On power

When we think about systems change we can often think of a complex system in isolation from all others, and yet that’s an artificial simplification of the kind we are trying to overcome through the application of systems thinking in the first place. We can’t think about reinventing the humanitarian system without asking first some […]

On the tensions of systems change

How many of us are in professions we dreamed of when we were young? Few, I guess, not only because most opportunties remained unknown to us growing up but also because many wouldn’t have existed then, either. Opportunities tend to only reveal themselves as we work our way through life. For me, I didn’t know […]

On systems change in the third sector (part 2)

In part 1, we argued that there are clear factors that ideally position the VCSFE sector to respond to complex challenges that show up in our communities. Yet this potential isn’t fulfilled. In part 2 we explore how the sector might align its efforts in order to liberate the best it has to offer.  The […]

On systems change in the third sector (part 1)

“…If you want to understand function, study structure”  Francis Crick Despite advancements in health, technology, living standards, education and wealth, their benefits have not been evenly distributed, giving rise to the wicked social challenges that blight many people’s lives. Climate change, conflict, growing levels of inequality in health, wealth, and opportunity are challenges that are […]

On linking pay and performance (part 2)

In part one I explored the views of human nature that often underly moves to link pay and performance, even now. I suggested that individual performance is the product of the system within which people work, and that to hold individuals to account for their performance in these complex systems of work is misguided at […]

On linking pay and performance (part 1)

“If you want people motivated to do a good job, give them a good job to do” F. Herzberg⁠1 In previous articles I have explored approaches to managing performance in complex environments and offered some insights and ways forward*. These are alternatives to the industrial management complex which assumes that all staff are inherently lazy, […]

On existing at different speeds

“Civilisations with long nows look after things better. In those places you feel a very strong but flexible structure which is built to absorb shocks and in fact incorporate them.”  Brian Eno The global coronavirus pandemic is nothing if not emergent. It has shortened our time horizons and brought the here-and-now into immediate focus: respond to […]

On culture as an emergent property of a complex system

Do we really need to align our organisation around values, beliefs and purpose? This is a core question I am sitting with. It occurs to me that if everyone aligns around these you have surely just destroyed diversity and ensured homogeneity. Your internal systems won’t change or evolve because you’re moving towards a static situation. […]

On countering our anti-risk instinct

Why does the status quo prevail despite our best efforts at change? We are faced with a huge amount of content. Incoming streams of news, data, demands are sprayed at us from all angles. Things move so fast we often don’t have time to even note what’s changed before the next thing. These are tough […]

On making sense of crisis

How do we make sense of how the crisis is changing the world as we are living through it? Lots of conversations are taking place around how we track, learn from and make sense of the crisis, our response to it, and how we build bridges to a post-pandemic future. Thinking through the measures that […]

On altering states (part 5)

Bear witness to social change  Which leads us onto the second imperative, the importance of bearing witness to change. This was brought home to me by two events only a few weeks apart. First I was at a workshop the RSA US hd organised on the art of change. Changemakers from across the DC area […]