Tuesday, 28 September 2010


I gave my supervisor several chapters today. To my surprise, she commented on them being 'chapters'.
"but you told me to write chapter 4 two months ago, and the others just followed on"
I printed them out for her since we were both in the office and handed them to her in an A4 ring binder, which pleased her (and me) because it begins to look like a real thesis at last.

However, she and supervisor #2 could still say to analyse it a different way and set me back months. A fellow post grad had her supervisors do that. FPG'd prepared qualitative work, but when some number crept in, the supervisors suggested some statistical analysis as well, which set the work back two months. Then they realised that there wasn't enough data to get statistically significant results - well duh! Why couldn't they all have realised that a bit earlier instead of messing around?

Nevertheless, it's a week of progress because Sanjukta is through her viva and another OUBS research student will be submitting this week.


Monday, 27 September 2010

Sanjukta's success

Sanjukta is through her viva with minor corrections. Hurrah and congratulations to her. Her subject was acquisitions and mergers, her title being the Market for Corporate Control and European Utilities.

We celebrated quietly with cake and tea.


Sunday, 26 September 2010

Engaging progress monitoring reports

She's very clever, supervisor #1. I've been asking supervisors' advice about potential examiners for nearly a year, and in my March progress monitoring report I wrote that this had to be considered. Whereupon, being as I had now raised this issue, supervisor #1 delegated me the task of logging potential candidate examiners for my supervisors to consider, and recorded it on the PMR.

The interesting thing is that the PMR acted as a material boundary object for supervisors and student to share a discussion that otherwise had been going nowhere, meaning that there is an advantage to doing the PMR, provided that all the participants share its creation and negotiate its contents.

I still can't see who uses its output though. I think it's just a bureacratic safety net.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Progress Monitoring Reports

It's time for PMR - the six-monthly chore when we have to complete our Progress Monitoring Report. So it's timely that in today's Higher Times Education Supplement Tara Brabazon writes here:
Motivated students and experienced supervisors build a successful doctorate. Any obstruction that separates students and supervisors slows academic progress. This is not a radical statement. It is obvious. If students attend meetings with administrators rather than academic specialists, or submit forms about their progress rather than progressing their scholarship, then their time is reduced for research.
Yes - waste of my time. My fellow third year was worrying about it:
"I have to update my training record and it's taking me ages."
"So why do you have to do it for the PMR?" I asked.
"Because there's a question on the PMR" she reads it out "Is your training record up to date?"
"Oh that! I just put 'yes'."
I got cynical about the PMR's worth the time the office forgot to send them out and a student had to ask for them. If only a student notices them missing, who are they for? If you go to the effort of creating something, and maintaining it but no-one or nothing else ever uses it then it is worthless, an inefficient use of time. Don't do it.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

End of three years

At the end of September my three-year scholarship ends. The end of my scholarship means the end of my funding, so no more conferences, outside workshops, transcription, or travel will be paid. I need to finish unpaid, unwaged, unfunded.

Fellow students are fretting, excitedly and worriedly arranging to submit.
  • My fellow third year has registered her intention to submit in the next three months.
  • A fourth year student has submitted and awaits her viva next week.
  • Another fourth year student has just taken her thesis to the printers.
  • Another fourth year has gone part-time.
At the end of four years you get deregistered and if you haven't submitted or gone part time, that's it. Done. Cut off. NO degree. Nothing. And a waste of four years with nothing to show for it, but if you go part time before the cut off date, then you have several more years as a registered part-time student. That costs over a sixteen hundred pounds, so not the route you want to take if you think you'll submit in only a few more weeks.

At this end stage, when things are getting desperate, you have to manage your supervisors' expectations. If they think you're going independent and you will submit anyhow, then they support you - that's my observation of my senior students' experience. But if you bow to their experience and wisdom and hesitation, then you're going to take longer. Supervisors who've given you other tasks that delay you, land you with problems so make sure the supervisors know the regulations too.

I finish unfunded, but I shall finish well before 30 September 2011.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Presenting a pecha kucha

In a pecha kucha I presented all my three years research this morning. My fellow students came, watched, listened, and then asked questions.

A pecha kucha (pronunciation here) is presented in twenty slides of twenty seconds, i.e. 400 seconds so six minutes 40 seconds. You have to set the slides to move on automatically. This provides a discipline of
  • not too much on the slide, and
  • knowing exactly what you want to say and saying it in no more than 20 seconds.
I benefited from having to limit my research to the important points, demonstrating a thread through it from the initial problem, to a conclusion that showed I'd answered the research questions.

The consequent questions made it clear to me that I should change one of my research questions, because I was answering something else. My colleague students also drew my attention to some usefully relevant literature. Thank you to them.

I recommend any third year PhD student present a pecha kucha of research so far.
  1. Problem
  2. Literature
  3. Research questions
  4. Theoretical framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Five case studies
  7. Preconditions of engagement
  8. Environment & participants
  9. Knowledgeability
  10. Emerging behaviours
  11. Sharing
  12. Sense making
  13. Adapting
  14. Connecting behaviours
  15. Actions for sharing/ sense making /adapting
  16. Self reinforcing behaviour
  17. Client-consultant interactions
  18. Value
  19. Template for creating engagement
  20. Conclusions
If you want to see the timed show, contact me here.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Thesis structure

Thesis contents
4. Case studies description 4,500 words
5. Case studies discussion 15,000 words
6. Case studies emerging behaviour 9,000 words
7. Findings 10,000 words

And it will be done! I'm polishing chapter 7 (or rewriting it entirely), and have still to write the chapters in block capitals.

Saturday, 4 September 2010


I've written something about findings - I'm a tad excited about this (in a British sense - like I'm really excited but understating it). Findings has to be the last chapter, so now I can write all the proceeding chapters because now I know what I'm aiming at concluding with.

And it's not exciting. It's not at all exciting, because what I find is like everyone else has been saying for years, and all I've done is collect the information in this particular format and use this particular model that's my own, to model the same as everyone else.

And I bet when my supervisors read it, I'll be deflated again.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Systems conference

The UK Systems Society have the annual conference at this time of year, and being interested in systems thinking and its application to business, I took the opportunity to go this year - my funded studentship finishes this month, :( so if I want to do something that costs, this is the last month to claim it. It was worth it because I met and talked with lots of interesting and knowledgeable people about systems, got to know of aspects of systems I'd not heard of before (like Connant-Ashby) and used systems thinking that I'm familiar with.

Systems thinking is a niche with few practitioners, a few small journals with low Research Asssesment ratings and little academic recognition. John Martin from the systems department of the Open University suggested that systems thinking is used in other non-specifically systems and published in other journals, but we don't have the evidence. So systems thinking isn't obvious in the academic literature, but may be applied in practice because we had a number of practitioners at the conference, and a couple of practitioner speakers: John Seddon of Vanguard consulting, and Hoverstadt.

Hoverstadt works in the sort of public sector areas that are relevant to my research, so we had an interesting conversation. His book, The Fractal Organisation, is one that I've been recently reading. He writes clearly, and explains the viable systems model much better than Stafford Beer does. He tutors one of the OU systems courses, and is running a systems workshop on VSM at the OU this month. I'm going to squeeze that in to my last month's funding too.