Saturday, January 17, 2009

News from Triarchy Press

Michael Thompson has been on BBC Radio 4 and talking at the James Martin Institute, the London School of Economics and the RSA about Cultural Theory and its application to the Credit Crunch, Climate Change and other matters of moment. If you want to know more, his new book 'Organising and Disorganising' is available from Triarchy. Or learn more about him.

Andrew Carey's book on the recent innovation project at The Economist magazine is part corporate anthropology and part management guide. One reviewer remonstrated that he had to have an encyclopaedia open whilst reading it. We hope that's better than dumbing down. You can read parts of 'Inside project Red Stripe' online or order it from us at

Edward Lloyd-Jones warned us that another scandal like that of Victoria Climbie was bound to happen soon in England because of recent developments in the children's justice system. Days after publication of his pamphlet, news came of the Baby P tragedy. 'The Forward March of Children's Justice Halted' explains what's gone wrong. Read more at

Edward drew extensively on John Seddon's 'Systems Thinking in the Public Sector' - a diatribe against government attempts to fix the public sector with targets and 'deliverology'. If you haven't seen it, get hold of a copy from us [or your favourite bookshop]. It's an exhilarating read.

And, finally, Cambridge Strategy (a Triarchy Imprint) has new self-assessment audits in the pipeline for next year, but I thoroughly recommend using their existing audits to see how well your organisation handles The Shadow Side, Innovation, Leadership, Customer Satisfaction and Training & Development. See all the audits.

Beyond Bourke - scenes from forty years ago

In a posting last year I described a trip I had made with my brother and nephew to Bourke and Enngonia. My first visit since 1956. Here are some images from the first trip.
The W. Ross Ashby Digital Archive

Recent message: ‘it is with great pleasure that we can now officially announce that The W. Ross Ashby Digital Archive is available at We would be delighted if you would take the time to have a look at the digital archive web site, and where appropriate, help to spread awareness of its availability, by mentioning it and linking to it in any mailing lists, newsletters, or web sites that you are involved in.

Heathrow decision - hypocrisy in action

The decision just made by the UK Labour Government to proceed with expansion of Heathrow Airport exemplifies the well known phenomenon in political life of not 'walking the talk'. Or, put another way, it demonstrates the common mismatch between what people espouse and what they do (as explained by Chris Argyris and Donald Shön). The Labour Government has done much, perhaps more than most governments, to espouse policies relating to sustainable development and to climate change mitigation and adaptation. This descison however higlights the extent of the mismatch between espousing and acting - it thus holds itself open to the charge of systematic and entrenched 'greenwashing'.

There is nothing moral, intelligent, courageous, ethical or wise about this decision. I hope that the decision is never enacted - whether by change of government, dissent within the Labour Party or civil, non-violent, protest.
Are the carbon and energy footprints catching up with the networked world?

I was interested to see (at last!) that my friend John Naughton has picked up on issues relating to the carbon footprint of the networked world - or at least that part of it generated by the act of 'Googling'. I would agree with him that this is an issue for which the time has come - I too expect it to run and run during 2009 ... as I hope will all attempts to understand carbon and energy dynamics in whole - of - system analyses associated with any innovation or decision.

This does not seem to have been the case with recent Environmental Impact assessments of the planned desalination plant for Melbourne.
The Rudd Government response to climate change: GetUp sums up the situation pretty well

My email from GetUp said:

'We need to act fast. Hidden in the fine print of Prime Minister Rudd's woefully inadequate 5% climate target announcement on Monday was over $130 million for an 'information campaign' to sell us his sparse climate package. Doesn't it remind you of the kind of climate policy John Howard would have announced?

So we're planning to make waves this Summer by landing the first blow during the Boxing Day cricket Test.

The Boxing Day Test is the biggest TV event of the season, and our team has been working day and night to get our own climate ad ready for it. Watch it now and help us raise the urgent resources we need to get our ad on the air as families around the nation tune in [to]:

GetUp's Spot The Difference campaign!

Kevin Rudd made climate change one of his major points of difference during the election, and was elected on a promise of real climate action. Yet, as John Howard's former Chief of Staff Grahame Morris said "he's not too far away from where Howard would have ended up".

We know it feels like the fight is over for the year - but it's not. The Government has teams of pollsters monitoring public reaction to Monday's announcement. They're hoping, as it's Christmas, people will tune into the cricket and turn off. We need to respond now to show them strong climate action is non-negotiable.'

I hope the adds made some difference. I am off to see my Federal member about the matter.
The trap. What happened to our dream of freedom?

In 2007 I posted a blog about the series of three programs written, directed and filmed by Adam Curtis under this title. If you have not seen them they are worth watching - now accessible on Martin Flanagan's web site (originally aired on the BBC in March 2007, you can now watch the programmes via Google Video).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Systemic understandings, policies and practices could avoid the tragedies of Gaza and Sri Lanka

It is to be hoped that under the new US administration governance and international relations possibilties based on systemic analysis and understandings will be developed and deployed. Two good examples of what I mean appeared in the media during the week.

The first was entitled: 'Why the conflicts in Gaza and Sri Lanka will continue' by Damien Kingsbury of Deakin University.

The other was published posthumously. Unlike Damien Kingsbury the journlist and editor of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunga, who was killed last week, did not live in a state where freedom of speech and protection of life are guaranteed. In fact all the evidence suggests he was the victim of state-based terrorism.

I have been disheartened by the response of the Australian Government in relation to both Gaza and Sri Lanka - the statements seem more attuned to Bush-Howard era doctrine than they do to any renaissance positioning that may, hopefuly will, come to pass. As on many issues of recent times I find the analysis of former PM, Malcolm Fraser, more systemic than most.
State of the Environment Report - Victoria

Dr Ian McPhail and his staff are to be commended on their excellent State of the Environment Report. I only wish it were moving and shaking policy quicker than seems to be the case. Taking the recommendations in this report on board as quickly as possible seems more urgent than ever given recent headlines such as: Victoria, the dirty state, shamed by emissions scorecard'.

As outlined by Ian:

'In December I released the first Victorian State of The Environment Report...... The material presented in the report will be useful as a resource for environmental educators, and for students.

The Report is a 'stocktake' of Victoria's environment and covers a broad range of contemporary issues including climate change, materials & waste, energy, water and biodiversity. Indicators of environmental health are presented in the context of the drivers of change and direct pressures on the environment. The consequences of the condition of the environment are considered in the context of contemporary economics and government decision making. Current management responses to the issues are described and recommendations for improving Victoria’s environment are made. Under legislation, the Victorian government is required to respond to the recommendations within 12 months. The report received excellent feedback from commentators, academics and environmental NGO's, including this editorial in The Age.'

In addition to the main report, a SUMMARY and a series of FACT SHEETS are also available. In addition to the online resources available at Ian advises that he is ' more than happy to provide presentations to post-graduate seminars, professional development sessions on the structure, content and purposes of the report, delivered by a member of my office. In addition, and subject to the availability of staff, the office may be able to deliver guest lectures to students as part of their course'.


The report is published in five main parts, each available from the website.

• Part 1, Introduction, provides an overview of the content, introduces some key concepts, and describes roles and responsibilities for managing Victoria’s environment.
• Part 2, Driving Forces, considers some of the main drivers that influence environmental change.
• Part 3, Production, Consumption and Waste investigates our consumption patterns and identifies how our use of resources acts as a direct pressure on the environment by examining our use and management of energy, water and materials.
• Part 4, the State of the Environment, presents the current state of the natural environment in four chapters, Atmosphere, Land and Biodiversity, Inland Waters, and Coasts, Estuaries & the Sea.
• Part 5, Living Well Within Our Environment, considers the complex interactions between issues covered throughout the report and presents some recommendations for future action by government and the community.

The Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability is situated at Level 16, Marland House, 570 Bourke St, Melbourne, Vic 3000.

The media reporting on this report has been excellent but too often journalists seem to lack any critical or systemic appreciation of the arguments leading to simplistic spin on the part of ministers and advisers being reported. This is particularly the case on matters pertaining to per capita performance and gross performance. Per capta gains mean little if gross demand or output, of say carbon, continues to grow via population growth, housing expansion etc or in the case of Victoria, there is a failure to move away as quickly as possible from the main carbon pollutant, brown coal.

Back from Blogger leave!

December in this part of the world was one of the coldest for some time. It was also the first time we had been camping in years! Courtesy of friends David and Meredith we had three nights at Wilson's Promontory National Park (Tidal River camping ground in the lee of Mt Oberon). This is the most southerly point on the Australian mainland ...and it felt like it. A beautful spot but good at delivering four seasons every hour! The Rosellas, Superb Blue Wrens and wombats were a particular delight.

Despite some recent rain and the scuddy showers whilst we were there few if any of the streams in the park were flowing and the tree ferns were really stressed. So these ecosystems are still very short of water. Water supplies for Melbourne are still critical with a major campaign being run by the Victorian Government to reduce per capita water consumption to 155 litres per day.

The cool period lasted into the first week of January which we spent at Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne. A great spot.