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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 11:29:33 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (555 lines)

Hi Trevor --

I tried to make the point about infantilism inside IBM, when they
adopted the catch phrase "On Demand".  As you can imagine, that was a
futile argument!

Doug

On Sat, Mar 20, 2010 at 10:41 AM, Trevor E Hilder <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Dear all,
> Just sat down to catch up with this very stimulating thread of
> conversation.
> Black just seems to be telling it like it is. We are witnessing Culpabliss
> on a massive scale, with most figures of authority participating.
> Roger's account of involvement in a PFI project confirms my worst suspicions
> about them. They are also an Enron-style method for the government to keep
> liabilities off the national balance sheet.
> Posiwid is the best guide to understanding what these systems are really
> for.
> Part of our problem is that we have been subjected to over thirty years of
> being bombarded with relentless messages that we are entitled to whatever we
> want, instantly, just because we want it. The classic advertising slogan
> here is "because you're worth it".
> This nonsense infantilises everybody, in order to drive more "economic
> growth". Politicians are terrified that, if they dare to challenge this,
> nobody will vote for them. This is the dilemma our Conservative Party is
> currently struggling with.
> Idries Shah's books have lots of pithy materials about this disease. When I
> next turn on a bigger computer than this iPhone, I'll see if I can find some
> short items that capture this theme.
> Regards,
> Trevor
> On 20 Mar 2010, at 16:10, russell_c <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> Roger
>
> Good case studies.
>
> The 2nd segment of the William Black interview just came through.
>
> http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=4920
>
> Doug's POSIWID: a parasitic intelligence system (growing from 5% to 40% of
> US profits <quote>). channeling wealth to the wealthy and looking
> increasingly like Suharto's Indonesian crony capitalism. [ I'm not sure the
> Obama connection is explicitly intended. ]
>
> Looks like a massive case of denial and cognitive dissonance to me.
>
> You write: "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. "
>
> Eventually this happens -- by revolution if no other way. Tea Party anyone?
>
> There is clearly another crisis on the horizon, and this next one will not
> be a virtual bank job.
>
> In terms of VSM and "seduction" -- I think the direction to look is towards
> the difference between maximising shareholder value and optimising
> stakeholder value, and how this dynamic must accommodate the emerging
> reality of 9 billion humans on a planet equipped to support about 1/7th of
> this at sustainable 'middle class' standards of living.
>
> We may be entering that time when we find the truth of the saying:
>
> Only when the last tree has died
> and the last river been poisoned
> and the last fish been caught
> will we realise we cannot eat money
>
> (Cree Indian Proverb) http://www.unitedearth.com.au/tipiwisdom.html
>
> rc
>
> On Sat, Mar 20, 2010 at 11:23 PM, Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
>>
>> I think I go along with what you say, Doug.
>>
>> And, yes, I agree that use of VSM can help understand various things in a
>> powerful way.
>>
>> I suppose my frustration is that 'outing' the insight provided does not
>> carry communicative power or seduction towards the message of the insight,
>> if you know what I mean.
>>
>> So even though I could actually talk to my colleagues about my insights,
>> and they might well respond, 'Yes, I can see how that is so', for the most
>> part they would go on to say either explicitly or by implication "But, so
>> what?'.
>>
>> And, perhaps I'm leaning towards the view that what they really meant was
>> 'That's all very well and good, Roger. But what's in it for me?'
>>
>> And my instinct is that the seductive answer to that question entails a
>> paradigm shift on their part, entails some sort of a unselfishness and
>> cooperative view point. And in practice, most people in their professional
>> workplace all the time mouth such platitudes, but at the crunch moment,
>> voting with their feet, will at the moment of action fall back into selfish
>> mode (as did the concentration camp guards).
>>
>> Now, I don't believe that this is inevitable or intrinsic to human nature.
>> In this forum, my own questioning concerns a query as to what the VSM adds
>> to the need for such seduction.
>>
>> Roger
>>
>> On 20 Mar 2010, at 14:30, Doug McDavid wrote:
>>
>>> 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
>>>>
>>>> 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
>>>>
>>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>>>>
>>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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
>>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>>>>
>>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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
>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>>>
>>
>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>> 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
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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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