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									Using POSD with VSM in the probation service

Jane Searles
April 2006


This paper is a case study describing how POSD and VSM were used,
firstly to understand government strategy for probation and then to design
and implement a new organisational structure within a single probation
area. As background to the case study, Process Oriented Systems Design
(POSD, a diagrammatic notation for modelling systems and the shared
behaviours between them) is described, along with the method used to
deploy POSD and its IT tooling. The paper indicates the fit of POSD with
systems dynamics and process flow modelling and shows how it
complements a VSM based design approach [1].

What is POSD?
Process Oriented Systems Design (POSD) was developed as an analysis and design
notation and method in the early 1990s by Graham Pratten, whilst he was working for
ICL. He states on his website [2] :

“Many design notations allow systems to be represented as compositions of interacting
components. The components are in their turn represented as compositions of more
primitive components. This process of design decomposition may proceed through
many levels. Such notations thus allow systems and their components to be represented
as very complex compositions of components.

However these design notations often restrict the interactions between components to be
relatively primitive, for instance message passing or document flow. Thus designers are
constrained to represent their systems as complex components connected by primitive
interaction mechanisms. This abstraction mismatch (between the complex
representation of components and the primitive representation of interactions) seriously
restricts the designer‟s ability to represent system designs.”

The basic concepts within POSD are systems and the shared behaviours between them.

       Two systems with shared behaviour              For convenience drawn as

                        Figure 1 Shared behaviour between systems

POSD is a static modelling approach, all shared behaviours are assumed to be two way
interactions and unconstrained in order and content. The method used to design a
system is called stepwise refinement. The systems and their shared behaviours are
refined in a top down way to identify their sub-systems. For example, taking a pair of
systems with shared behaviour (c and d in figure 2 below), they are both expanded to
identify their subsystems (c into e,f,g and d into k,l,m). The shared behaviour between
the original pair of systems (c and d) can either produce a sub-system which is part of
the expansion of both (f), or be retained as a shared behaviour between one or more of
the sub-subsystems (g and k).

                                      a                           a               a

              a                       c                           c               d

              c                        f                  e             f         l
                         b                           d
          b       d               e        g                  g               k       m

        System a has             System c has            Shared behaviour d,c resolved as
      subsystems b,c,d         subsystems e,f,g           system f with three new shared
           Shared             Shared behaviours          behaviours with e,l,g and also new
       behaviours b,c        b,c and d,c yet to be             shared behaviour g,k
          and d,c                   defined

                             Figure 2 Stepwise Refinement

The software tooling ensures that the shared behaviours identified at one level are not
accidentally lost at lower levels.

Since the 1990s, the author has been using POSD as part of a facilitated workshop
approach for understanding and designing new ways of working. It is used with
stakeholder representatives, particularly in the large scale government arena. The
purpose is not to create an unambiguous definition of how a system works, but to
capture and document the understanding and agreements developed by the stakeholders.

The systems and shared behaviours that the workshop group identify or design represent
their business systems (current or potential ways of working). The interactions between
systems may, for example, represent working relationships or joint activities. For
example, the shared behaviour between a buyer of IT services and its supplier could
range from a single transaction to buy a piece of software to setting up a separate
organisation dedicated to outsourcing and supplying the ongoing service. The workshop
approach and tool support enables the workshop participants to co-operate in the
creation of a coherent design for joint working. Each system is an ongoing activity
which will have a purpose associated with it. This is not just an internally focused
perspective, but a wider purpose which reflects the objectives of this system in taking
part in shared behaviour with other systems. This purpose is discussed and agreed
during workshops or other meetings and recorded on the model. Shared behaviours are
not causal links, they reflect actual or proposed relationships.

The result of using POSD in this way is to produce one or more static models of
activities and inter-working arrangements. These models are more compact than their

flow model equivalents and therefore easier for people to encompass. The technique
allows the design to evolve, at each further level of decomposition, by not creating a
rigid hierarchy, but by producing a network structure which is equivalent in overall
scope to the level it was derived from. The approach includes selection of appropriate
stakeholder representatives for each level based on the contents of the level above. In
practice, the systems may not be refined to the same number of levels at any point in
time and indeed some systems will benefit from more levels than others.

The tool support for POSD enables any loose ends in terms of consistency between
refinement levels to be tracked and addressed. This is particularly important for
ensuring that ongoing activity and relationship changes are consistently designed.
Stakeholder labels such as organisation names, jobs or individuals are captured and
shown connected to the behaviours where they are major participants. This enables
workshop participants to relate to the models. The tool projects partial views of the
design to support workshop discussion and support capture of the resulting agreements.
For example, a view termed a neighbourhood view can be defined based on any one
system at any level. This view displays all first hand shared behaviours, laid out as a
clock around the subject system. It illustrates the degree of collaboration and co-
ordination undertaken by that system and, if the stakeholder labels are displayed, it
shows whom each shared behaviour is with. Major points of discussion and agreement
and examples of the real world activities being represented are captured as
documentation within the IT tool and can be produced as reports.

               Regional Offender Manager
                                                       Contracting for             Michael           Mira
                  Alcohol West
             Basic skills                               interventions

                      Delivering Voluntary     Dawayne             Kerry
                        Sector Services
                                                        interventions                    Managing offenders


                                                Being an                    Being an
                                             offender in the               offender in
                                               community                     prison

                                         Layout a neighbourhood
                                     Figure 3 of ANeighbourhood View view

In summary, a POSD model captures a static model of a complex system as analysed or
designed by its stakeholders. The POSD approach is not prescriptive in terms of the
detail of how shared behaviours are implemented through time and does not show
specific interactions or dependencies. It facilitates stakeholder understanding of a
complex and extensive system, without enforcing unrealistic boundaries down to the
implementation level.

POSD, Dynamic Modelling and processes
Whilst dynamic modelling [3] was not used in addition to POSD and VSM in the case
study described below, the author believes that POSD is complementary to dynamic

modelling. Whilst a dynamic model supports consideration of cause and effect, the
static model provides compact diagrammatic high level abstraction, where alternative
possibilities can be generated. This is analogous to a road atlas which can be the
diagrammatic starting point for generating many possible route plans or for initiating
consideration of the impacts of a new motorway. The dynamic model has strengths for
exploring these impacts and the counter-intuitive side effects that may occur; so for
example in a change programme it might highlight that while the focus of the change
may be achieved, the side effects may destroy a quality in the organisation that is vital
and taken for granted. The POSD designs can be thought of as representing the major
conduits between activities and can visually demonstrate where interaction will be
weaker and more remote as well as where it will be stronger and more joined up. This
may help the most productive opportunities to build dynamic models to be identified.

Similarly, POSD can provide the starting point for process flow design[4], which
provides detail beyond POSD. These two techniques have been used together and
showed up the following differences. POSD shows the interactions between a number
of perspectives, some of which may be explored now and some returned to at another
time based on the current focus and availability of stakeholders. Process models tend to
come from a single perspective, identify specific dependencies and show the constraints
on ordering and inputs / outputs. To continue the previous analogy, the process model is
more like a route plan for a specific journey, whilst POSD is the road atlas for the area.
The shared behaviours which exist at the implementation level can be thought of as the
conduits for the multiple dynamic interactions which occur regularly and sporadically
between systems, as in role-interaction models [5]. So, another way forward from a
POSD model is role-interaction modelling. In this case the interactions between the
implementation level POSD systems are refined and annotated with ordered information

VSM says that a system is composed of a pattern of interacting sub-systems and
specifically gives characteristics to these sub-systems and their interactions.
POSD is a general systems modeling approach which says that systems are composed of
interacting systems where the interactions are also systems. It says nothing about the
characteristics of the (sub) systems of which a system is composed or about the
characteristics of the interactions. Thus POSD can be used to describe a VSM based
formulation of a system. POSD was designed to enable fractal patterns of design to be
used at multiple different levels of abstraction, so it is particularly appropriate for VSM.
POSD can be used to support the initial analysis of the system in focus and its
environment, in a way that all the participants can own. Without a theory for guidance
such as VSM, then a group of stakeholders may produce a less coherent POSD design.
The tooling support for POSD allows the VSM based designs to be viewed from
different perspectives, helping with understanding.

In practice, the author tends to use POSD both to map the overall system and to design
the required changes. The first model focuses on primary activities and ignores
organisational and governance implications. The result of such a model is to be able to
select the system in focus and identify its environment, using the implementation level
of the POSD model. The next question is what organisational structures are required
and how will they provide effective governance. This is where the author uses VSM to

decide on the most effective ordering of levels, and to ensure that the resultant design
has all the required functionality and connectivity to be viable. The resultant VSM
based structure is captured as a second POSD model. If it is a model of an existing
system, then VSM (sub) systems can be labelled to show any organisational overlaps
and omissions. If the model represents a redesign then the model represents that new
viable structure.

The VSM approach requires clarity of thinking and agreement by stakeholders on what
needs to be done. This can be difficult when the change required is significant and may
effect who does what. The existing organisational structures and allegiances may get in
the way of radical solutions. If the organisations concerned in a change are not currently
operating in a co-ordinated way, they will see their local environment from within their
own system as distinct and different from others because of their own organisational
focus. The POSD model represents an abstraction away from the current structures, to a
network of interacting systems to re-examine the questions „what are we jointly trying
to achieve and what systems are needed to make it happen?‟ If the solution is sound and
agreed, then it will help to underpin resolution of issues of governance. For example the
requirement may be to design joint working relationships across a number of
organisations, who wish to collaborate to achieve a wider objective than any one of
them can achieve on their own. The first objective of the group of stakeholders which
represent these organisations is to visualise their merged overall shared environment
and to hypothesise how the whole system needs to work to be effective. This can be
done by creating a common environment overview which is contributed to by all and is
acceptable to all – effectively the scope of the highest level recursion, within which they
all operate. It may be beneficial to consider creating a new organisation to undertake
shared work (a joint venture), rather than keeping the existing boundaries and
improving the linkages. Using POSD a joint venture can naturally emerge as a
candidate primary activity (for some organisation yet to be decided or even created). At
this stage of the solution the ownership is shared by the overall group. This represents a
vital step towards reaching an effective implementation decision about the governance
of the joint venture.

From the viewpoint of a single organisation, the POSD model demonstrates the
environmental connections across this overall systemic context, which either have to be
retained or renegotiated as part of the change. If renegotiation is required, then creating
a shared overall model of the environment before the organisational design stage
enables the stakeholders to come to a shared view of which relationships between their
organisations and their wider environment are important. It enables questions to be
discussed and answered (e.g. should this be a direct first hand relationship or should it
be via another organisation or individual?). This is particularly useful in addressing the
scope of the changes envisaged and thus inviting other stakeholders to take part at this
initial phase and also later at the implementation phase. In this scoping, the major
relationships between organisations are considered, and any omissions of systems or
shared behaviours become opportunities.

The tool support for the model holds the information in a database from which any
individual system centred view (neighbourhood view) can be generated. This is
particularly powerful for comparing and testing the compatibility between the
perspectives held by different stakeholders and may map directly onto a view of the

environment from a single VSM recursion, now that a common vocabulary has been

At the organisational implementation stage VSM models and materials provide the
content of management training events and workshops. They enable management teams
to identify and discuss aspects of their roles and agree resource bargains between levels
of recursion.

Background to Case Study
In understanding the Probation Service and designing and implementing solutions to
required organisational changes, both VSM and POSD were used.

In a previous role, the author modelled the probation service within the overall criminal
justice system in a series of workshops using POSD and VSM. The environment was
modelled because change does not stop at organisational borders. The author‟s goal
was to detail a vision of Correctional Services (prison and probation) which was
coherent across: purposes and goals, processes, culture, business and individual needs
and supporting technology. The design approach was „outside in‟.

The initial models included identification of the operational and governance
stakeholders who operate within the Criminal Justice System from public, private and
voluntary sectors. The VSM operated as a design template to represent the management
structures for both the system in focus and for the organisations within its environment
in order to identify points where shared behaviour actually happened.

                                                Parts of (1.2) Managing & changing the NPS
                                                         Mon Feb 16 16:53:58 2004                                    Policy                     University                Pressure Groups
                          NPD                                                   (1.2.1) Steering NPS
                                                                                   Area Strategy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Prison Service
                Office Nat Director
                                                                                                                     (1.1) Setting
                                                                                5                                  Direction for the                                                                                   Info & Tech

                 Interventions                                                      (1.2.4) Agreeing                                       (1.2.2) Planning for                                                 Office Nat Director
                                                                                      and deciding                                              the future
    Info & Tech
                                                                                                                                           4                                                                               Regions
                                                                                                               Corporate Mgmnt                                                         (2.1) Planning w ith
                                                                                                                                                                                       the NPS - External
      Regions                                                                   (1.2.3) Implementing                                                                                       Environment
                                                                                  Current Strategy
                                      Human Resources                                                                                                                                  34&5


                                           (1.2.5) Arbitrating
                                                                                                                                                (1.2.6) Auditing                                                   Finance & Estates
                                                                                                                                               implementation of
                                                 issues                                                                                             strategy
      Perf & Plan

                                                                                                                                           3*                                                                  Perf & Plan

    Senior Manager                                                                                                                                                                                             H.M. I. P

                                                                                                                                                                                                     Nat Audit Office
                                           (1.2.7) Being NPS                                               (1.2.8) Being NPS                                       Public Protection
                                                Area A                 Probation Staff                           Area B
  Public Protection

                                       1                                                               1

                                                                                                                               Senior Manager

            (2.2) Delivering w ith
             the NPS - External
                                       (1.3) Being the                   (1.4) Being the               (2.1) Planning w ith
                                          Offender                            victim                   the NPS - External


Figure 4 Using VSM based sub-systems and organisational labels for analysis

This was followed by a second model which reflected the strategic direction proposed in
the Correctional Services Review [6] (Carter).

                                            Parts of (2) Sentencing & Implementing Correctional Services
                                                             Thu Aug 11 11:55:07 2005

                                            Setting National
                                            Strategy for CJS

   (2.2) Sentenc ing                                                           (2.1) Collaboratively                     (4.4) Being a c itizen
    and review ing                                                               deciding regional                       & being impac ted by
                                                                                strategy contest &                        crime and the fear
                                                                                  commissioning                                of crime
                                                    (4.1) Being
                                                   suspected /
                                                admitting / convicted
                                                   or punished

                                                                                                                            (4.5) Being a

               (3) Preventing and                              (2.3) Managing the                   (2.4) Delivering
                  reducing the                                      Offender                       Offender serv ices
              occurence of crime

     (1) Detecting /
     investigating /                (4.2) Being a v ictim       Delivering related                     (4.6) Being
      prosecuting /                                              public services                   dependent /family
   remanding & trying                                                                             /friend/associate or
          crime                                                                                     supporter of the

Figure 5 The four subsystems of the Carter vision and their shared behaviours set
within their overall Criminal Justice System context

Subsequently, the author was invited to draw on this work to help a specific probation
area to deliver a strategic change programme. This case study discusses the use of VSM
and POSD in that change programme.

Case Study

The objective of the change programme was to create a flexible organisation that could
endure the types of change expected to occur over the strategic timeframe. There are
two key strategic drivers for change operating in the Probation Areas
     The Correctional Services Review (04 January 2004) - Carter
     Criminal Justice Bill 2003 [7]
These two sources represented our best understanding of the future needs. The existing
POSD model of probation, based on the Carter proposals, was used as a starting point
for developing the shared vision which would underpin the design process.

Key elements of the Carter vision were:

      Offender Centric Design – seamless sentences tailored to individual needs;
      A focus on reducing re-offending;
      Separation of the organisation into two components:
           o Offender Managers – budget holders - reducing the offending of
               individual offenders
           o Intervention Providers – providing interventions to implement the agreed
               offender plans;
      Introduction of competition for service contracts across the public, community,
       voluntary and private sector;
      New sentence types and combinations and more flexible mechanisms to create
       or change the range of sentences available;
      Restricting custodial sentencing (and other sentence elements) by linking
       judicial decisions to capacity.

The current organisation was based on units of probation staff, delivering specific
community sentence types. The staff who assessed and managed offender plans were
the same as those who delivered the interventions. This was very different from the
strategic direction, where a single offender manager would manage an individual
offender, whether in prison or in the community, throughout their sentence. The
interventions would be booked by offender managers and competed for and
commissioned across a wide range of service providers. The Criminal Justice Act not
only created several new sentence types, but made provision for combining sentence
elements to create new sentences as appropriate. This provided one of the drivers to
change the organisation sooner rather than later.

However there was no National view at that time about how Carter should be
implemented. A National and 10 Regional Offender Managers had been appointed, with
a view to making procurement of interventions regional across probation and prison, but
progress had stalled due to problems in getting further legislation in place. This left
individual areas owning the budgets and having to choose between ongoing adjustments
to their organisations or taking a strategic view, with enough flexibility to cope with the
impact of future National and Regional changes. The Chief Officer of this area decided
on the strategic approach, assuming that Regions and the National organisation were
part of their environment.

The key organisational requirements identified were:
   The organisation would be offender centric, in that it would support the flexible
      allocation of resource to address opportunities to reduce offending
   It would enable the separation between the two components – Offender
      Management and Interventions.
   It would be flexible so that intervention providers could supply services to more
      than one Area, Region or CJS organisation in the future.
   It would promote the overall end-to-end consistency of supervision relationship
      between offender and offender manager.
   It would enable effective and efficient working practices and communication
   It would create a coherent network of clear and achievable roles and

      It would enable 24x7x365 working as necessary to match offender lifestyles and
       thus enable staff to communicate effectively with their local communities.

The solution was centred on the building and maintenance of a layered set of virtual
teams (sets of people who need to work together regardless of organisational
affiliation). These virtual teams would be:

      Area centred (bringing together the stakeholder organisations‟ local
      Offender Management Team centred (to bring together a combined network
       which will support a group of offenders within a public risk category);
      Offender Management Practice Centred (to bring together a combined network
       which will support a group of offenders within a risk category within a
      Individual Offender centred (bringing together the relevant individuals and roles
       needed to address the offending and protect the public).

This layering was decided upon, based on considerations of requisite variety („doable
jobs‟). The POSD model demonstrated the relative complexity of coherence and co-
ordination requirements for specific roles and therefore how „doable‟ they might be.
The new structure was offered for wider consultation, agreed and staff were appointed.

At this time the design was owned by a change management group made up of a small
number of representatives from a range of roles and locations across the area.

It now had to be bought into and implemented by the new management structure. VSM
principles were used to run training sessions for management and workshops were held
to implement resource bargaining with performance improvement agreements. Issues
were identified at workshops and it became clear that a change manager was required to
undertake an area recursion system 2 role, supporting resolution of issues. POSD was
reintroduced at this point to model the actual implementation of the organisation,
(specific management units, roles and individuals) and to support the ongoing change
programme. The POSD model covered:

      The operational citizen facing relationships
      The management structures for the system in focus which resulted from the
       VSM analysis and underpinned the organisation chart
      The actual job roles and the staff who played them
      The other organisations in the environment and the connections between them
       and the system in focus
      The internal cross-organisational relationships

One benefit gained from the modelling was the ability to automatically generate a
„neighbourhood view‟ of the first hand relationships (across the whole implementation)
from any selected role - within or outside the system in focus – including the offender.

                                                              Local Neighbourhood of Being an offender
                                                                                 Neighbourhood of an offender
                                                                     Wed Jan 25 13:19:03 2006
   Providing Offender     Being a victim of    ( Being an     ( Being an   ( Deliv ering   ( Prov iding a      (1.3.9) Being a     ( Being      ( Being a      ( Being head     ( Managing
  Intervention & Public        crime           Assistant War den       Administrator in    probation serv ices        prison Visitors       Programme Tutor for   team Manager for         practice manager             of offender            MAPPP & Tier 4
       Protection                                                    approved premises          in prisons                Centre                 Accredited              Tier 1               for tiers 2/3            management

   Being a citizen w ho
   may be impac ted by
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Administering Tier 4
   crime or the fear of

      Managing and                                                                                                                                                                                                                           ( Being
    Delivering Related                                                                                                                                                                                                                      team manager for
   Public / voluntary /                                                                                                                                                                                                                            courts
   private sector svcs
    in Cambridges hire

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           ( Being
  Being a Community                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Northern or
     Organisation                                                                                        Being an offender
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Southern Prac tice
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          manager for Courts

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           ( Providing
  Being a dependent /                                                                                                                                                                                                                     services to MA PPP
     family / friend
      associate /
   supporter of the

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ( Deliv ering
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          services to MA PPA
     Providing &

                                                                                                                                                                                       ( Being Skills        (              (
                            ( Being     ( Being        ( Being      ( Being         ( Being              (          (
                                                                                                                                                                                          for life w orker s     Delivering Tier 2/3        Delivering tier 1
    Providing Local       Approved premises   unpaid w ork Project    unpaid w ork team       unpaid Work           Accomodation            Implementing Drug     Delivering tier 4
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Offender                 Offender
     Services for            Supervisors         Supervisors               support             Placement               Officers                Intervention           offender
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  management or            management and
       Citizens                                                                                Managers                                        Programme           management
                                                                                                                                                                                                                administering cases       administering cases

                Figure 6 An offender centric view – the challenge for a seamless sentence

„Neighbourhood views‟ can be laid-out to follow the VSM model structure and thus
give a visual correspondence between the VSM diagrams and the POSD. Extracts from
the model are being used by the change manager as the basis of meetings, round table
discussions and workshops to resolve ongoing issues. The model is updated online
during the meeting and documentation on the issue and its solution are captured. This
has led to demand for further extracts of the model for other discussions.

Not all people prefer diagrammatic approaches, so text is captured within the model,
which is a verbal equivalent for participants who prefer it, and provides narrative for
those not involved in its initial creation. Also colour blindness is a potential diversity
issue, so whilst colour is used within the diagram for those that find colour coding
helpful, it is never used as the only mechanism for demonstrating connection of ideas.

At the moment, the POSD model acts as a programme management technique for
recording the implementation of the new cross organisational relationships which will
prove that the new organisation is beginning to function and evolve. In the longer term
it will be used to record the emergence of new ways of working. The hope is that in the
future the organisational implementation can be enhanced to handle change as a normal
everyday staff and management activity. This would be based on VSM and specific
accountabilities would be documented as innovation ladders described in [8].

The POSD implementation model is used by the Change Manager as a particularly
powerful tool for resolving team-working issues. This POSD model is seen by the
Change Manager as a vital resource for maintaining an overview and for helping staff to
articulate and capture the purposes that they address. Seeing themselves at the centre of
a bigger network helps them to describe what they contribute to achieving rather than
just describing what they do. This information is used to check that each individual‟s
role objectives and the overall organisational objectives are aligned. It also enables

                                                                                                                   - 10 -
potential stakeholders to be identified for detailed process design workshops in critical

It is planned to use the model to support induction of new staff. Documentation is
included linking the POSD model to core process designs and describing the
organisational roles including:

       Role purposes in terms of their environment
       Resource bargains both to higher and lower level VSM recursions
       Role based performance management information needs
       Role scope for implementing tactical and strategic changes
       Role responsibility for core processes

In the longer term these models will be maintained to act as a repository of information
on how the organisation works now and how it could work in the future.


The POSD approach can be considered a useful adjunct to other modelling methods.
VSM and POSD are not only compatible but complementary.

In this case study, the probation area change management group produced an
organisational design using both POSD and VSM to meet their strategic requirements
within their tight timescale of eight weeks. The organisational design was subsequently
bought into by the Chief Officer and the Senior Management Team. The VSM has been
championed and used by the probation area at all levels of management. There is more
detailed work to do before the new organisation is fully functional, but the probation
area staff are committed to this approach. They find it aligns with probation service
values and has enabled them to make a major strategic change.

However, the area has recently done badly in the national league table compared with
areas that have made minimal changes. Why this has happened is obscured by the fact
that their area police force has doubled its number of arrests in the same period,
increasing their workload without compensating staffing increases. The belief of the
performance manager is that the dip is short term and the strategic change will
demonstrably pay off in the longer term. Their expectation of future change has been
fully justified. Within the next two years they expect:

       Amalgamation with two other areas
       Move to governance by a regional trust
       Implementation of a new national case management system
       A move to public, private and voluntary sector contesting of interventions and
        also possibly offender management

                                           - 11 -
This will certainly test the flexibility of their organisation. The recent EFQM audit has
shown excellent results and the next set of National figures in May will show whether
their league table position has now improved.

One key advantage, for the organisational design, cited by the performance manager is
that that it gives clarity on accountability and has highlighted clearly where performance
issues are occurring. The organisation is resolving these issues one by one and learning
from them. The flexibility designed into the model is not currently fully operational,
because staff are still operating only from their normal work locations rather than
travelling to fulfil the current specific needs.

At the beginning of the design work, the key principles of the design were already
outlined in the Carter Report, but VSM enabled them to choose the layering for their
specific area and to define the roles that were required in the implementation, based on
local needs. This case study has demonstrated the way that an organisation can take on
the VSM model and the principles of viability and use these themselves to create a new
organisation, with a minimum of outside support.

The VSM models document the implementation structure of the organisation for all
management purposes. The implementation POSD model documents all the individual
roles and key relationships between them, backed up with documentation of issues,
discussions and statements of role purpose produced by the role holders. It also
documents key relationships with the environment. This is a far more comprehensive
and meaningful description than the previous organisation chart and mechanical job
descriptions. The VSM and POSD models remain at the heart of resolving team
working issues and induction of new staff. In addition, VSM is seen as the theory
underpinning their organisational design and as the practical approach they are using to
develop their management capability.

This is an interesting case study in that the theory and methods were used directly by
the client at all stages, rather than being used only by the consultants and then passed on
as specific recommendations. It is too early to state specific outcomes, but this
probation area‟s ongoing commitment to the methods used and the consultancy team
who provided support is encouraging. The design process clearly produced a solution
which met its requirements. The process operated in rational way, without any obvious
sidetracking resulting from personal agendas. This is a major benefit of using a
structuring process based on an accepted theory, such as VSM, and a series of
participative workshops supported by an effective high level modelling method and
tools such as POSD.

[1] Beer S. (1979),The Heart of Enterprise, John Wiley, London and New York,
reprinted with corrections 1988, 1994

[2] Pratten, G (2006), Home page for POSD,, accessed
April 11th 2006

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[3] Forrester, J. (1961), Industrial Dynamics, Productivity Press

[4] Draft Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 183 (1993) announcing
the standard for Integration Definition for Functional Modelling (IDEF 0), accessed April 11th 2006

[5] Business Process Management Group (2005), Meghan Kiffer Pr, In search of BPM
excellence – Human Interaction Management

 [6] Carter P. (4th January 2004), The Correctional Services Review
(, Accessed April 11th 2006

[7] UK Parliament (2003) Criminal Justice Bill 2003; Accessed April 11th 2006

[8] Hoverstadt P. and Searles J.(2006), Organisational and Transformational Change -
Designing Governance and VSM

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