Advertisement

Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 23–37 | Cite as

Systems Thinking and Higher Education: The Vanguard Method

  • John Dunnion
  • Brendan O’DonovanEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Reforms to the higher education sector in the UK are only increasing competitive pressures between institutions. Universities are therefore looking to gain competitive advantage over their rivals both in terms of student experience and through administrative efficiency. This paper will present an alternative view of how to transform the way that the higher education system delivers service to students in an environment where ‘student choice’ will be viewed as of paramount importance. The paper will argue that the prevailing ‘command and control’ (Seddon 2003) management logic, which can be found at work throughout both the public and private sectors, is the primary cause of inferior, expensive service. As an alternative, this paper will explore the benefits of working in a systems thinking way, whilst comparing and contrasting this with the flawed thinking which currently prevails. The Vanguard Method (Seddon 2008) is one particular form of systems thinking which has been developed for use in service organisations (Jackson et al. 2008) and which has been applied to many public sector organisations (ODPM 2005; Middleton 2010; Zokaei et al. 2010). Using a case study methodology (Yin 2009), this paper will address what has been learnt by applying the Vanguard Method in an HEI environment for the first time.

Keywords

Higher education Systems thinking Vanguard Method Seddon Flow Failure demand 

References

  1. Argyris C (1999) On organisational learning. Blackwell Publishing, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Argyris C, Schön D (1974) Theory in practice: increasing professional effectiveness. Jossey-Bass, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  3. Browne J (2010) Securing a sustainable future for higher education: an independent review of higher education and student finance. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/hereview.independent.gov.uk/hereview/report/. Accessed 27 Nov 2012
  4. Chin R, Benne KD (1969) General strategies for effecting changes in human systems. In: Bennis WG, Benne KD, Chin R (eds) The planning of change, 2nd edn. Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Deming WE (1982) Out of the crisis. MIT Press, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  6. Jackson M, Johnston N, Seddon J (2008) Evaluating systems thinking in housing. J Oper Res Soc 59:186–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Middleton P (ed) (2010) Delivering public services that work (vol 1): systems thinking in the public sector—case studies. Triarchy Press, AxminsterGoogle Scholar
  8. O’Donovan B (2012) Editorial for special issue of SPAR: the vanguard method in a systems thinking context. Syst Pract Action Res. doi: 10.1007/s11213-012-9247-7 Google Scholar
  9. Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) (2005) A systematic approach to service improvement evaluating systems thinking in housing. ODPM Publications, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Ohno T (1988) Toyota production system. Productivity Press, Portland. Translated from Japanese original, first published 1978Google Scholar
  11. Radnor Z, Bucci G (2011) Analysis of lean implementation in UK business schools and universities. AtoZ Business Consultancy for the Association of Business Schools, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Seddon J (2003) Freedom from command and control: a better way to make the work work. Vanguard Education Ltd., BuckinghamGoogle Scholar
  13. Seddon J (2008) Systems thinking in the public sector. Triarchy Press, AxminsterGoogle Scholar
  14. Seddon J, Caulkin S (2007) Systems thinking, lean production and action learning. Action Learn Res Pract 4(1):9–24 (Special Issue: ‘Lean Thinking and Action Learning')Google Scholar
  15. Seddon J, O’Donovan B, Zokaei K (2011) Rethinking lean service. In: Macintyre M, Parry G, Angelis J (eds) Service design and delivery. Service science: research and innovations in the service economy. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Senge P (2006) The fifth discipline. Random House Business Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Yin RK (2009) Case study research: design and methods, 4th edn. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Zokaei Z, Elias S, O’Donovan B, Samuel D, Evans B, Goodfellow J (2010) Lean and systems thinking in the public sector in wales. Lean Enterprise Research Centre report for the Wales Audit Office, Cardiff University, CardiffGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vanguard ConsultingBuckinghamUK

Personalised recommendations