Category Archives: Presentations

The Double Challenge: working through the tension between meaning and motivation

by Philip Boxer
This was a presentation and a paper given at a 2008 ISPSO Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

An enterprise is made up of a number of systems of practice within which its work is organized, whether the enterprise is public or private, virtual or not, or for profit or not. Such an enterprise faces a double challenge in the way it elaborates its systems of practice: this challenge places it between what it knows how to do, and the demands made on it by turbulent environments[1] that take it beyond what it knows. A case study of a large system, the US wildland fire service, is used to exemplify these ideas, and the implications for considering the kinds of leadership that are needed to meet this challenge. Motivation is defined as that which emerges where there are gaps in the ability of the enterprise to do what it needs to survive and prosper, that is gaps in its systems of practice. These gaps are understood as ‘driving’ the enterprise[2], and show themselves as dilemmas that are symptomatic of these gaps. The double challenge presented by these dilemmas are relate to vertical and horizontal kinds of leadership[3]. This double challenge provides a way of understanding both the competitive pressures on the organization, and the way the individual experiences those pressures. And it is the horizontal axis and the relationship of the person in an edge role to authorization that makes the difference. We can summarize this difference in terms of different approaches to leadership. In “Bipartite Leadership” we have leadership organized around the vertical “authority” axis. This leadership involves both the leaders at the top of the organization, and those working within the organization, whether its professionals or its organized labor. The leadership comes from the way the tension between these two perspectives are held (‘1’ and ‘2’ below).[4]
It is a tension because while the ‘top’ must concern itself with the direction of the organization as a whole, it is the professionals/unions who are dealing ‘bottom-up’ with the impossibilities embedded amongst the organization’s systems of practice. When we introduce the horizontal “authorization” axis however, we introduce “Tripartite Leadership”. This is the ‘edge-driven’ axis presenting the interests of customers that the organization is seeking to respond to individually within the context of their lives, for example doctors’ patients, or service engineers’ clients (‘3’ below).

In the case, those representing the interests of the horizontal axis were the incident commanders who had the job of mitigating the risks of wildland fires that had become too big to contain locally. The need for tripartite leadership will only arise of necessity in facing turbulence in the environment, and it introduces a new tension with both ends of the bipartite leadership. Used positively, these new tensions can generate demand for change[5], but used negatively they marginalize those in edge roles while insulating the organization itself from the need to change.[6] The different kinds of anxiety created by working on these different axes helps us understand the different kinds of
leadership needed in response.

[1] Emery, F.E. and Trist, E.L. (1965) “The causal texture of organizational environments”, Human Relations, Vol 18, pp21-32
[2] Lacan, Jacques (1964) Le séminaire, Livre XI: Les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse. French: (texte établi par Jacques-Alain Miller), Paris: Seuil, 1973. English: Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (edited by Jacques-Alain Miller), New York: Norton, 1978
[3] Armstrong, D. (2007) “The Dynamics of Lateral Relations in Changing Organizations Worlds”, Organisational & Social Dynamics 7(2) 193-210.
[4] The format of the dilemma is explained in the blog on dilemmas as drivers of change.
[5] Beer, Eisenstat and Spector – “Why change programs don’t produce change” Harvard Business Review Nov-Dec 1990
[6] Boxer, P. (2004) “Facing Facts: what’s the good of change”, Socio-Analysis, 6:44

Systems of Systems Engineering and the Pragmatics of Demand

Title: Systems of Systems Engineering and the Pragmatics of Demand
Authors: Boxer, P., Cohen, B. Anderson, W. & Morris, E.
Category: Published
Where published: IEEE 2008 International Systems Conference, Montreal

This presentation will illustrate how demands that are placed upon complex, open, systems of systems can be described within their contexts of use and how variations in compositional approaches can be related to variations in these demands.
Traditional systems engineering makes the simplifying assumption that the systems are closed – immune from disturbances (demands) that are not anticipated by the engineering process. These systems manifest capabilities that are specified during system design. However, complex systems of systems frequently violate this assumption and indeed are conceived to react to unanticipated demands. Such systems of systems are open – subject to demands for which traditional engineering processes cannot fully account and are able to compose capabilities at or near run time. Examples are systems of systems that have to support responding to emergencies, such as forest fires or asymmetric threats, such as in “power to the edge”.
We suggest that a new engineering approach is needed that enables collaborative composition by specifying or restricting systems of systems behavior at the time of use rather than at design time. To achieve this we at least need:
• Appropriate component models
• Use and context-focused composition strategies
• Ways to characterize demand
• Tools to facilitate composition
One problem with this engineering approach is how to determine the range of composition strategies that can provide the necessary agility to respond to future, unspecified demands. One barrier to predicting this range is that the context in which a capability is used directly affects the way users want the capability delivered. The articulation of a user’s demands in the form of their organization, constituting their pragmatics of use, which can be modeled. i.e. the user cannot know his or her needs directly, but rather can know them indirectly through his or her experience of their organisation in the form of demands.
What we propose is a process for describing demands within their contexts of use, and how variations in compositional approaches can be related to variations in these demands-in-context (pragmatics), thus giving a basis from which to evaluate the ability of systems of systems to respond to such variations, thus evaluating their agility.

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Complex Systems of Systems: The Double Challenge

Title: Complex Systems of Systems: The Double Challenge
Authors: Boxer, P. Brownsword, L. & Morris, E.
Where published: 10th NDIA Systems Engineering Conference, San Diego

Many approaches to engineering complex systems of systems address the problem from the perspective of those who must build and operate systems of systems (SoS) and their constituent parts. For example, the SOSI model defines three layers of interoperability:
• Constructive interoperability: technologies that create and maintain interoperable systems.
• Programmatic interoperability: activities related to the management of one program in the context of other programs.
• Operational interoperability: activities related to the use of an SoS within the operational context of multiple uses and users.
Implicit in the SOSI model is the challenge of developing governance mechanisms to address all three layers of interoperability.
The DoD simultaneously faces the challenge of enabling SoS to be responsive to ever-changing demands, of different character, placed on them in peace and war. This need for agility has led to strategies emerging for moving ‘power to the edge’ of the enterprise.
The SEI approaches these challenges from the perspective of the enterprise, shifting the primary emphasis from the engineering of SoS to the governance of the enterprise, a crucial part of which is still the engineering of SoS. To succeed, we must define governance frameworks that can address the three layers of interoperability, while simultaneously achieving requisite levels of agility that enable the enterprise to respond to increasingly asymmetric demands. The intersection of these challenges is critical: how can we create governance frameworks that are sufficiently agile for the demand environments with which we must align?
This presentation describes how this dual challenge can be used to frame our understanding of SoS problems using examples such as the Scud missiles and the ongoing NATO AWACS upgrade effort, including a summary of the use of the Projective Analysis technique to model systems, organizations, and the demand environment.

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A Double Challenge in Software Requirements Management

Title: A Double Challenge in Software Requirements Management
Authors: Boxer, P. Brownsword, L. & Smith, D.
Collaborating across boundaries to provide flexible responses to changing situations means anticipating potential component systems and the granularity of their functionality, building them to support more expressiveness to enable semantic interoperability, and building on what is already available by stratifying multiple tiers.
This means anticipating the unanticipated by conceiving of potential variety of future scenarios of need, focusing on the corresponding variety of operational needs of users within their effects environments, and focusing on “composable capability” that avoids over-constraining capabilities and requirements.

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Achieving Agility in Cyberspace

Title: Achieving Agility in Cyberspace
Authors: Boxer, P. Morris, E., Anderson, W.
Where published: 10th NDIA Systems Engineering Conference Proceedings

In response to the growing capabilities of potential adversaries, the U.S. Air Force is chartering USAF Cyber Command, with the intent of achieving full operational capability in 2009. Cyber Command will face several unique challenges, including:
1. Dissolution of traditional boundaries, requiring cyber command to work effectively and quickly with organizations outside of military boundaries.
2. Fluidity of cyber environments, so that the point of contact between U.S. and adversarial forces rapidly and continuously changes at cyberspace speeds.
Ultimately, the goal of both U.S. and adversarial forces is to achieve asymmetric advantage between what they present as a challenge to the opposition force and what the opposition force expects. The key to fighting in cyberspace will be the ability to rapidly adapt to defensive imperatives and offensive opportunities within these cyber environments. These environments will present unique challenges and demand particular and context-specific responses orchestrated and composed across systems of systems. Put another way, the key for cyberspace warfighters is agility in both identifying and selecting appropriate technologies and organizational structures, and then deploying them in the particular ways demanded to achieve desired effects.
This presentation will discuss the forms of governance needed by Cyber Command to achieve three forms of agility:
(i) operating within Cyber Command to achieve optimal use of its resources,
(ii) coordinating relationships with identified partners to meet anticipated forms of threat, and
(iii) enabling Cyber Command to adapt and take advantage of rapidly emerging threats and opportunities in unanticipated situations.
The key to these lies is in achieving the third form of agility, which involves generating situationally-specific understanding of threats as well as being able to command the requisite responses for each particular situation. The presentation will discuss the governance principles crucial to enabling Cyber Command achieve agility of the third kind.

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Taking power to the edge of the organisation: role as praxis

Title: Taking power to the edge of the organisation: role as praxis
Author: P.J. Boxer & C.A. Eigen
Category: Presentation
Publication Year: 2005
Where Published: ISPSO Symposium, Baltimore

In their book on the revolution taking place in military affairs, Alberts and Hayes provide an excellent critique of the 20th century industrial organisation and outline the main characteristics of the 21st century organisation. The transformational challenge of our time is to take power to the edge of an organisation. The ‘edge’ is where demand meets the organisation: leadership power needs to be at the edge because it is there that decisions must be made about how to respond to the particular form the demand takes. This is in contrast to holding power at the centre which is the traditional form of hierarchical organisation post WWII. Power held at the centre requires leadership to maintain the cohesion of the organisation as a whole and keep its members motivated to carry out their expected roles. Power taken to the edge requires leadership to be distributed. This implies a different relationship to role in which the authority of a role arises primarily through its relation to demand, rather than by virtue of position in a hierarchy.
The different relationship to role creates new challenges for the person- in-role. It is necessary to deal with the anxiety associated with their personal relationship to the role, as well as the systemic anxiety evoked when new forms of demand call into question the very formation of the role itself. A different form of role consultation is needed that can support this re-forming of role as a praxis. The traditional approach to organisational role analysis works with the differences between the fly-on-the-wall’s (phenomenological) view of what-is-going-on, the (normative) hierarchical view of what ought to be going on, and the role occupant’s (existential) view of what is felt to be going on. The transformational challenge requires the occupant of a role to re-form it in terms of a praxis in which the role emerges from its particular relation to demand. This adds a fourth (referential) view of what is going on in relation to the way the demand itself is constructed independently of the way in which the organization attempts to satisfy it. The challenge this creates can be appreciated if we characterize the person in role as a self-employed employee.
This presentation describes how we used role-as-praxis to enable individuals within an organisation to develop a different relationship to their roles based on their ability to make common cause with other individuals in order to meet new forms of demand. This systemic approach to understanding the formation of their role provides them with the means to manage anxiety through transformational change, and also to change the way they understand the organisation itself. Our presentation will combine theoretical exposition with case vignettes, and conclude by drawing out the parallels between the learning rooted in the WWII experience which brought the Tavistock thinking to the notice of its public, and the learning that is now arising from the war on terror that requires new forms of response to asymmetric threats.

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Triply Articulated Modelling of the Anticipatory Enterprise

Title: Triply Articulated Modelling of the Anticipatory Enterprise
Author: Boxer, P.J. & Cohen, B.
Publication Year: 2004
Where Published: International Conference on Complex Systems, Boston.

People expect the behaviours of large, complex systems of systems to be embedded in their personal contexts-of-use. But suppliers of such systems often persuade their users to settle for something less than their particular needs because that something is better than nothing. Digitisation is turning this whole approach to designing complex systems of systems inside out. New approaches are required to understanding the nature of these complex systems which address risk, meaning and composition in ways that place the user of such systems at the centre of their formation instead of at their periphery. This paper outlines such an approach and the demands it places on the processes of collaborative composition.

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The Architecture of Quality – issues when clients can’t evaluate your work

Title: The Architecture of Quality – issues when clients can’t evaluate your work
Author: Boxer, P.J.
Publication Year: 1998
Where Published: Forum on developing the Top Consultant, Richmond Group of IMC, June

This presentation describes an intervention within an organization providing residential care for men and women with mental health disabilities. The intervention was concerned with supporting changes in the way the quality of the work of the organization affected the lives of its residents. Three themes emerged from this work which are explored in the paper: firstly, the question of how the consultant’s practice meets the challenge of the case; secondly, the nature and complexity of the client system and its context; and thirdly, the question of the ethic of the consultant’s own relation to his or her practice.

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