A Systems View on Food and Agriculture to End Hunger and Poverty

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, FAO, has recently published its vision document Future of Food and Agriculture. Trends and Challenges. The document provides a fundamental and concise view of how policy makers may look at interdependencies between key factors that affect the demand and supply of agricultural and food products. And all this from the perspective of realising Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2: to end hunger and poverty. This insightful vision has several implications for policy makers, business and investors if one analyses the report one level deeper and from a system dynamics perspective. Continue reading

Fiction Books that Teach Valuable Lessons to Managers

Stories, or narratives, can teach valuable lessons to managers who have to act in times of complexity and unpredictability. These stories do not have to be descriptions of real life events, such as the story of what led to the sinking of the Titanic. Even fiction can provide these valuable insights. Here are some examples on good fiction that teach valuable human lessons to managers. Continue reading

Holacracy: How Applying Coding Models to Management Problems Creates a Mess when Proven Knowledge from Management Science is Ignored

Complex Dialogues - Vilma Machado 2016

Complex Dialogue, 2016, by Vilma Machado (c)

The article shows a sharp eye for the flaws of Holacracy, or rather of the way Holacracy as a model for designing and running businesses has been implemented. The way Holacracy is known to generate problems when applied with a wider scope than the mere team scope. Implementing management and organisational principles like holacratic principles and having to abandon those within a couple of months of years after deep conflicts were created and the effectiveness of the business was put in jeopardy is treating your staff, your stakeholders and funders as guinea pigs.

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Steering Non-Hierarchical Business Networks towards Sustainable Value Chains: the Case of Responsible Soy

Systems thinking is a versatile tool for the analysis and design of businesses operating in environments where the outcomes of actions and the results of strategic choice are highly unpredictable. This article shows how system thinking as a tool was used to address a practical question: “What do we have to do, with our stakeholders or all together, to achieve 100% responsible soy products for food, feed and other applications into and inside Europe by 2020?”. This was the leading question of a 4-day expert event realised in 2016, which convened over 30 experts from business, the public sector and civil society to find answers to the leading question. Continue reading

Green Bonds Need a Transformational Navigation Cockpit

On March the 6th, the Guildhall in London hosted Climate Bond Initiative’s Annual Climate Bond Conference. Over 600 participants representing green and climate bond issuers, investors, and underwriters discussed the current state and future of climate bonds. I participated in the event, among others as a panelist in a dialogue on defining green, which is investor shorthand for determining to what extent investments have clear and real-life environmental benefits that combat climate change. What could ‘defining green’ do for us?

Photo: Olaf Brugman, all rights reserved

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Better Dialogue and Knowledge for Better Functioning Systems

Dialogue for better societies

How can knowledge and and dialogue contribute to better functioning systems in our societies? This was the leading question I recently delivered the presentation “The Model in the Middle” at Metaphorum 2016. Better functioning systems refer to, for example, industries that develop their business models that produce responsibly, treat workers fairly, and that take a conscious and non-mutilating approach to their environmental and social environments. But they also refer to governments that create better conditions for health, education, poverty reduction, etc. And also to better functioning sales departments or marriages, for that matter. Continue reading

The best books on managing complexity in business and organizations

These are challenging times. Many companies, professionals and workers experience that the world around them is changing faster that it used to be. That clients, markets, technologies change their behaviour in unexpected directions, turning into new phenomena and pushing others — brands that we grew up with, employment conditions we were used to — to oblivion. To cope with the change, to not become obsolete as a business or as a professional, we have to be smarter and more effective in looking ahead. In knowing what new curve to jump on, to see change coming before it hits us. Continue reading