Select one of the organizations that you identified in Activity 1. For that organization:
(a) describe your main relationships within the organization;
I’m going to choose my band for this as I think this is likely to be the source of my project for T306.
Principally, I’m friends with the people at band. They’re not my closest friends, but I’ve known the majority of people there for quite some time now. I’m friendlier with some more than others of course, but there isn’t anyone there that I don’t like or have personality clashes with.
(b) make notes of the power structure within the organization;
There is a committee that runs the band and a musical director (MD) that conducts us. The MD does not have any power to run the band – he’s an employee – but does have the final say over what we play and our musical direction.
The “leader” of the committee is the Chairman but decisions are made by the whole committee, and any decisions that have large repercussions (such as the appointment of a new MD) are generally opened up to the whole band. The committee is appointed every year at an AGM and it’s all very democratic. The organisational structure isn’t flat – more like a flattened hierarchy, with the committee members elevated just a little bit. Other people’s perspectives are generally taken into account.
(c) describe its purpose from your perspective.
From my perspective? To provide a platform for playing and enjoying music, and to create an enjoyable social atmosphere. We are self-supporting and so need to raise money from subscriptions (we all play to pay) and from concerts, so another purpose might be to raise money in order to provide this musical platform.
I just want to play music and I enjoy going to contests. I also enjoy the social aspect, but perhaps some of the others may have different ideas about what the band is all about.
Recall a failure in your life and your reactions to it
Which one to choose? So many failures…
OK, so I’ll use something recent, something that I would term a failure, but is more a partial failure: my inability to get my first assignment in on time.
I felt immensely disappointed that I wasn’t able to find enough time to go through the block activities and that I needed a further two weeks to get it done. I’m also rather worried about the workload. I have two modules running concurrently and I’m having to cut corners on both courses in order to meet the mandated time-scales. There are only so many hours in the day and I’m finding this quite difficult to organise, but I’m still enjoying the learning experience overall.
My missed goal made me quite stressed, and this gave me some physical symptoms. Nothing serious, but I’d rather I didn’t feel so stressed about it. Some stress is good for you but I had a bit too much for a while there, and I’m anticipating some very busy periods coming up in June (when I have my M257 exam) and in September/October when my project needs to be submitted.
I did take on board some systems concepts in order to work through this problem. I had to reflect on what I wanted out of the course and modify my expectations as a result. I’d really wanted to get through all the activities and provide a strong assignment but this wasn’t possible, so I resolved to do what I could and eventually submitted a less than perfect but acceptable paper. This is something that my tutor covered in our recent tutorial – if we don’t have time to do everything we want to do then we have to reduce the output quality of our work. It’s a good pragmatic solution. I want to do better but I can only spend so many hours a week going over the material.
TMA02, I suspect, will also be less than perfect as a result. Only two weeks or so to go before I have to hand that in, and I’m only on activity 2!
What is your position regarding Information Systems?
This activity seems to be getting me to declare my perspective on Information Systems before we head into analysis the rest of the block. Well, I work with Information Systems for a living, so I guess I’m an active stakeholder in such things. I test software and this software is generally part of a larger system.
My current role is testing an application which is used to carry out complex tasks for a large NGO. It’s a government-sponsored contract and the Information System my company has created for the NGO is quite complex, involving about a dozen or so third-party applications (Oracle, .NET, that sort of thing) and a large server farm. There are terrabytes of information involved and complex financial rules. It’s a mess (in the systems thinking sense), although parts of it are well understood by various system stakeholders even though very few people can view it as a whole.
I am very comfortable working with computers and I think I have a good affinity in the general IT area. I’m weaker at certain specifics (I wouldn’t say I’m an IT expert) but I’m a geek and I like geeky things. Information Systems are constructs that I know a bit about and something that I’d like to know a lot better.
The course notes mention a whole range of IS disasters that have affected various large companies (British Gas, Scottish Power etc) and I am not at all surprised that these things happened. Maybe those planning these large ISs failed to think holistically or gave hopelessly optimistic cost/time estimations? Whatever happened, I am looking forward to learning more about ISs is general and systems thinking concepts relating to them specifically.
This activity is a short one.
What do you understand the course title to mean?
T306 is called ‘Managing Complexity: a Systems Approach’.
There are two halves to this, so it looks like I need to define “managing complexity” and “systems approach”. I’ve not yet read the course notes on this so this will be my own imagined definitions based on prior learning.
So, ‘managing complexity’ means having a situation that is complex (messy or difficult) and applying some tools to control it, to reduce unwanted effects or to increase beneficial outcomes. I imagine that I will be needing to plan a course of action that will help cope with complex situations.
The ‘systems approach’ bit means (to me, so far) that I will need to take a systemic approach. In order to manage the complexity I will need to use systems practice tools (like diagramming, action learning cycle) to understand how the system under study works as a whole (an holistic approach) and apply some new tools (that I don’t yet have) to some part (or all of) the system in order to control or manage it.
From the course notes I know that there are some project planning tools coming up and lots of new definitions. I’m not too worried about being wrong about my attempted definitions above, so I will just let these stand and look back later to enhance my reflective learning.