Tag Archives: reflexivity

2019 Complexity and Management Conference 17-19th May

stamp_hannah_arendt-2The 2019 Complexity and Management Conference booking page is now open and can be accessed here.

The title of this year’s conference is: What does it mean to be critical? – complexity, reflexivity and doubt in everyday organisational life.

On Saturday morning we are delighted to have Professor André Spicer from the Cass Business School, City, University of London to give the keynote on Saturday morning. André holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne. He has held visiting appointments at universities around the world. André is the author of many academic articles and nine books. The most recent are ‘Business Bullshit’, ’The Stupidity Paradox’ and ‘Desperately Seeking Self Improvement’.

On Saturday afternoon we ask conference delegates to suggest workshops that they themselves would like to run consonant with the theme of the conference, so if you would like to suggest something, then do let me know.

As usual, the event will be highly participative and will offer lots of opportunities for discussion and exploration of the key themes with other delegates. The conference begins with an inaugural dinner on Friday evening 17th May, and ends after lunch on 19th May. The conference fee includes onsite board and lodging for the duration of the conference. Early bird rates apply before 1st April 2019.

As with previous years we are also offering a one day introductory workshop on some of the key ideas informing the perspective of complex responsive processes on Friday 17th May.

Hope to see you there.

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What does it mean to be critical? – complexity, reflexivity and doubt in everyday organisational life.

Complexity and Management Conference – 17th– 19th May 2019, Roffey Park Institute.

One of the difficulties of thinking, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, is that it tends to unravel things. Next year’s conference will address a theme which has come up again and again in previous conferences, the degree to which questioning, particularly of our own assumptions and value positions, can unsettle. It’s not always easy to question what’s going on, particularly in organisations which encourage us to align and be positive, but what are the ethical consequences of not doing so?

In a recent piece of research carried out for LFHE/Advance HE, we discovered that senior managers in Higher Education establishments may feel conflicted about some of the change projects they are responsible for. Keen to do a good job on the one hand, on the other they may also entertain doubts about the long-term effects of the changes they are implementing. One requirement of surviving in an environment which values change, then, may be the ability to entertain doubt and uncertainty, and to find ways of critically reflecting with others.

Equally, consultants trying to navigate the crowded field of concepts and management fads may find themselves working for clients who seem to be asking for support which the consultant doubts will be helpful – what does it mean to be a critically reflective and reflexive consultant, and what are the ethical implications?

We are delighted to have Professor André Spicer from the Cass Business School, City, University of London to give the keynote on Saturday morning, and help us think these things through.  Originally from New Zealand, André holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne. He has held visiting appointments at universities around the world.

André is the author of many academic articles and nine books. The most recent are ‘Business Bullshit’, ’The Stupidity Paradox’ and ‘Desperately Seeking Self Improvement’ He has worked with a range of organisations including Barclays, TFL, Old Mutual, the City of London, the House of Commons, IBM and CAA. He frequently appears in the international media and writes regularly about work and organisations for The Guardian. He is currently working on a book about skepticism and doubt.

On Saturday afternoon we ask conference delegates to suggest workshops that they themselves would like to run consonant with the theme of the conference.

As usual the conference booking page will go live on the university website early in the New Year. The fee for the conference covers all board and lodging from the inaugural dinner on Friday night 17th May, through to lunch on Sunday when the conference finishes.

In addition we will offer the usual one day introduction to the basic concepts of complex responsive processes of relating on Friday 17th.

 

Leadership development in a fragile state

My colleague Nick Sarra and I were asked to work with some practicing managers and leaders in what is usually described as a ‘fragile state’ in Africa. The country has been plunged into conflict for decades, and this has had a profound effect on social relations and the ability to get things done. Conflict still breaks out sporadically, making parts of the country off-limits,  potentially reactivating the tensions which still exist between groups living elsewhere in the country, especially in the capital. The government struggles to provide basic services, so the country is dominated by international aid agencies, development organisations and the representatives of international governments who each have their own sets of policies, procedures and priorities. This becomes visible the moment one steps off the plane: the airport car park is full of 4x4s, each sporting its own logo, and often there to meet, or disgorge development workers with their wrap-around shades and desert fatigues. Without the agencies this country would not be able to survive, but at the same time it feels a bit like an occupation. Continue reading

Meeting to achieve measurable outcomes

In the last post I discussed the ways in which people regulate themselves and each other in everyday life. I made the argument that without this self- and group discipline there would be no order in social life. As we have pointed out many times on this blog, après Bourdieu, Elias and Foucault,  and by drawing on analogies from the complexity sciences, power relations both enable and constrain what it is possible to do. There is, however, a general tendency in more popular management literature to suggest that somehow we can do away with or ‘transform’ power relations by being nice to each other, or by being appreciative, or by being open and transparent, or authentic. These perspectives convey the implicit idea that power is somehow unpleasant or illicit. But this is to cover over or even to miss the productive nature of power. Power produces a regimen of resistance and compliance, the exact patterning of which will always be unpredictable, but is likely to give rise to both routine as well as a degree of novelty. But to ask the question about how disciplinary power operates in social life is not simply to enquire into how ‘they’ are doing something to ‘us’ but also to probe into how we are doing things to ourselves. How we try to influence each other to organise our joint undertakings can say a lot about the kinds of pressures we are under and how we aspire to being professional. Continue reading

Rethinking management – radical insights from the complexity sciences

Anyone who has enjoyed this blog may be interested in reading this book, which has just been published.

To order the book and obtain a 40% author’s discount click on this link, and follow these instructions:

Add the book to your basket by pressing the Add to Basket button.

        * Once you enter the checkout stage you need to enter the discount code: G11FCJ40 in the box marked promotional code in the first step of the Basket

      * Press the Update Basket button and you will see the discount applied to this title in your basket.

        * Proceed through steps 2-4 to confirm your order.

Complexity and development management

In an article coming out next month (Vol 30, 2010)  in the Journal of Public  Administration and Development I responded  to an invitation to write about the future of development management from a complexity perspective. This involved forming a view as to whether there is such a thing as development management, as well as dealing with ideas about how the future arises from the present. On what basis might one predict a future for anything, and what would these predictions say about our theories of causality?

The article argues that development management borrows heavily from management ideas that prevail in other sectors, particularly but not exclusively, New Public Management. In other words, many of the concepts, assumptions, grids, frameworks and instruments of management that get taken up widely in the public sector, and in the private sector, are also widely used in development organisations. One is just as likely to find managers in development organisations talking about their ‘niche’ and their ‘brand’, undertaking strategic planning, setting ‘stretch targets’, and worrying about effectiveness and efficiency as in any other sector. There are obvious differences, but at the same time managers in development organisations are working with very similar theories, implicit or explicit, to those adopted by managers in all kinds of other organisations. Is this such a surprise if they have management qualifications from the same business schools?

Continue reading

Poetry, generalisability and method

The poet Christopher Reid has recently won the Costa Prize for literature for his collection of poem entitled The Scattering which charts the demise of his wife from the moment she received news of her terminal illness through to her dying. The poems are both tender and unblinking, witty and emotional.

In a radio interview Reid expressed his surprise that a collection of poems so personal, and so specific to the particularities of his situation and his relationship with his wife, should evoke such strong resonances with so many of his readers. Many who wrote to him mentioned the powerful experience of recognition that they had had on reading his poems despite the fact that their own experiences of death and dying will have been very different. As a successful poet this need not have surprised him, nor would it surprise anyone else who takes an interest in how patient attention to particularities may at the same time throw up general observations about human experience. Paradoxically, there are generalities in the particular, and particularities in the general. We have addressed the question of how subjectivities are formed in previous posts both in looking at the subject/object dualism as well as drawing on insights from the complexity sciences where the particular is both formed by, and is forming, the general pattern of interaction. Continue reading