Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Lugano Summer School - Day 2

Today, and the next three, are lessons from Peter Checkland. I feel as though I am a small child sitting at the knee of my great grandfather! The man is incredible, not only in terms of the way he thinks, but also his life experiences (and I know as I type that one informs the other)

So here are some gems that he gave us yesterday....

The problem with management science in the 70s

When Peter moved from academia at Oxford (where he was a chemist) to industry (where he worked in R&D, if I understood his terminology correctly) he was excited to find that there was already a discipline called "management science" which seemed to meet his need - combining the challenges he was facing in management with his comfort zone of science. Unfortunately, management science "focused on the problems which recur... I wanted help with the things that made my problems unique!"

The realisation that our thinking is flawed

One day, Peter was walking past his local church and saw the motto "tackle your problems one piece at a time" written on the notice board. I think this made him quite angry, so he proposed that he should have defaced the sign - adding "try systems thinking..."

The ability to make a jump in thinking

Peter also related a story about when he was a consultant at BAE when concorde was being developed, and had been tasked with "making the project work". His initial work led him to realise that there was no such thing as "project management" happening in the business ("we don't do that nonsense here"...)

Had that been me, I would have probably beaten my head against a brick wall demanding that they fix this with a project management methodology. It just seems so insane...

What did Peter do? He realised that this would not be culturally feasible, and established a way of formalising an informal communication network that already existed in the business... brilliant!

Do you know, I got so excited by the rest of the week that I never wrote more than this. I really do not want you to think that this is because I was uninspired... it was exactly the opposite. I had no mechanism to capture the excitement!

More to follow (quickly) with Werner Ulrich, a man who is so clever that he regularly frustrates himself with his lack of ability to express himself accurately enough!

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