A Systemic Action Learning Cycle as the Key Element of an Ongoing Spiral of Analyses

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The Systems movement in the United Kingdom, in addressing the task of enquiry, has created a surfeit of methodologies. Each, like some closely guarded religious sect, demands adherence to its own presentational rules and procedures, its own epistemological and ontological position. Much of the secondary literature of the U.K. Systems movement focuses on examining the strengths and weaknesses of these separate approaches, devises complex decision rules for when to use which methodology, and attempts to map particular methodologies onto “appropriate” scenarios. This paper attempts to present a generalized form of the cyclic activity of investigation and action which is encompassed by many of the methodologies. It is shown that this does not require the presentation of a “lowest common denominator” activity set, which is of no value, but rather draws on the underlying power of the approaches to present a robust and defensible cycle of activities which are continuously reenacted over time. The implications of this spiral model of Action Learning are examined, both in relation to the development of existing methodologies and in relation to the issues related to managing a complex analysis project. The paper concludes by showing how individual analysis cycles merge into a never-ending learning spiral in a complex, dynamic, real-world environment.

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