A critical process for the evaluation of methodology
This thesis uses Critical Systems Thinking (CST) as a basic philosophy to explore how to create a critical process for evaluating methodology. CST is different from the other two mainstreams of systems thinking (Hard Systems Thinking and Soft Systems Thinking) in terms of its emphasis on methodological pluralism, critical awareness and emancipation. The study begins with an explanation of a widely used critical systems methodology, Total Systems Intervention (TSI). TSI offers a means for evaluating other methodologies, and the original aim of the thesis was to further develop this. However, the way the research progressed resulted in a break with the basic structure of TSI. Consequently, a new methodology was produced, which can either be used independently or within TSI. This is called Participative Methodology Evaluation (PME). PME is founded on the idea that a person's understanding of a methodology is influenced by his/her social ideology. Thus, the basic concern of the evaluation of methodology needs to be how methodology-users and organisational/environmental stakeholders can examine their ideological differences through processes of critique in order to make more informed choices. In particular, three perspectives (and subperspectives) need to be explored: the ideology implicit in the methodology being evaluated; the ideological assumptions of the methodology-user (consultant, researcher or manager); and the various ideological assumptions made by organisational and environmental stakeholders. PME embraces three stages: Surfacing, Triangulation and Recommendation. Surfacing aims to expose and explore the various assumptions about, and views on, the candidate ii methodology and the organisational situation. Triangulation compares and contrasts the various perspectives, and if possible an accommodation of views is sought. Recommendation provides practical suggestions to stakeholders as to the likely effects of using the methodology being evaluated, and where appropriate highlights possible modifications and/or alternatives. Finally, a practical case study is given of PME in action. PME was used to evaluate the advisability (or otherwise) of using the Viable System Model (VSM) to restructure Tainan City Council (in Taiwan). Reflections on the case study indicate that significant insights into the likely effects of using the VSM were generated through the PME process, resulting in a fundamental rethink about how the VSM should be applied. Early indications therefore suggest that PME could be a useful tool for organisations seeking to evaluate the likely effects of a methodology prior to application.