Replying to LO27229 --
Dear At & Organlearners,
At, you wrote:
>In Systems Thinking (ST) we do most creatively a curious thing with
>LEM right from the beginning of our thinking. We define the system SY
>so as to know either what belongs to the SY or what is outside the SY.
>Since we have invoked LEM so soon, we must take extreme caution
>not to let our ST degenerate into Fundamentalistic Thinking (FT). A sure
>sign of such FT is when we think much about the system SY itself, but
>very little about the outside world which the SY is interacting with.
This set me to thinking about some musings I had a while ago about 'group
boundaries'. People often talk about groups (or systems) having 'strong'
or 'weak' boundaries. But the notion of boundary is surely problematical
in a human system. After all, we are not referring to physical boundaries,
are we? My thinking led me to the following model, crude perhaps but it
works for me.
Suppose that there are N people in the system. Suppose further that any
given person [we might put this in mathematical notation as N(i)] has the
current capacity for a specific number of relationships or connections [I
think of this value as V(i) - the valence of an individual; the number of
other people they are able to link with].
This valence is not fixed: it will differ for every person in the system
and it will vary for individuals over time.
But at any given time the group can make a finite number of connections,
the sum of the individual valences of its members [Sum(1:N) V(i)]. The
larger the proportion of these connections which are made within the
system, the stronger its boundaries and vice versa.
It seems to me that systems (organisations) in need of change tend to have
comparatively few connections outside themselves; they have developed
strong boundaries and are relatively impervious to changes in their
environment, whether physical, intellectual, social or ethical. As a
result they have become unadaptive.
This would indicate that a principal role for the consultant is to help
provide new connections and perhaps to act as a bridge or conductor to
enable people in the organisation to make more 'external' connections.
This could be done by either helping people to drop some internal
connections and add external ones or (perhaps better) by helping them to
develop their capacity for making connections (to increase their valence)
by personal and group development activities.
It is also possible to find organisations with boundaries which are too
weak - some public service organisations seem like this - and they may
need help with strengthening their internal connectivity (although my
sense is that they tend to compensate for weak overall boundaries by
creating a number of tightly-bounded subsystems).
Just a thought...
New Paradigm Consulting
Organisation Consultancy & Development
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+44 (0)1692 650 706
Richard Seel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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