CSH in needs analysis - Bryan Hopkins

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The key CSH questions (as generically expressed) and how they can be applied to a needs analysis, in the field
Using Critical Systems Heuristics in needs analysis
Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH) is a systems thinking tool developed within what is sometimes known as the 'emancipatory' or 'critical' realm of the discipline. As such, it places considerable emphasis on exploring power relationships which influence the system of interest. CSH as a tool was formalised by the Swiss academic Werner Ulrich, drawing extensively on the work of C. West Churchman. The tool proposes that the behaviour of any system, including a system for training people, is influenced from four perspectives:
  • Motivation, who gets what from the system (trainees, organisation, trainer, customers, etc.)
  • Control, who controls how the system operates (managers, trainers, trainees, etc,)
  • Knowledge, what the system contains and how this is decided (learner or trainer, for example)
  • Legitimacy, those excluded by the system

For each of these perspectives, we need to think about what the perspective means and who is involved, and also what key issues may be. This 4 x 3 structure is usually represented in a matrix for clarity.

Thirdly, the 12 questions in the matrix are then asked twice, firstly what is the answer, then what should be the answer. This step is crucial, as it exposes the power dynamics influencing how the training has been designed and delivered.

This probably seems quite a complicated process, but the table oppositeshows how the 12 basic questions can be used in a needs analysis.

Why is this useful?
Using a critical systems thinking approach in a needs analysis can help us to identify more comprehensive, holistic solutions.

For example:
  • Who is directly or indirectly involved in the situation of interest? (Motivation)
  • What or who may have control over the effectiveness of any training or non-training intervention? (Control)
  • What is the relevant knowledge or skill involved in the situation, and who makes decisions about this? (Knowledge)
  • How can people who will be affected by any intervention provide input into the analysis process? (Legitimacy)
CSH question
Questions to ask in the field
1. What is/ought to be the purpose of what people in the situation of interest are doing?
  • What are the officially-stated objectives for the training?
  • What do people doing the work see as valid objectives?
  • Should the objectives be redefined in any way?
2. Who is/ought to be the intended beneficiary of what the people are doing?
  • Who is directly or indirectly affected by the problem?
  • Who should be affected?
3. What is/ought to be the measure of success of what people are doing?
  • What are the officially-desired measures and criteria of success?
  • What are other perspectives about measures of success?
4. What conditions of success are/ought to be under the control of the people involved?
  • What equipment, information and other resources needed do people have?
  • What equipment, information and other resources should people have?
5. Who is/ought to be in control of the conditions of success of what people are doing?
  • Who controls procedures, equipment, information and other resources needed for working more effectively?
  • Who should control resources?
6. What conditions of success are/ought to be outside the control of who makes decisions about what people are doing?    
  • What factors influencing the likelihood of success are outside of the individual or organisation's control?
  • What factors should be under control?
7. What are/ought to be relevant knowledge and skills for what people are doing?
  • What formal or informal knowledge and skill do people have for carrying out the work?
  • What support systems are in place?
  • What new knowledge and skills will be needed?
  • What support systems should be in place?
  • What formal or informal knowledge and skills should people have?
8. Who is/ought to be providing knowledge and skills related to what people are doing?
  • Who is the source of knowledge about new skills?
  • Who should be a source of knowledge about new skills?
9. What are/ought to be regarded as assurances that what people are doing is successful?
  • How do people know that they are operating successfully?
  • How should people know that they are operating successfully?
10. What are/ought to be the opportunities for the interests of those negatively affected by what people are doing?
  • How can people affected by the situation provide input?
  • How should people affected provide input?
11. Who is/ought to be representing the interests of those negatively affected by but not involved with what people are doing?
  • Who is affected by the situation and any solution implemented?
  • Who will represent these people?
  • Who should be affected?
  • Who should represent these people?
12. What space is/ought to be available for reconciling differing worldviews regarding what people are doing, among those involved and affected?
  • What underlying worldviews are influencing perspectives about the situation?
  • How are different worldviews being reconciled?
  • How should different worldviews be reconciled?
  • What worldviews should be influencing situation?
You will find further information about this and other systems thinking methodologies in my book "Learning and Performance: A Systemic Model", (2017), published by Routledge.
 
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