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Penny Walker

Hi Chris,

Good timing - I was at a workshop yesterday on systems thinking and managing uncertainty, and we discussed the difficulty of helping people make room for the kinds of conversations which enable insights about uncertainty and 'the system', in organisations which have strong KPI systems and planning cycles. If you plan your year tightly in advance, you can't take account of emergence even if you can see it!


Chris Rodgers

Thanks, Penny. I'm glad that the comments in the post resonated with your own experience.

The challenge is in shifting the patterns of assumptions that managers take for granted and 'know to be true' about their ability to predict, measure and control. These are deeply embedded and reinforced by mainstream business school teaching and consultancy practice.

In general, managers are more receptive to claims that control is within their grasp - provided that they do things according to the particular formula on offer - than they are to suggestions that organizational dynamics are somewhat more complex than they have been led to believe.

As an aside, I'm intrigued that you put the phrase "the system" in single inverted commas. Does this imply that there is a question mark in your mind around the notion of organizations as systems? And around the application of systems thinking to organizational dynamics?

I would argue that what we think of as organizations are not systems but rather complex social processes of people interacting together. And these interactions are boundaryless.

Cheers, Chris

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