Welcome to VUCA
Well, that was an interesting week. In the spirit of her interest in the concepts of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), Jean Boulton wasn’t able to get to us for our session on Thursday, so we had to respond by spontaneously improvising an alternative session.
Get your Wellies
The inspiration for what we should discuss came to me whilst I was watering the beds at my allotment on Wednesday evening. The obvious system for us to start unpicking and understanding the allootments my plot is part of. As we’re being anonymous here, let’s make up a name and call them Rabbit Hill Allotments.
What’s the Purpose of an Allotment?
We spent Thursday’s session returning to our favourite topic of trying to understand “purpose”. We came up with 2 possible “18 Word Statements”. They are:
“An allotment is a plot of land made available for individual, non-commercial gardening or growing food plants.” (from Wikipedia).
“Community (council) owned accessible and fertile outside space for the growing of produce by those interested in doing so.”
A Path Through the Allotments
They probably need more work, and we will do that. We’ve decided we will spend the coming weeks discussing the allotments. Initially, we will gain an understanding of the Rabbit Hill Allotments as a system, and then move onto a case study looking at the situation that existed a few years ago in Anonymous Land when there was an acute shortage of allotment’s and waiting lists were bursting at the seams, resulting in much dissatisfaction and considerable coverage of the situation in the local press. A wicked problem. We’ll look at the problem and use systems approaches, probably SSM, to pull it apart and work out a solution. Let’s see if we come up with the same solution the council did.
Welcome to Context Diagrams
Before we do that though, we’ll spend a couple of weeks further understanding the Rabbit Hill Allotments as a system and next week will draft a “Context Diagram” to understand the system boundary, stakeholders and inputs and outputs. So, this week’s homework is to read Stuart Burge’s excellent paper on creating a Context Diagram, a copy of which is linked here. Do have a go at drafting a diagram yourself in advance.
Something to think about is from what perspective we’re building the diagram and viewing the allotments, even in terms of the “purpose”. I suggest we take the perspective of an allotment holder, as it’s probably closest to most of our experience, or ability to imagine. I’ve not drawn a context diagram before, so don’t know how much it matters whether we take a certain perspective, or try to be objective in our view of the system. I suppose it will make a difference to where we draw the boundary, but let’s find out!
I think we may return to purpose and more specifically defining the sub purposes, or functions of the allotments the week after as I think we’ve more work to do on that. Here are some “functions” I’ve just noted down:
Ground for growing
Access to Site
Access to individual allotments
Collection of rents
Allocating of allotments
Management of allotments
Supports social interaction
I don’t know whether they are necessarily all “functions” as some could be “means of delivering functions”, but we can discuss that and come up with a tight set of system functions.
Think back to Stuart Burge’s example of a toaster here and how he set out the functions / sub-purposes and then looked at different ways for delivering them.
I wish you an excellent weekend. Looking out of the window here, I can see it’s started to rain. That’s very good news for me and my allotment. I can have an evening off watering duties! What a wonderful start to the weekend, for me at least.