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System Boundaries

EDGEWORK redefines the edges of systems.

One of the biggest challenges when working within any complex system is establishing limits or boundaries. Using EDGEWORK, we draw boundaries beyond what is immediately under direct control to include spheres of influence, but not drawing boundaries so broadly that they become meaningless.

Controllable System: Too narrow

The Controllable System encompasses elements of the system where an individual public sector leader has direct command and control over staff, services and spending decisions.

Influenceable System: Refined system edge

The Influenceable System is chosen by the individual public sector leader and is the additional space in which they have practical influence over activities beyond the controllable boundary. Elements in the influenceable system might be in a different part of the organisation, in a different part of the public sector, in the wider community or just down the corridor from their own office.

Whole System: Too wide

The Whole System stretches beyond the influenceable boundary and includes people, policies and activities which are part of the same system but where the individual public sector leader has no practical or useful ability to influence them. This might include the mainstream media, central government policy or demographic changes.

An Example of Controllable and Influenceable Systems: SEND Transport

The actions of myriad groups, organisations and individuals impact on the provision of transport for children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND). A Director of Children’s Services must therefore consider a wide range of stakeholders, some of whom work in the controllable system but most of whom work in the influenceable space.

An Example of Controllable and Influenceable Systems: SEND Transport

Further reading

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The EDGEWORK® Manifesto

How to deliver sustainable change in complex public services.

The EDGEWORK Manifesto: How to deliver sustainable change in complex public services

We hope that our new book starts a conversation about why smart, dedicated and experienced public sector leaders find it difficult to make measurable and sustainable improvements

October 21, 2019

EDGEWORK Series: Primed Performance Management

Develop staff skills, confidence and behaviours to exploit fully the power of performance data

April 11, 2019

EDGEWORK Series: Trajectory Management in Adult Social Care

Delivering and evidencing better outcomes and financial savings

August 9, 2018

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