Monday, 11 January 2010

Reflecting on analysis

Drawing pictures helps to discover and analyse my thoughts on a situation.

Checkland's soft system analysis requires the drawing of a rich picture as the first stage of the analysis of a messy situation. For those who immediately say, "but I can't draw", it's the quality of the analysis that matters , not the quality of the artistry, which you don't have to show anyone anyhow. The pictures draw attention to features that you otherwise don't notice. Interviewees that use visual metaphors help me to draw such a picture. For example, they talk about
  • the middle ground
  • positions drawn
  • adversaries
which gives a picture of a battlefield, and you have the start of a story you want to write.

Draw first, then check. If you check your picture includes:
  1. facts
  2. structure
  3. process
  4. climate
  5. queries
you probably have done a lot of thought and analysis.
  1. Facts include little charts of numbers, or graphs or percentages.
  2. Structure can be of accountability, or hierarchy or informal structure, and again can be little charts - who needs drawing skill for those?
  3. Process is the way that things get done.
  4. Climate is the interesting one - not weather climate but the atmosphere in a work situation because it reveals issues and problem situations. I once had an interviewee that referred to someone being in the firing line, so my sketch had a blindfolded person facing a row of guns. Maybe the process create the climate or maybe new processes can change the climate - you can't tell until you notice them.
  5. Queries is a kind of catch-all because it's the bits where you don't yet know something, but at least you know you don't know, so I tag them when I'm coding in Nvivo, in the hope that I can go back to a participant and ask for the missing information.
How do I do use these sketches for writing? I can take the features and pull stories from them, especially from the climate sketches. But by checking that I have something against each of those five headings, they're most useful for analysis.

I can't blog my pictures - initial analysis isn't sequential enough to write about. I draw the pictures by hand, sometimes left handed so I get both sides of my brain to tackle the problem, and a computer doesn't afford that kind of work.

Drawing pictures is about analysis, not about writing.

Checkland, P. (1981). Systems Thinking, Systems Practice.
Checkland, P. (1999). Systems Thinking, Systems Practice : With, Soft Systems Methodology ; a 30 Year Retrospective. Chichester, Wiley
Checkland, P. and J. Scholes (1990). Soft Systems Methodology in Action. Chichester, Wiley
Checkland's work is also referred to in Miles & Huberman in Miles, M. B. and A. M. Huberman (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis : An Expanded Sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications.

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