Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Art of Judgement - Preface

I have been a bit lazy with my posts recently... that is ALL about to change (for a while at least!)

Back last summer, I was lucky enough to spend a week with Peter Checkland of Soft System Methodology fame, and one of his big passions (in fact, I think, one of his main inspirations in systems thinking) was the works of Geoffrey Vickers. I figure that, given Checkland is a great inspiration to me, it would be sensible to understand his fascination with Vickers.

It has taken me six months to get round to buying "The Art of Judgement" by Vickers, mostly because of the price tag.... However, I've bitten the bullet, and I'll blog about it as I read.

In the preface, Vickers gives us this great image of systems thinkers:

"Even the dogs may eat of the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table; and in these days, when the rich in knowledge eat such specialised food at such separate tables, only the dogs have a chance of a balanced diet."

I quickly got over the idea that Vickers was calling me a dog... (probably not personal!)

He wrote this in 1965. In my view of the world, the image of separate specialist tables is still valid today with just a few people sharing ideas across disciplines (here is a great TED talk explaining a paper where a group of cross discipline scientists did collaborate to attempt to better understand the scenarios facing the world following climate change).

This specialisation occurs within my company too. As financial pressure is increased, each functional department is forced to cut the least critical parts of their operation. From the worldviews of the department heads, interdepartmental collaboration tends to be identified as one of the less important functions.

This has meant that the supply chain has become very much isolated from the customer facing parts of the organisation, and finance is isolated from all parts of the organisation!

These changes are relatively recent, so it remains to be seen what the long term effects of this dynamic will be, however, I suspect that the increase in quality problems and decrease in service levels might be the first sign that the full dynamics of the organisation were not understood.

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