try to dedicate time to study the system

The more time you devote to study the quicker we get there. Because it’s about a different way of thinking you won’t get to the same place if you rely on other people to uncover and present back to you. Also consider who else you might want to co-opt to get involved (it’s always better to have staff closest to the work who understand how things really operate involved in the team).

Be clear about when you’re studying and when you’re operational

This is best served by you blocking out time rather than having meetings to review progress. Also ties in with the first item about dedicating time to study.

Don’t mix the two i.e. tamper whilst you’re studying

I understand the urge to improve based on what you find whilst you’re studying and I’m not saying that you mustn’t do this. However until you’ve been through the journey you may not know what is right to fix and what is knee jerk reaction. It is also harder to study a moving system, blurs the distinction between when you’re studying the system and when you’re operational and impedes what we want to get out of the systems thinking exercise (because systems thinking helps to develop a completely different and opposing way of thinking to a traditional approach and there’s no middle ground).

Be clear about the system you’re studying and purpose of that system

Studying the Career Development Service as a whole with a purpose of ‘help me get the graduate job or further study that I want’ is fine. Excluding the Curriculum aspect to this to focus on the responsive side of what you do for the time being I think is fine and doesn’t change the purpose of the system. In fact it will give you clues as to how well the Curriculum programme is working.

Make the learning that you are getting from this visible

Whilst we may want to re-jig some of we’re capturing making what we’re discovering visible on your wall is a positive development. If you want to tidy or re-jig any materials (or need to use your whiteboard again) then that’s fine but do keep the original content just in case…

In terms of structuring the content you might want to think about:
  • System description - ‘provision of responsive Careers Service offerings’
  • Customers - Current student
  • Purpose - ‘help me get the graduate job or further study that I want’
  • Scope - describe anything we’re not looking at
The above stuff should be fairly static whilst the following will evolve:
  • Demand Analysis - type and frequency of demand (by category), value/failure, resolution etc
  • What Matters and Measures - description and data
  • Flow (as and when) - we’ll worry about this later
  • Current Operating Principles i.e. in the current system it is ok (or not ok) to…..
  • Anecdotal Evidence - things people might have said etc
  • Issues/things to look at - anything that crops up or things that occur to us that we should look at
  • Learning – focus on the things that have surprised you

Good advice. Now all I need to do is do it...

No comments:

Post a Comment