Claire Smith


Masters in Major Programme Management



By Claire Smith

Defining Success

Encouraged to apply what we learn to our practice, this blog takes a hard systems/soft systems approach to our February experience. Energy was somewhat sapped by mid-winter troughs for the northern hemisphere colleagues. Southern hemisphere colleagues found themselves transplanted to harsh winds and sharp frosts. That was our operating environment. Some of the course content reflected that, confronting many participants with new and painful realities about less familiar consequences of failing programmes.

We softened the boundaries between breaks and lectures too enthusiastically. My comfort with ambiguity led me to lose my working group completely once, reform in a group of fellow lost sheep before rediscovering my allocated group on the last day. Drs Crawford and Maylor had the measure of us, and we finally came in on time, with plenty of benefits.

Defining success at this point in MMPM in the programme could be premature, but I decided there were enough to report. Kindness and conversation were the intangibles from my week, some around my college, Kellogg, and some around my base for the week, Jesus College. Starting with Kellogg, my tutor Jonathan Michie took time for a conversation about my Oxford experience so far. Shaun looked after me at lunch and dinner. Conversation over breakfast at Jesus College about TE Lawrence, physics, magic realism and about conversation itself illustrated why I enjoy myself so much in Oxford.

The clever systems design which mixes us up in the lecture theatre and breakout groups generates plenty of conversations in the cohort, too. I now want to know which terminal design will be chosen and whether applying the power of veto will speed up certain government approval processes. Conversation and kindness during our Oxford weeks mitigate the influence of the sharks swimming in some of the systems where we have to survive.

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