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UCD-STAFFORDBEER  March 2010

UCD-STAFFORDBEER March 2010

Subject:

Re: PFI projects (Re: Best way to rob a bank is to own one)

From:

Doug McDavid <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Forum dedicated to the work of Stafford Beer <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 20 Mar 2010 06:30:16 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (331 lines)

Thanks, Roger.  Very interesting stories, so I am glad that my comment
elicited that burst of angst.

In the example arena, POSIWID would make us suspect that there is a
system whose purpose it is to create huge financial markets with high
liquidity and minimal tangible backing, for the further purpose of
creating large bonus pools for bankers.  Without passing judgment, the
VSM should help us analyze this proposed system, to see if it's really
a viable system, or the mental artifact of a spurious distinction.
I'm not saying that the analyst shouldn't pass judgment on any
cultural grounds, but that the VSM itself does not.

On your point of recursions, I agree that the vantage point and
viewing mechanism are key to making useful and important distinctions,
which can then be variously analyzed, including by the VSM, but also
other techniques.  My colleague Steve Haeckel subjects clients to
merciless grilling about the "Reason for Being" of the organization in
question.  Not what it does by the result of historic evolution, but
what it SHOULD be doing that underpins all else.  His work stems from
the Russ Ackoff school of thought, among others.

By the way, I think many people here think I'm wrong, and that VSMing
something improves it.  That VSM is a prescription for goodness of a
fundamental kind.  I think VSMing something might reveal how utterly
effectively it does something bad!



On Sat, Mar 20, 2010 at 5:53 AM, Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Well, Doug.....I wasn't really making a distinction between criminality and
> legality. except in the most trivial cases ('It is illegal to park on double
> yellow lines'). I don't really go along with such distinctions which are
> always relative to the transient fads and conventions of a given culture.
> That's in part why I wasn't a good company director (either in a dishonest
> or an honest sense).
> I was more trying to tease out a distinction between systemic and personal
> (not that such is objectively real, but is certainly an inevitable
> accompaniment of our everyday actions).
> Once more that's why I like to talk about 'an hermeneutics of distinction',
> and the responsibilities embodied in the making of distinctions as such (as
> both Maturana and Von Foerster would attest). Systems thinking just has no
> 'making sense' without a counter balance of the implications (for morality,
> for ethics. for meaning) of our making of distinctions. That's the
> importance of the system-in-focus - a distinction which tends to
> disappearance it has been made.
> So, for instance, recently I was involved in 'PFI' projects in the UK (so
> 'called ' private finance initiatives). I have never felt so ethically
> soiled apart from a brief period as a late teenager when for a variety of
> reasons I spent several weeks as a door-to seller of encyclopedia. These
> projects, purported to focus on an end-customer (such as the 'patient' or
> the 'student'), and bring together public and private funding to develop
> infrastructure. In point of fact (which is now beginning to be publicly
> acknowledged in UK)what they did is siphon huge amounts of public money from
> the public into the coffers of companies such as Microsoft, Wimpey,
> Redstone. In the specification stage of these projects, a gross sum had a
> minimal amount targeted at the 'end-customer', the rest being sliced and
> diced between the multinationals for the application of their own legacy
> systems (road building, plumbing, utilites). This was same principle as that
> of reconstruction in places such as Iraq (some would go further than William
> Black, and say that Bush, Rumsfeld et al created the war to develop the
> business opportunity for such projects to take money from the public purse
> and distribute it to private corporations with minimal protest from the
> regulatory authorities (given that these had been destroyed by the
> conflict).
> To get back to 'distinctions'. The distinction (in PFI) should have been
> something to do with (for example) 'student', with the development of
> support, boundaries, audit, all determined by 'student'. In point of fact,
> such a distinction in all the meetings I attended, was never mentioned, even
> in passing. However it permeated all public facing documentation ('the good
> of our schools' etc). The distinction in practice (leading to 'effective
> action' ) was explicitly to utilise and get revenue from legacy investment
> which otherwise might shrivel on the shelf and upset the institutional
> shareholders whose future profits depended on legacy investment outliving
> its purpose.
> I once suggested that project managemen teams for such interdepartmental and
> company projects, shouldincluded a real-time auditor whose role ran parallel
> to financial and deliverable accountability, and was explicitly focused on
> the end-user....in other words, upon an initial distinction of the point of
> need, the task of this function would be to ensure that the actual project
> stayed within the demands of the original brief in terms of the demands and
> promises entailing the end-user (S3*). None of the parties had any interest
> in this, as it would cut across the actual distinction they all had made.
> Indeed, such a function was seen as conflictual and disruptive, not because
> it detracted value from the end-user, but because it might lessen profit on
> the one hand, and political credibility on the other.
> All the parties saw a system building around the end-user as irrelevant.
> Each was driven by its own interest. And this was not a matter of unethical,
> immoral or criminal - it was just taken as normal. This conclusion was
> totally inevitable, once an initial distinction had been made in a
> particular way.
> I suppose that's why I keep trying to express the potential for a meta-level
> identity with closure from the lowest level (the human being), and why I
> keep trying to put into words that the issue is when such a 'top level'
> degenerates into some such thing as the nation, the party, the religion, the
> economy etc.
>
> And, Doug, I see the value in a model such as the VSM in this 'top/bottom'
> closure - in packing out the actual recursions of 'glocal'. I just don't see
> the VSM fulfilling its potential without grasping this nettle. I don't see
> it as sitting somewhere in the middle of such recursions. taking account of
> one system 'up' an one system 'down'.
> Anyway, there's my expression of angst for the week!
> Roger
>
> On 20 Mar 2010, at 12:49, Stefan Wasilewski wrote:
>
> Doug
> I've said here before, the VSM is a good model and that's all. It gives us
> the opportunity to find the cracks not what the strategy. I've also said
> that crime/policing is a necessary function of society in order to
> continually stress test the system. With respect to the crisis and the
> accountant's, the regulators gave the foxes the job of policing the
> hen-house!
>
> On 20 Mar 2010, at 12:33, Doug McDavid wrote:
>
> Hi Roger --
>
> In your point below you mention the relation between VSM and unethical
> behaviors, such as fraud.  It seems that we might want to go further
> in separating VSM as an analytical tool from concerns such as ethics
> in any aspect.  Partially because ethics are so much in the eye of the
> beholder, but mostly because of the demonstrable viability of
> unethical organizations.  With respect to instances of fraudulent
> financial institutions, and arguably in such cases as Al Qaeda, etc.,
> some organizations maintain a discomfiting level of apparent
> viability.
>
> Doug
>
> On Sat, Mar 20, 2010 at 4:15 AM, Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
>
> Russell,
>
> Another  point I feel vis a vis the VSM.......
>
> As Black says, this is massive and conscious fraud rather than any sort of
>
> systemic failure.
>
> And my anxiety about a naive use of tools such as VSM is to assume that
>
> 'systems' viability might have the critical mass to regulate or control such
>
> things as greed, criminality and fraud.
>
> As we all know, there are many many absolutely committed and honourable
>
> individuals taking decisions and running these institutions with the most
>
> moral intentions. However, what we saw with Bush et al (and according to
>
> Black what is continuing under Obama) is a deliberate corrupting of social
>
> institutions for personal rather than societal gain. And the scale of the
>
> vested interests is the thing that has to be addressed. This is just not
>
> about systems viability (as Black points out) but about personal gain
>
> whatever failure of the systems. And the systems viability is then viewed
>
> just as a distraction from personal interest.
>
> As a main board director at Amaze, I witnessed this dynamic all the time,
>
> without fully understanding the reasons (I was too naive to believe that
>
> people were so cynically undermining and hindering good practice). I entered
>
> my period as a director believing that people wanted systemic
>
> viability.....I ended, believing very few people are at all concerned with
>
> systemic viability,
>
> Roger
>
> On 20 Mar 2010, at 11:53, russell_c wrote:
>
> Roger,
>
> The implications for viability seem ominous -- after the earlier US Savings
>
> & Loan crisis there appeared to be some degree of auditing feedback leading
>
> to some level of accountability and consequence (system learning). If
>
> Black's perspective is accurate then this 'quality' has been lost and there
>
> appears to be a feed forward process in effect. That was my point.
>
> regards
>
> Russell
>
> On Sat, Mar 20, 2010 at 5:38 PM, Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]>
>
> wrote:
>
> Russell.......
>
> Well, I'll be interested to hear what Stefan, Trevor and others have to
>
> say. Very convincing (and ominous about the way ahead),
>
> Roger
>
> On 20 Mar 2010, at 00:34, russell_c wrote:
>
> This is worth a view imo. One very sick system.
>
> William Black, author of "Best way to rob a bank is to own one" talks
>
> about deliberate fraud on Wall St.
>
>
> http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=4937&updaterx=2010-03-19+06%3A34%3A30
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more
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>
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>
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>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more
>
> information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum Collaborative
>
> Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org METAPHORUM eList
>
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>
> Archive of CYBCOM eList available at -
>
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>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more
>
> information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum Collaborative
>
> Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org METAPHORUM eList
>
> Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html
>
> Archive of CYBCOM eList available at -
>
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>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more
>
> information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum Collaborative
>
> Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org METAPHORUM eList
>
> Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html
>
> Archive of CYBCOM eList available at -
>
> http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>
>
>
> --
>
> Doug McDavid
> [log in to unmask]
> 916-549-4600
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org
>
> For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to:
>  www.platformforchange.org
>
> METAPHORUM eList Archive available at -
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>
> Archive of CYBCOM eList available at -
> http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more
> information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum Collaborative
> Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org METAPHORUM eList
> Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html
> Archive of CYBCOM eList available at -
> http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more
> information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum Collaborative
> Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org METAPHORUM eList
> Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html
> Archive of CYBCOM eList available at -
> http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



-- 

Doug McDavid
[log in to unmask]
916-549-4600

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org

For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to:  www.platformforchange.org

METAPHORUM eList Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html

Archive of CYBCOM eList available at - http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html
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