Continued from Part 1/2
not comprehensiveness, is the fate of all practice.
Ulrich, "Philosophy for professionals: towards
pragmatism," 2007b, p. 2)
for Boundary Critique:
Based on a review of some major contemporary ideas on active citizenship, competent
professionalism and management, and systems thinking, Part 1
identified a fundamental deficit of conventional systems rationality
in its failure to come to terms with the inevitable selectivity of all human practice
– the basic insight that no human effort can claim to be comprehensive
in its outlook and rationality and to live up to everyone's interests and concerns equally.
Today's prevailing framework of systems thinking lacks
a systematic conception of the divergent reference systems or
"contexts that matter" for identifying relevant knowledge
and rational action. Its focus on the system/environment
distinction, that is, on a system of interest and the environmental
conditions on which it depends, is oriented one-sidedly towards
the success of what is regarded as system of concern, as distinguished
from all other concerns that may be at issue – ranging from the
specific concerns of third parties that, although being affected,
are not involved in or relevant to the system in any way, to
the universalizing perspectives of morally defensible and ecologically
sustainable reasoning. In particular, contemporary systems thinking
fails to systematically consider what we called the context
of application (or context of responsible action), that
is, the real-world context in which the consequences of systemic
rationality arise and its value implications become apparent,
not only for the parties who have a say and are to benefit but
also for all those who don't.
is an impoverished rationality that we encounter at work everywhere
around us. It is omnipresent in our epoch's ongoing
process of rationalization, and particularly in the corporatist
and bureaucratic organization of the society it has brought
about, a society in which the actual sources of power and legitimacy
lie much more with vested interests and global corporations
than with the citizens. Worse, the impoverished, managerial
nature of this surrogate rationality – a rationality grounded
in references to "the system" of interest and its
relevant environment only – can hardly be said to be obvious
clear to a majority of citizens, professionals,
and decision-makers, and accordingly to be under broad and thorough
scrutiny. We have in this respect become an
unconscious civilization (Saul, 1997), in which it seems
normal that people understand (and are expected to understand)
as "rational" that which works for the systems of
(vested) interests in which they are involved or of which
they are accountable as managers.
rationality perspective grounded in references to the context
of application is markedly different from such a managerial
perspective. It accepts accountability for the consequences
of systemic rationality regardless of where they arise and whom
they affect. It
stands for a moral point of view in dealing with the inevitable deficits
of justification of these consequences and the manifold ways
in which they may affect those concerned. By dealing openly and carefully
with such deficits, it brings into the picture a critically-normative
perspective. It thus complements the success-orientation of a systems
rationality grounded in the system/environment
distinction (What serves the system?) with a fundamentally different orientation
towards ethical awareness (What is conducive to improvement
as seen from the standpoints of all those concerned?) and moral
reasoning (What is arguably fair as seen from an impartial and
universal point of view?) – a perspective that takes up the concerns
of those affected but not involved and asks what "success"
means for them, that is, how their interests are
the enormous influence of systemic thinking on many fields of
professional practice, it should not surprise us that this deficit
of conventional systems theory has had and continues to have
serious consequences. We encounter here a fundamental reason
of why rational, professionally and scientifically based decision-making so often produces external irrationalities such
as unexpected side-effects, undesirable long-term
effects and unsustainable policies, costs and risks imposed on third parties, and
so on – in short, omnipresent suboptimization
and deficits of rationality and legitimacy. Its consequences
are then symptomatically treated as "external"
effects that one cannot all foresee and about which one cannot do a lot.
They are "external," indeed,
to the systems rationality of those involved but not of course
for those who have to live with them.
externalities are omnipresent today. They have prompted the
German sociologist Ulrich Beck (1992; 1995) to describe the dilemma of modernity in
terms of a Risk Society, that is, a society whose processes
of rationalization produce risks for whom nobody
seems to be responsible – a case of organized irresponsibility
(thus the 1995 book's original title, lost in the English translation).
However, despite the immense attention that Beck's diagnosis received,
a methodologically clear, systematic and rigorous treatment
of the context of application, and particularly of its normative
content, is still largely missing in the applied
disciplines to this day.
CSH framework that I propose for such critically-normative practice,
any claim to systemic
rationality calls for empirical and normative scrutiny of its selectivity,
that is, its different implications
for all the parties concerned – not only for those involved but also for those
affected but not involved (so-called third parties). The key methodological principle is boundary
critique, a systematic process of laying open the situational
boundary judgments that delimit
the contexts considered relevant (whether consciously or not) in claims to knowledge, rationality,
and improvement, or in short, the borders of concern.
As this recapitulation should help readers recall,
four essential kinds of contexts were introduced in
Part 1, understood as "reference systems" to which
such claims cannot avoid referring, whether explicitly or implicitly,
and which therefore offer themselves for a systematic analysis
of selectivity: the system (or situation) of primary interest
S; the relevant environment (or decision-environment) E; the
context of application (or of responsible action) A; and the
universe (or total conceivable universe of discourse) U. Together
they make up the proposed
S-A-E-U formula (or scheme) of boundary critique. Critical systems thinking and practice as I understand
them will make boundary critique with reference to these four
reference systems an integral part of the quest for competent
practice. It is now time to explain how boundary
Systems Heuristics We have understood that the fate of all human
inquiry and practice is selectivity, not comprehensiveness.
This selectivity can be traced to the boundary judgments by
which we delimit the reference systems for rational practice
or, in everyday terms, decide what is part of the picture we
consider and what is not. In
principle, of course, sound reasoning has to take into
account "everything" potentially relevant, otherwise it becomes
arbitrary. In practice, though, we don't know what that means.
The quest for comprehensiveness
is an ideal that we may strive to approximate but will
not fully realize. Hence, we should never assume or claim that
we do live up to it. How, then, can we still hope to secure sound argumentation
in everyday and professional practice? What can rational practice
mean under such conditions? This is the basic problem with which
CSH tries to come to terms.
we are referring to an ideal, it follows that no solution can at
the same time be theoretically sufficient and practical. All theoretically sufficient
solutions will of necessity rely on ideal presuppositions, whereas
all practicable solutions will be incomplete, that
and thus disputable. In practice, the best we can hope to achieve
is cultivating reflective practice with respect to the selectivity
of our claims, by making it clear to ourselves
and to all others concerned on what boundary assumptions they
rely. Further, we will have to recognize that inasmuch as our claims serve
as a basis for action, their selectivity translates into partiality:
they will not respond equally to the different concerns of all the parties and in this sense
are "partial" – they will promote some rationalities
and conforming notions of improvement more than others, and
thus benefit some parties more than
conflicts of views and concerns that often arise around efforts
to resolve practical issues have a lot to do with this translation of (inevitable)
selectivity into (changeable) partiality. It explains the inherently normative nature of all claims to rational
practice. Unlike the current "reflective practice"
mainstream (see Ulrich, 2008, for a critical view), CSH seeks
to find rigorous ways for unfolding this normative core of practice.
selectivity: the "eternal triangle" of boundary critique When
ordinary citizens face professional researchers or experts, it can
be difficult for them to defend their personal views and concerns against
the claims of the specialists. Indeed, how can
non-specialists dare to argue against the specialists and prove
them wrong, given that the specialists have such an advantage
of information, status, and routine?
As the idea of boundary critique helps
us to understand, the answer is simple: they don't have
to. There is in fact no need for proving anyone
wrong. It is quite sufficient for cogent critical argumentation
to demonstrate that there are
always options for defining what counts as relevant knowledge and right action
– the "facts" and "values" to be considered
– because there are options for delimiting the reference system
to which such claims refer, that is, the situation or context
that matters. Whether the claims in question are those of professional
people or of lay people makes little difference in this respect.
We face, as CSH describes it, an eternal triangle of
practical reason (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3: The eternal triangle of boundary critique
boundary judgments by means of which we delimit our
reference systems condition the facts and values we recognize
to be relevant. Conversely, new facts or values can prompt us
to revise previous boundary judgments, which then in turn may
have us see previous observations or evaluations differently,
and so on.
Since boundary judgments act as mediating third between
judgments of fact and of value, surfacing them helps us understand
not only the nature of their selectivity but also how they depend
on one another.
Ulrich, 1998, p. 6; 2000, p. 252; and 2003, p 334)
basic idea is that three major types of judgments inform all claims to knowledge,
to rationality, improvement, morality, and so on
– judgments of fact, judgments of value, and
boundary judgments. While the former two kinds of judgments
are well known, the latter are often ignored, be it because
people are not aware of their existence or because they deliberately
conceal them from others. Together, the three types of judgment make up
– and explain –
the selectivity of practical claims. This is what the eternal
triangle of CSH is all about. Accordingly three essential
– and interdependent – questions pose themselves in all rigorous
thought and argumentation on practical issues:
observations and resulting judgments of "fact" or relevant
circumstances and interdependencies matter? (e.g., for understanding the situation or issue at hand or
for effective and efficient action);
valuations and conforming judgments of "value"
or relevant notions of
improvement are to guide us? (e.g., for improving the situation
or for evaluating the results of action);
- What reference
systems (S-E-A-U) and specific boundary judgments
are to define the relevant context or situation? (e.g., for
delimiting the system of primary interest S from the decision-environment E,
or the context of responsible
action A from the universe U of all conceivable consequences).
additional concept of boundary judgments explains the way
in which all our judgments of fact and of value are interdependent,
namely, via shared assumptions about the reference system to
(S-E-A-U) and the specific boundary issues involved. It is no
news of course that facts and values
are interdependent; but the precise nature of this interdependence
usually remains fuzzy and unexplained. The eternal triangle
now makes this clear. It explains why both the circumstances
we consider relevant and the ways
we evaluate them – the considerations
of fact and value we take to matter – depend on boundary judgments,
that is, assumptions as to which situational aspects are to
be treated as belonging to the situation of concern (or the
"system" of primary interest) and what other aspects
are to be treated as relevant environment (or decision-environment)
and/or as context of application (or context of responsible action). When boundary judgments change, new circumstances may emerge
to be relevant, which in turn may require us to adapt our
value judgments; conversely,
changed notions of improvement may change our appreciation of
what are relevant circumstances and thus may have us revise
our boundary judgments, which then
in turn makes previous evaluations look different, and so on.
untapped emancipatory potential By
reminding us of the conditioned character of all our judgments, the eternal triangle has
us deal more consciously and carefully
with the pervasive issue of selectivity. Just as importantly, it helps us to
– and to explain to others – why in dealing with selectivity, specialists and
non-specialists can meet
at eye-level: when it comes to
making boundary judgments, experts and professionals have no
natural advantage of competence over lay people. This is so
expertise does not protect against the need for making boundary
judgments but depends on them just like everyday
knowledge. Nor, to be sure, does it provide an objective or
in other ways superior basis for defining
boundary judgments. Boundary judgments cannot be separated
from value judgments, but professional knowledge provides no
claim to superior value judgments. The only kind of superiority
to which boundary judgments lend themselves is with respect
to their transparent and self-reflective handling. Once we recognize
the role of boundary judgments, we are compelled to take the
critical (or critically-heuristic) turn, that is, to recognize
that there can be only a "critical solution" to the
quest for practical reason.7)
see in this critical consequence of the systems idea a largely untapped potential
for giving ordinary citizens and managers a meaningful new competence
vis-a-vis experts and professionals. Since relevant facts change
with boundary judgments, and vice-versa; and since new facts
or different boundary judgments may make us reconsider our values,
that is, the way we evaluate facts, it is clear that boundary
judgments strongly influence the outcome of professional as
well as everyday discourse. Together, the three types of judgment
involved – judgments of fact, value judgments, and boundary
judgments – indeed form an eternal triangle that is always in
play and which nobody claiming adequate knowledge and
understanding has consequently
a right to ignore. Since it does not allow of any definitive solution,
the only arguable way to handle it is by democratically legitimate
decision-making based on systematic and open processes of boundary
critique – open, that is, for all those concerned. Boundary
critique cannot of course preclude that those in a situation
of power suppress or close the discussion on boundary assumptions
by non-argumentative means; but at least, boundary critique
then provides a means of rational critique by which the reliance
on such non-argumentative means can be exposed. When the façade
of professional objectivity crumbles and everyone becomes aware
of the role of boundary judgments, it also becomes apparent that
there are options for what counts as relevant knowledge,
rational action, and genuine improvement.
is indeed quite frequent that experts and decision-makers are
as unaware of the role of boundary judgments, and hence of the
need for boundary critique, as are ordinary citizens. They may
be more or less aware of the element of choice and selectivity
involved in their "findings and conclusions" yet prefer
not to emphasize the circumstance too much, as they don't know
how to deal systematically with it. It is so much easier
for them to claim superiority or even "objective necessity"
for their judgments, due to their particular expertise and status.
But as the concept of boundary critique makes clear, such references
to superior insight move on slippery ground. People who have
understood the idea can use boundary critique to expose the
selectivity of the claims in question and the element of choice
involved. We encounter here a situation
in which lay people and professionals can indeed meet at eye-level.
When it comes to a transparent and self-reflecting handling of
the eternal triangle, we all meet as equals.
symmetry of critical competence The epistemological
implications of this concept of boundary judgments are significant.
It means that in spite of the usual asymmetry of knowledge and
skills between ordinary citizens and professional people there
exists, at a deeper layer, a fundamental symmetry between them.
At this deeper layer, professional people are in a situation
that is no different from that of lay people. Their professional
judgments depend no less on boundary judgments than do everyday
judgments. Critical systems thinking thus teaches us a truly
important lesson in citizenship: below the surface of
expert knowledge and professional behavior, there exists a deep
symmetry of all claims to knowledge and rationality, whether
professional or not. They all depend on boundary judgments that
cannot be justified by reference to expertise. Accordingly,
this deep symmetry has
implications not only for the practice of research and expertise
but also for the practice of democracy. Rationality and democracy
need not be opposites, after all!
The critical kernel that
with systems thinking thus unfolds into a fundamental emancipatory
potential. The question is, can we realize this potential? Can
we translate it into strategies for training citizens in citizenship,
without presupposing cognitive skills that are not available
to most of them?
a view to meeting this democratic and emancipatory challenge, it
will be important not to fall back upon
a concept of the "competent" citizen that would once
exclude a majority of ordinary people. Present conceptions
of systems thinking, due to their focus on the use
of research and professional methods, do not always avoid this kind
of elitist implication, not any more than contemporary notions
of professionalism. Critical systems thinking for professionals
should avoid this pitfall from the start. It must not make competent
practice depend on any special competence that would not be
available to ordinary citizens. Citizens are not, and will probably
never be, equally
skilled; but in democracy this fact must not make any difference
to their equality as citizens, according to the principle:
"one citizen, one vote."
uses of boundary critique It
is the goal of critical systems heuristics (CSH) to develop
such an emancipatory systems approach. After what has been said
thus far, even readers not familiar with critical heuristics
will probably anticipate that one of its core concepts for achieving
its end is a process of systematic boundary critique,
and that the main vehicle driving this critical process is the
critical employment of boundary judgments, by which I mean both
their self-reflective use and their critical use against not
so self-reflective assertions of boundary judgments (Ulrich, 1983, pp.
225-314; 1987; 1993). The idea, briefly, is that boundary judgments
offer themselves for three kinds of critical employment, in
three corresponding settings for boundary critique:
(1) Boundary reflection, that is, promoting
reflective practice through boundary-questioning self-reflection: What boundary judgments
do I/we presuppose? What is their selectivity
as measured not only by the facts and values they exclude but
also by their practical implications in the form of resulting
partiality, that is, the ways they benefit some parties while
neglecting the needs or concerns of others? Are there alternative
boundary judgments that might be just as adequate, and what would be their selectivity
and resulting partiality?
What ought to be my boundary judgments so that I can share
and defend them vis-à-vis those concerned? (Main setting:
(2) Boundary discourse, that is, undertaking
a dialogical search for mutual understanding
and possible consensus through boundary-questioning deliberation:
Why do our opinions or validity claims differ? What different
boundary judgments make us see different "facts" and
"values"? What differences do they make in terms of
resulting partiality? What if we adopt one another's boundary judgments, how
do things then look to each of us? Can we agree
on differing boundary judgments; and if we cannot agree, can
we at least understand why we disagree and then limit our claims
accordingly? (Main setting: cooperative deliberation)
(3) Boundary challenge or contestation, that is, engaging
in controversial debate
through an emancipatory employment of boundary judgments:
What options are there for the boundary judgments assumed in
a claim? How can I make visible to others the ways in which
a claim depends on boundary judgments that have not been disclosed,
and how different can I make the claim look in the light of alternative
boundary judgments? How can I argue against an opponent's allegation
that I do not know enough to challenge him or her? Can I make
a cogent argument even though I am not an expert and indeed
may not be as knowledgeable as the opponent with respect to
the issue at hand? (Main setting: emancipatory challenge)
three types of boundary critique can help people understand
how relevant facts and values depend on the
choice of systems boundaries. The latters' optional character
– the availability of alternative ways to bound the reference
system in question, along with the unavailability of objective
justifications for chosen boundaries of concern – should become
clear and the normative presuppositions and conceivable consequences
of all options should be visible. The important point is that
people learn to identify the boundary judgments that inform
a claim so that
they can also question them systematically, by demonstrating
that there are options and how these options make the claim look
usual, unreflecting reliance on undisclosed and unquestioned
boundary assumptions – for instance, most characteristically,
in the experts' "facts" and "objective necessities"
– should thus give way to an openly and critically normative employment,
and ultimately to democratic legitimation, of boundary judgments
that affect third parties.
boundary critique Lest this aim should depend
entirely on the willingness of experts and decision makers to
disclose their boundary judgments, the constructive, self-critical handling
of boundary judgments which is important in types 1 and 2 of
boundary critique is complemented in type 3 by their critical
against those who are not willing to handle their boundary
judgments so self-critically. The emancipatory use of boundary
judgments – or shorter, emancipatory boundary critique
– aims to make visible the operation of power, deception, dogmatism
or other non-argumentative means behind rationality claims.
It accomplishes this purpose by creating a situation in which
a party's reliance on undisclosed or unquestioned boundary
judgments becomes apparent.
idea is that whenever a claim depends crucially on some boundary
judgments that are taken for granted rather than being disclosed
and systematically questioned, or which are even asserted dogmatically (e.g., with reference to superior expertise)
or consciously concealed (e.g., in connection with a hidden
then the role of such non-argumentative motives and strategies
can be exposed by simply advancing alternative boundary judgments
and claiming their relevance, as well as by showing how the claim in question now looks different. The
other side is then forced to defend its boundary judgments but
is of course quite unable to prove "objectively" why they should be of superior
caught in such embarrassing situations tend to take refuge in
their advantage of knowledge and to suggest that a non-expert's
objections are "subjective" or "incompatible
with the facts," and in any case do not agree with "the
way professionals see it"; but that will do little
to establish the objective necessity of their own boundary judgments.
On the contrary, once it has become plain that defining the
system of concern (or any other reference system) is at bottom a subjective political act, those
who insist on their superior qualification or objectivity with
regard to boundary judgments will only disqualify themselves.
The "deep symmetry" of which I have spoken is thus
brought to the surface and creates a situation of improved argumentative
equality, or what I have elsewhere described as a symmetry
of critical competence (Ulrich, 1993, p. 604f).
this way ordinary citizens may not only learn to see through
the appearance of objectivity and rationality behind which people
with an advantage of knowledge and power tend to conceal their
boundary judgments, they may also begin to understand that (and
why) this advantage is quite insufficient a basis for defining
the system of primary interest – along with its relevant environment
and the adequate context of responsible action – or for suppressing discussions on alternative
conceivable borders of concern. They are then able to shift
the burden of proof, as it were, and challenge the experts'
claims to rationality without needing to be experts themselves.
is more, this kind of emancipatory use of boundary judgments
represents an entirely rational and therefore cogent way of
argumentation. Following Kant's (1787, B767) concept of the
polemical employment of reason – a concept that I have
discussed elsewhere in detail (see Ulrich, 1983, pp. 301-310)
– I also call this type of argument "polemical," for
it is distinctive of a polemical argument as Kant understands
it that its critical
force and rationality do not depend on any positive validity
claim. Since it serves not a theoretical purpose of asserting
knowledge but rather an emancipatory purpose of exposing a dogmatic assertion of
knowledge, what matters is not that it
be able to establish a positive claim to theoretical truth or
normative rightness (or both) but only that nobody can prove
it wrong by virtue of an advantage of expertise. This is precisely
what an openly subjective advancement of alternative boundary
judgments achieves! Just as it cannot be proven true or right
or objectively necessary by theoretical means, it equally cannot be proven to be objectively
wrong. Thus citizens who use boundary judgments in this way
critical argumentation need not be afraid that they will immediately
be convicted of lacking expertise or competence. Because it
entails no theoretical or normative validity claim, no theoretical
or other kind of special knowledge
is required. This is why I believe that the concept of boundary
critique offers us a key to making accessible to citizens a new critical
competence. I know it sounds like squaring the circle,
but it seems to me that we have indeed identified here a new,
untapped source of civil competence.8)
Boundary Critique The reader who has
followed me thus far will now want to know concretely how the
boundary judgments in question look like. Obviously the general
concept of boundary judgments needs to be operationalized so
that people can apply it, that is, can identify and discuss
boundaries of concern systematically.
table of boundary categories With a view particularly
to the applied disciplines, as well as to everyday problem solving
and decision-making, critical systems heuristics (CSH) suggests twelve basic
boundary problems or so-called boundary categories (see Fig. 4).
Fig. 4: Table
The selectivity of
practical claims is
traceable to four basic boundary issues: a claim's sources
of motivation, of power, of knowledge, and of legitimation.
Each of these four issues is in turn operationalized by means
of three boundary categories. The first refers to a type of
stakeholder, that is, a social role ascribed to people depending
on their specific way of being involved and/or affected; the
second to a role-specific stake, that is, an essential concern
of each group of stakeholders; and the third to a crucial stakeholding
issue, that is, a main difficulty that needs to be resolved so
to gain a clear understanding of the boundary issue in question.
There are thus twelve boundary categories, each of which requires
a boundary judgment in respect of both what is and what ought
to be case. Together these twenty-four boundary judgments define
an actual ("is") as compared to a desirable ("ought")
reference system for assessing a practical claim's meaning and
Ulrich, 1983, p. 258, and 2000, p. 256)
the terms of Kant's (1787) Critique of Pure Reason, which
provided a major source of inspiration for the development of
boundary critique (see Ulrich, 1983, chapters 3-5, pp. 175-314),
the twelve boundary
concepts represent categories of relative a priori
judgments. They are a priori in that they come logically
and temporally prior to the way we experience and evaluate so-called
"real-world" situations; they
are relative in that they are not prior to all possible
experience and evaluation in general (as Kant claims for his
a priori categories of pure theoretical and practical reason)
but only to the specific contexts of inquiry and action in which
practical questions arise (cf. Ulrich,
1983, pp. 188-193, esp. 191f). As explained above with the eternal
triangle, we cannot meaningfully discuss a practical question or
in terms of relevant "'facts" and "values"
without assuming some boundary judgments by which we delimit the
assumed real-world context or situation to be improved (i.e.,
intended system of primary concern) along with its "environment" (i.e., the assumed decision-environment) and its "context of application" (i.e., the assumed context of responsible
action). The task of thinking through these issues of delimitation
can then be understood in terms of giving both empirical
and normative content to the twelve boundary categories (Fig. 4),
in ways that deal openly and systematically with the selectivity
Reflective practice cannot avoid this task; for whenever we advance
or rely on some observational or evaluative statements,
we have already – whether consciously or not – assumed
what is or should be the content of these categories.
Like Kant's (1787,
B106) categories of experience, which go back to Aristotle's
(1984) Organon, the boundary categories of critical heuristics
are arranged in four groups of three categories each. In Kant's
work, each group stood for an essential source of understanding
and unity in phenomenal experience, and consequently also for
a basic form or type of valid judgments about nature (the world
of phenomenal experience).9)
critical systems heuristics, each group stands for a source of human intentionality
or purposefulness that is essential for understanding the empirical
and normative selectivity of a practical proposition or claim. As
Fig. 4 shows, the first group asks for the sources of motivation
and corresponding ends that condition a claim; the second group,
for the available sources of power and corresponding
means and reach of control; the third, for the essential sources
of knowledge and corresponding forms of expertise; and the
fourth group, finally, for the required sources of legitimation
and corresponding forms of accountability.
Unlike Kant's categories, the critically-heuristic categories are derived from sociological
rather than metaphysical and logical considerations;10) they address the social actors or "stakeholders"
(a term that was not available in the late 1970s when critical
systems heuristics was first developed) whose
views and intentions determine what in a situation of concern
to them counts as relevant knowledge and proper practice:
- The first category of each group refers to a social role (or
type of stakeholder) that is or should be involved
in defining the reference system in question (i.e., a system
of concern S, or its relevant environment E, or the
context of responsible action A).
Example: the role
question: Who is/is to be involved as professional
(e.g., researcher, designer, expert)?
- The second category of
each group addresses role-specific concerns (or
are or should be included.
Example: the need for
Corresponding boundary question:
count as relevant expertise?
finally, the third category of each group relates to key problems (or
stakeholding issues) that are crucial
for understanding the previous two boundary judgments.
the inevitable lack of "guarantee" that reliance
on expertise and professional
guidance will indeed secure improvement.
Corresponding boundary question: What
be the assumed sources of guarantee that improvement
will effectively result, as distinguished from assumed
sources of guarantee that risk being false or deficient guarantors
the three types of boundary categories to each of the four basic boundary
issues of Fig. 4 yields a set of twelve kinds of boundary judgments that
define a claim's reference system, that is, the context that
matters when it comes to assessing the meaning, merits and defects
of a proposition (Ulrich, 2000, p. 251; Ulrich and Reynolds,
2010, p. 254). More precisely, each category prompts us
to reflect on what contextual assumptions are actually
taken to matter and what alternative assumptions might or should
ideally matter. Each of the twelve boundary categories
can thus be understood to give rise to two corresponding boundary
questions, the one asking for what are and the other
for what ought to be the boundary judgments at issue.
checklist of boundary questions From what we just
said, it follows that a useful way to introduce the boundary
categories is by means of a checklist of boundary questions.
system informing a specific claim can accordingly be understood
to be defined by the set of answers
given in a situation of concern to the twelve boundary questions of CSH:
system informing a specific claim is defined by the set of answers
given in a situation to the twelve boundary questions of CSH.
I have recently introduced such a checklist in a previous Bimonthly
essay (Ulrich, 2017b), I present it here is a slightly
different form; however, its intent and content remain the same (Table 1).
1: Checklist of boundary questions
boundary questions operationalize boundary critique as a systematic
process of questioning. The order of the questions may be chosen
freely, according to what appears particularly relevant or interesting
to ask for a start. Each boundary question has two parts; the
second part, beginning with "That is…," serves to define
the intent of the underlying boundary category. Each question should
be answered both in an “is” mode (What are the actual boundary
assumptions informing this claim?) and in an “ought” mode (What
should or would ideally be the reference system to be considered?).
“is” and “ought” answers point to unresolved boundary issues.
The aim is to uncover such issues and to explore options
for resolving them, so as to see a situation and related claims
in different ways, rather
than to find definitive answers. Even where "is" and
"ought" answers agree, it may be advisable to ask
how well-funded such a consensus is.
The aim is boundary testing,
not boundary fixing. It is therefore always a good idea to systematically
vary one's boundary judgments and see how different the
"facts" and "values" taken to be relevant
then look. In this way, systematic
iteration of boundary judgments can convey a sense of the
selectivity and resulting partiality of claims without presupposing a given basis
of judgment, that is, without an illusion of objectivity.
adapted from Ulrich, 2000, p. 258,
and prior versions in 1987, p. 279f,
and 1993, p. 597)
Who is (ought to be) the beneficiary
(or client)? That is, whose interests are (should
What is (ought to be) the purpose?
That is, what are (should be) the consequences?
What is (ought to be) the measure
(or measure of success)? That is, what trade-offs
between conflicting purposes are (should be) built
into the way success is measured?
Who is (ought to be) the decision-maker?
That is, who is (should be) in a position to change
the measure of improvement?
are (ought to be) controlled by the decision-maker?
That is, what conditions of success can (should)
those involved control?
What conditions are (ought to be) part of the decision
That is, what conditions can (should) the decision-maker
not control (e.g., from the viewpoint of
those not involved)?
Who is (ought to be) considered a professional
(or expert)? That is, who is (should be) involved
as an expert, e.g., as a researcher, designer or
What kind of expertise
is (ought to be) consulted? That is, what counts
(should count) as relevant knowledge?
What or who is (ought to be) assumed to be the guarantor
of success? That is, where do (should) those
involved seek some guarantee that improvement will
be achieved (e.g., in consensus among experts, a
valid and relevant data basis, a scientific attitude
of objectivity, a moral stance of impartiality or
fairness, involvement of all stakeholders, consultation
of independent and impartial third parties, blind
peer review, crowd wisdom / crowd voting / crowd
sourcing, support by power-holders, etc., or are
they perhaps false guarantors)?
Who is (ought to be) witness
to the interests of those affected but not involved?
That is, who argues (should argue) the case of those
stakeholders who cannot speak for themselves, including
future generations and non-human nature?
What secures (ought to secure) the emancipation
of those affected from the premises and promises
of those involved? That is, where does (should)
is (ought to be) determining? That is, what different
visions of “improvement” are (should be) considered,
and how are they (should they be) reconciled?
Introducing the boundary judgments in
this way offers three advantages. First, it allows formulating the boundary questions
so as to define the intent of each boundary category; in the
table above this is done by means of the "That is …" part
of every boundary question. Second, it allows formulating the
questions so that they explicitly call for both a descriptive ("is") mode
and a normative
("ought") mode of questioning, that is, for asking
both "What is currently the case?" and "What
should really be the case?" And third, it provides a systematic
order for examining boundary judgments and thus relieves the user
(especially beginners) from each time determining the best order for
using the boundary questions.
the same time, introducing the boundary issues as a checklist
of boundary questions may also involve some traps. In particular,
there is a danger that the boundary questions are misunderstood
to call for definitive answers, and moreover that the order
in which they are listed is followed mechanically. These and
a few other issues of good practice is what I propose to briefly
consider now. I'll begin with two possible misunderstandings
that would make boundary critique an unduly cumbersome process.
critique: how to start Boundary critique depends
more on the quality of the reflective and discursive process
it inspires than on the completeness of the answers we give
to the boundary questions. In any case, a certain focus is always
recommendable with a view to keeping the effort manageable.
idea obviously is that all of the boundary questions have critical significance for reflective
practice, not all may be of equal relevance or equally helpful
application. Rather, the importance of the different boundary
questions tends to be situational. Further, the most important
thing in the process of boundary critique is that it actually
gets going and then, as interesting and relevant issues emerge,
fuels itself. It is a good idea, therefore, to vary the time
dedicated to the different questions, as well as the order in
which they are examined, according to such situational considerations.
is recommendable, then, to start with a few selected boundary
questions that make an obvious difference to how a problem or
situation is seen, and subsequently to follow up the further
boundary issues that emerge. Make
sure though that in the end, at least one question from each of the
four groups of boundary issues has been considered, as a way
to ensure that the concerns of all four stakeholder groups will
receive due attention.
reason why such a start – and the procedural economy it brings
– does not lead to an arbitrary result is that the boundary
questions are strongly interdependent. When we modify one of
the boundary judgments, all others are likely to change as well.
That is, the answers we give to any particular boundary question
is likely to influence the answers we subsequently give to all
other questions, and it may in fact compel us to revise previously
given answers to other questions. In short, in a thoroughly
handled process of boundary critique, the order in which we
consider the questions may be more or less efficient but should
not really determine the resulting understanding of the boundaries
of concern (i.e., of the reference system that matters). Due to
the strong interdependence of boundary judgments, users may
indeed feel free to start the process of boundary critique with
any of the boundary questions that they find particularly relevant
or interesting, if only they are then willing to pay
attention to the further boundary issues that their answers
critique and the S-E-A-U scheme Equally important
with regard to procedural economy is a second basic consideration.
In view of our earlier discussion of the different types of
reference systems, some readers might wonder whether the boundary
questions have to be applied to each of the four basic reference
systems (S-E-A-U), so that effectively four rounds of boundary
critique would be required. They might accordingly worry about
the practicality of boundary critique. However, there is no
need for such worries. The
boundary questions have been formulated from the start so that together,
they cover all four basic reference systems. And, as we just
learned in the previous comment, due to their strong interdependence
they will do so even if not all the questions are unfolded with
equal detail. As a rule, it is thus not necessary to develop four different
sets of answers to properly identify and unfold the selectivity
of claims. A better idea is to carefully think of all four reference
systems, and of the main two types of delimitations involved
A/U no less than S/E, cf. the discussion of this topic in Part
1), while unfolding each and any boundary question.
argument against the need for (and wisdom of) four separate
rounds of boundary critique is that most real-world claims rely
on a set of considerations that are inspired by several of the
S-E-A-U perspectives. The four reference systems S-E-A-U are
therefore best understood as ideal-types that in practice we
hardly ever encounter in pure form. When we apply the twelve
boundary questions with a view to promoting rational practice
rather than considering them theoretically, we may thus expect
them to touch on all the issues intended by the four types of
reference systems; a circumstance that does not prevent us of
course from temporarily focusing on one type of reference system
so as to deal with specific issues as they may emerge in a process
of boundary critique.
a last consideration, the use of the boundary questions
not only in a descriptive ("is") but also in an openly
normative ("ought") mode equally helps boundary critique
avoid the trap of a one-sided focus on reference system S, which
would then need to be compensated as it were by separate rounds
of boundary critique from the perspectives of E and A. In a
well-understood process of boundary critique, examining the
boundary assumptions of a system or situation of interest S,
or of related claims to systemic or situational rationality,
quite naturally leads to the two crucial boundary problems of
delimiting the system of interest S from
its (decision-) environment E on the one hand and the context
of application (or of responsible action) A from the universe
U on the other hand, and thus to including the reference systems
E and A. It would be rather artificial indeed, if not plainly
impracticable, to assign these closely interdependent issues
to separate rounds of boundary critique.
critique as a "process of unfolding" Boundary critique is often
misunderstood to be about boundary
setting. While it is correct that boundary critique should help
us remove uncertainty about boundary assumptions, such a removal
of uncertainty is not to remove boundary assumptions from the
agenda, in the sense that they would then require no further
consideration. The idea is not to check them off – get them
"done and dusted" as it were – but to make sure they
are and remain transparent to all the parties concerned, so
that their selectivity can be unfolded and challenged and alternative
assumptions can be examined. In short, the aim is boundary testing
rather than boundary setting or fixing: "How
different does the claim look if we change this or that boundary
the best way to describe this process of tracing the implications
of alternative boundary judgments is in terms of a process
of unfolding (Ulrich, 1983, whole Ch. 5). That which is
to be unfolded is of course the selectivity and resulting partiality
of boundary assumptions, in one word, their normative content.
As there is no natural end to this process, boundary assumptions
need to remain open to revision and it should become common
practice that all claims to relevant knowledge, rational action,
and resulting improvement are to be qualified with respect to
them. Such claims can then be limited accordingly, so that decisions
based on them can be taken without claiming too much.
critique as an
iterative process We have seen that in the practice
of boundary critique, there is no need to adhere to any specific
order in which the boundary questions are unfolded. Users should feel free to start the process with any
question that looks particularly relevant or interesting to
begin with, and then to continue with whatever next question
may come up in the light of the considerations inspired by the
first question, and so on. Since all the boundary questions
are interdependent, in the sense that the answers to any one
will influence the answers to all others, it does not really
matter with which question one begins. Boundary critique should
be understood as an
iterative process that can and should follow the logic
of a boundary discussion as it unfolds rather than
any strict linear order (Fig. 5).
Copyleft 2017 W. Ulrich
Fig. 5: Boundary
critique as iterative process
of unfolding the boundary questions may be handled as a process
of free iteration that follows a spontaneous sequence of boundary
questions such as suggested here
Personally I have often
found it useful to follow the sequence marked as an example
in Fig. 5. So I will usually start with question (2) before turning to
question (1), which then may lead to question (11) and on to
questions (3), (10), or conversely to question (10) followed
by questions (3) and (11), and so on. In the "is" mode, the logic of reflection
is then something like this:
is the main purpose
(the big idea)?
stands to benefit
requirements of accountability and participation are assumed
free those affected from the premises and promises of those
(the sources of legitimacy)?
is the standard of improvement
for handling conflicting
(the trade-offs assumed in defining success)?
may have to bear negative consequences without benefiting
having a say, and who speaks on their behalf
but not involved)?
easier to remember for beginners is another standard sequence
that I have found useful particularly for teaching purposes,
first suggested by Reynolds (2007) (Fig. 6):
Fig. 6: A
standard sequence for unfolding the boundary categories
beginners it may be useful to follow this easily remembered
standard sequence of boundary critique (Sources: Ulrich and
Reynolds, 2010, p. 259;
adapted from Reynolds 2007,
again, the order in which the boundary questions
are considered may really be left to the way a discussion develops
or a facilitator suggests. It is also possible at all times
to go back to an earlier-discussed boundary question, if subsequent
considerations call for its revision. This is what it means
to say that boundary critique is an
iterative process. It should be clear then that the point of the checklist
is not to impose a rigid order but rather, to facilitate a meaningful
choice of the next question one might want to consider at any stage of
a boundary reflection or discourse.
recording table for boundary critique Given the iterative nature of
the process of unfolding the boundary categories, it makes sense
to keep a record of the ideas as they come up. Here is a recording table
to this end that can be increased to A4 format or letter size
for printing out as a worksheet (see Table 2).
2: Recording table for boundary critique (click to
Ulrich, 1996, p. 44)
Copyleft 1996 W. Ulrich
table Instead of the answers we can enter the boundary questions themselves
in each field of the above table. In effect this combines the
table of boundary categories with the checklist of boundary
question into a single table, although such economy of representation
comes at the
expense of dropping the explanatory "That is …"
clause of the full list. Even so, this combined table may provide
a useful aide-mémoire of the issues to be addressed
in boundary critique (see Table 3).
(especially as a beginner in boundary critique) one prefers
to rely on the full checklist of boundary questions or on the
combined table, or rather (as an experienced practitioner)
finds it sufficient to have the table of boundary categories
at hand, the aim remains the same: it is to get a
sense of the boundary judgments that are actually operative
in a claim, as distinguished from alternative
boundary judgments that might seem more appropriate.
Actual and ideal mapping A
basic tool that can drive the process of unfolding the implications
of boundary assumptions for the parties concerned, and thus
to identify problematic as distinguished from more appropriate
boundary judgments, is by systematically examining them from
both an "is" (actual mapping) and "ought"
(ideal mapping) perspective. Combining these two modes of boundary
questioning helps to identify unresolved conflicts of views
and values as to what "the problem" and its "solution"
is. It allows for a certain rigor not only in dealing
with questions of "fact" but also in dealing with
questions of "value," in that it makes it apparent
at all times that
due to the underlying boundary judgments, both types of statements
are always selective and accordingly can be better understood
by asking for their normative along with their empirical content.
In this way it becomes transparent that there are always options
for defining relevant facts and values, for the simple reason
that there are always options for defining appropriate boundary
judgments. It also
helps in better understanding how different (groups of) people can arrive at
different notions of what are "the" relevant facts
and values. It can make us more tolerant for the differing positions
of others and thus provide a better basis for mutual understanding.
design ideals or visions for improvement Ideal
mapping also lends itself to a
more specific, independent use, namely, as a tool for
the creative exploration of design ideals or options for the future
along the lines of Ackoff's (1974, pp. 26 and 29f; 1981, pp. 104ff) concept
of idealized design and Churchman's
(1979, p. 82f) similar concept of ideal
planning; my own version of it in CSH is "ideal
mapping" as distinguished from "actual mapping"
of reference systems (cf. the two case studies in Critical
Heuristics, Ulrich, 1983, pp. 377-414).
a new rigor in evaluation research Further,
the combination of actual mapping with a previous round of ideal
mapping lends itself to a specific application in evaluation
research and other types of research or practice that aim at
systematic valuation based on research or vice-versa, at research
based on a clear value basis. By beginning with ideal mapping,
one can first clarify the value basis for the subsequent effort
of research or professional intervention. Boundary critique thus
allows a new rigor in the task of value clarification and
at the same time
provides a basis for evaluation without any illusion of objectivity.
"When the optional character of underpinning boundary
judgments becomes obvious, the mask of objectivity slips."
(Ulrich, 2000, p. 259) The discipline of evaluation research,
which since its emergence in the 1960s and 1970s has been understood
and practiced mainly as an empirical-analytic science, might
thus finally find ways to deal systematically with its value
content, namely, in the form of pluralist evaluation
grounded in, and combined with, systematic efforts of boundary
critique (for some emerging proposals in this direction, see,
e.g., Gates, 2017; Reynolds, 2014; and Schwandt, 2017).
are boundary judgments appropriate? I mentioned
above that since there is no such thing as definitive, objectively
right boundary judgments, the more modest aim of boundary critique
can only be to improve the basis for choosing "appropriate"
boundary judgments – more appropriate, that is, than the ones
who may presently be taken for granted. But what
does "appropriate" mean if there are no definitively
"right" boundary judgments? A basic test that I use to
assess an alternative
boundary judgment as compared to a current one is by asking
myself whether I could better argue it to be conducive
to improvement, for example, because it embodies a more comprehensive
or long-term perspective or is acceptable to a larger group
of people concerned. Similarly, I identify
appropriate boundary judgments by considering whether I could publicly share them with all the parties concerned,
as a touchstone for their not representing a merely or mainly
self-serving interest or even some hidden agenda.
quest for appropriate boundary judgments is never a quick and
trivial matter. As I have emphasized, boundary critique (as the name suggests)
is not primarily a tool for boundary fixing but for boundary testing,
that is, for surfacing the boundary judgments on which a claim
depends and thus for being able to see the claim in the light
of alternative boundary judgments. Since there are no objectively superior
boundary judgments, boundary critique
cannot be expected to bring forth quick, simple and obvious
answers. This is why we need it in the first place – because
no such answers exist. Further, boundary critique can also be
demanding because each boundary question has the potential
to inspire reflections or deliberations that really go the
heart of a problem situation and compel us to think and argue
more carefully and deeply than we usually do about what in a
specific situation should count as relevant knowledge, rational
action, and adequate improvement. The sequence of boundary questions
by which I earlier illustrated a useful way to start the process
of boundary critique (Q2 – Q1 – Q11– Q3 – Q10 etc.) provides
an example; I find it useful as it makes me think early on in
the process about core issues such as what is a proposal's "big
idea" (Q2) and what kind of trade-offs between conflicting
aims or expectations should flow into the assumed measure of
That such questions are
difficult to answer does not mean they are irrelevant or impractical,
quite the contrary – they are difficult because they
are deeply relevant, in the double sense
of being crucial for effective pragmatic action and for
If pragmatic performance is measured by the aim of securing
effective action towards genuine and defensible forms of
improvement – doing things right and doing the right
thing – then boundary critique is certainly a powerful pragmatic
best way to get a personal sense of this pragmatic performance
is by experiencing it, that is, by trying for oneself
and beginning to apply the boundary questions in practical situations,
and be it only by listening to people's arguments and trying
to identify their underlying boundary judgments. Once we have
understood the concept of boundary judgments, we can learn as
much about them on the bus or in a street café as in
the lecture room and in research practice. A skilled practitioner
of boundary critique will make it a personal habit to
be attentive to the boundary judgments people use, and also
to ask what options there might be for them. People's ways to think and talk about matters of concern to
them is the best training ground there is for boundary reflection
and discourse. Reading case studies may also help
a bit, but it cannot replace personal trying and experience.11)
abstract and demanding for ordinary citizens and managers? Readers who have not been exposed to critical heuristics
before may think that all this is quite nice but so abstract
and complex that it is difficult to see how ordinary citizens
and managers could apply it. Are we not dealing here with fundamental philosophical
difficulties of the systems idea and of the theory of knowledge
and rationality in general, for example, concerning the meaning
of practical reason and the unavailability
of comprehensiveness and objectivity?
Precisely! If boundary judgments are indeed as
fundamental to everyday speech
and argumentation as I argue, it must be possible to explain their
nature and also their emancipatory
implications to ordinary citizens. It is true, we are dealing
with a concept of systems-theoretical origin here, and systems theory may
well be beyond the interest and understanding of a majority
citizens. But at the same time, the concept of boundary judgments is so elementary
that grasping it can hardly be reserved to systems theorists.
Boundary judgments are not an esoteric invention of mine, they
are an all-pervasive everyday reality; so why should it be
impossible in principle to demonstrate their importance by means
of everyday language and everyday examples?
I have tried to show,
we do not really need systems language to grasp the idea that the practical meaning of a proposition –
it makes in practice – depends on how we bound the system of
reference. Instead we may talk of the relevant
"situation," or of the definition of the "problem," of
the "context that matters,"
and so on. Similarly, instead of using the abstract notion of
boundary judgments, we can speak of "borders of concern," of
reach of responsibility, and so on. I can't see why ordinary people should not be able to understand that when
they differ with others, this is
not necessarily so because all others got their facts and values
wrong or are stupid but rather, because their borders of concern
everyday observation that people are "at cross-purposes"
gets a new and relevant meaning here; it means that people's
boundary judgments differ, not only with respect to
boundary category No. 2 (Q2) but also to other boundary issues. It is then quite normal that different
facts and values matter to them, a circumstance that need not
mean people are unreasonable or lack good will. On the contrary,
wouldn't it be surprising if despite differing boundary judgments,
people would arrive at the same observations and concerns?
is so easy – easier than questioning one's boundary judgments
or those of others – to assume that people lack understanding or good
will (or both) if they don't agree with us, although chances
are it is simply because their boundary judgments are different.
Unfortunately, too many people are still not aware of the role that
play, in everyday observations and valuations no less than in
academic and professional discourses. If only they were aware of the concept,
it could make mutual understanding and
tolerance so much easier and thereby could also provide a basis
for rational deliberation and cooperation.
Systems Thinking, Management, and Citizenship A
proper concept of good management education today should probably
equip future managers to assume more responsibility than is now
usual for the longer-term consequences and side-effects
of their actions. How managers
conceive of managerial problems, and what solutions they perceive
as "rational" solutions, has a lot to do with their boundary
judgments. To take two examples that look more obvious than
they are from a methodological point of view, the call for ecologically
sustainable forms of industrial production increasingly require managers
to include within their assumed contexts of rational
action the concerns of future generations
and non-human nature; but then, to make this rationally possibly,
they need new tools of cost accounting and financial reporting
in which costs imposed on those affected but not involved matter.
Accounting has as much to do with boundary judgments as
have environmentally sustainable forms of production and business
ethics, yet boundary critique is not as yet a systematic part
be sure, we cannot expect managers to be
altruists in charge of everyone and everything and thereby to neglect their core business of making business.
But we should indeed expect them to be competent in what they do as
managers, and such competence certainly involves systematic
reflection on the boundary judgments that inform
their decisions and consequent efforts, together with
concerned citizens, to handle these boundary judgments in transparent and responsible
day may not be so far away when citizens begin to pay more attention than at
present to the boundary judgments behind managerial decisions
that affect them. They will then want to challenge these decisions
both argumentatively and through their decisions as consumers.
So managers should have every interest in learning early on
how to deal carefully with managerial
boundary judgments. It cannot be too early for management education
to begin to prepare future managers now and to form their understanding
of competent management accordingly. In this new understanding
of management, competent management has something to do with
competent citizenship; far from being in opposition to it, it
will depend on it.
I do not want to be misunderstood. The point is not to renounce professionalism
or diminish its role but to deepen our understanding of it.
In spite of the increasingly
important role that I would like to assign to competent citizenship,
and that is, to ordinary citizens, I am convinced that management
will remain a key function in society, one that requires well-prepared
people and should be fulfilled as professionally as possible.
I am thus not arguing against professionalism, only against our contemporary
notion of professional competence, especially in the field of
management. This present notion is a rather superficial one,
it seems to me, in that it ignores the "deep symmetry" of professional
and non-professional judgments of which I have spoken. Contemporary
management theories and fads (Jackson, 1995), due to their ignoring the role
of boundary judgments, suffer not only from a defect of
modesty and self-reflection but also from a lack of
relevance and depth for management education and practice.
Academically trained managers engaged
in responsible positions could tell us about that!12)
For the same reason, present-day notions of professionalism still
tend to put non-professional people in a situation of incompetence,
even when they are supposed to serve them (Ulrich, 2000).
They thereby miss important sources of motivation, as well
as of knowledge and legitimation, for successful practice. Along
with this deficit come the manifold gaps between theory and
practice, science and politics, and "facts" and "values"
(or expertise and ethics), of which we are all more or less aware
in this epoch of "organized irresponsibility" (Beck,
1992; 1995) but for which we have no methodological answers
in the form of clear theory and practicable tools. Perhaps
the principle of boundary critique and its underlying theoretical
and philosophical framework of critical systems heuristics (CSH)
can contribute a small piece to the difficult puzzle we face,
by helping us to deal a bit better with these deficits.
time has come, I think, to start preparing today's management students for their
future jobs by training them not only to master technical management
know-how but also to handle such know-how truly professionally
– that is, as I see it, by taking the critical turn towards a reflective kind of competence
that would be informed by the concept of boundary critique.
vision that could motivate and sustain such a critically reflective
stance might be competent citizenship, according to the
without some sense of competence is empty;
some sense of citizenship is blind.
If we educate future
to associate their professional competence with competent citizenship,
they will not only gain a deeper understanding of their own
societal role but will also be prepared to give ordinary citizens
a competent role to play in the societal definition and legitimation
of good and professional managerial decisions. I cannot think of a more meaningful vision for
a truly systemic concept of rational management than that of
management as competent citizenship.
I don't know whether you, the reader, agree; but if you do,
you will not need to give young people the kind of advice that
the German satirist Karl Kraus is reported to have given to
a student who wanted to study business ethics and which I here
adapt a little to the critical study of systems management:
"You want to study critical systems thinking in management?
Then decide yourself for the one or the other!"
surely cannot be the answer we offer contemporary management
students. The time is ripe for promoting forms of systems thinking
in management and professionalism that make a difference. The
case for boundary critique is strong indeed.
Let us train future
managers in systems thinking as if citizens mattered.
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