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The Art of Judgment: A Study of Policy Making (Rethinking Public Administration) Paperback – 1 Jan 1995

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GEOFFREY VICKERS'S MAJOR WORKS were published in the twenty-seven years between 1955 and 1982, the period between his retirement from the British National Coal Board and his death. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x95ba854c) out of 5 stars 2 reviews
HASH(0x95babc30) out of 5 stars Novel & Useful Insights Plausibly Applicable Also to Individual Judgment 13 Feb. 2015
By Dennis B. Mulcare - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In the exemplified context of institutional policy making and ensuing regulation, Vickers articulates a concept of judgment that is anchored in value-mediated experience. The central construct is an appreciative field that spans multiple appreciative systems pertaining to respective categories of experience. When activated, appropriate previously realized settings of an appreciative system influence corresponding judgments associated with the regulation cycle. The salient factor at play is the automatic inclusion of value considerations as accrued over past experiences. Hence, regulation is informed by a multifaceted experience configuration that associates with incident conditions, of both internal and external natures. Primarily, the regulation loop seeks to ensure and sustain quasi-equilibrium among relations in the overall regulated institution loop, and not merely to pursue means-ends objectives on a command basis.

Aside from the institution under regulation, the regulation loop contains an appreciative segment and an instrumental segment. The former serves to characterize the regulated states of affairs, and to admit policy adjustments where deemed warranted by external agents; hence the appreciative segment makes continual appreciative judgments. The latter serves to execute the incident regulation corrections in order to attain or maintain the desired operating points or reference indices among relations within the total system; hence the instrumental segment makes ongoing instrumental judgments. Note that the overall system is dynamic in that: the regulated organization may change; the regulating entity may change; or the regulating entity may issue a change in operating policy. The regulation loop responds to any of these perturbations, and may seek to enact revised regulation relations or to establish an updated operating point for the regulated organization. For orientation at the outset of the book, Vickers contrasts his organizational analyses and concepts with those presented in Simon’s “Administrative Behavior.”

Basically, appreciative judgment seeks to make sense of an incident situation and the prospects it presents. Accordingly, appreciative judgment encompasses: reality judgement, or appreciating the present situation and how it might unfold (knowing-what is happening in adequate detail); and value judgments, or appreciating the resultant prospects (knowing-which is the best course to remediate discrepant regulation). In short, value judgments give meaning to judgments of reality. The credibility of value judgments, moreover, has to be assessed by further value judgments, which may prompt revision to an appreciative system. Additionally, instrumental judgment decides the proper implementation for the indicated action (knowing-how best to enact desired corrections to accomplish prescribed regulation).

For a given category of experience, a corresponding appreciative system can be visualized as a two-dimensional matrix, where the indices are reality concepts and value concepts. The term concept here connotes a coalescence of experiential results composing a collective abstraction. The matrix elements, which are termed settings, then constitute the distillation of experience corresponding to the reality-value indices. When a particular reality index is activated by incident reality or state information, the corresponding value indices for non-null matrix elements are likewise activated or set. Each is then said to be in readiness, meaning that it is ready to support elicited judgments, pro or con. Any results obtained through the use of readinesses are in turn enfolded into their respective matrix element settings, thereby enabling in-service adaptation of the corresponding appreciative system. Ultimately, the readinesses that are invoked support the regulation of the target organization through appropriate adjustments to relations among elements in the overall system.

Aside from the roots of its genesis, Vickers’ formulation of end-to-end regulative judgment appears to be merely conceptual at present. If so, it remains to be described as to just how it would be implemented and supported in the case of an actual regulated institution. That is hardly a matter of concern here as the definitive architectural characterization has been explained and justified. Furthermore, it would seem that the same architecture would be apt for an individual human’s cognitive processes. Here, the three-dimensional array of the appreciative field, especially if the element settings are sparse, would be amenable to a network structure. That would be comparable to a Piagetian cognitive structure for operative knowledge, which is postulated to be extensible and broadly modifiable. In both cases, moreover, the correspondences with malleable human neural substrates are ostensive. In a sum, it seems that Vickers’ conceptualization of a constructivist value-infused experience-based networks could hold appeal for further exploration.

My personal interest in organizations or policy management is essentially nil, but I was intrigued by the author’s postulation of five dimensions of human institutional organization. With my liberties in their naming, these dimensions are: stationarity, composability, openness, autonomy, and cohesion. Vickers was inspired by biological thinking, and yet these dimensions serve in the analysis of institutional organizations, as well as their susceptibilities to discrepant operation or corrective actions. Offhand, it would seem that these dimensions would also be apt for characterizing other kinds of structures or organizations, as for example engineered systems. Of course, there is considerably more in this book regarding organizations than I am equipped to comment on.

Despite its exceptionally valuable content, this book’s composition and articulation might well have been better. A few figures, tables, and simple equations, plus a taxonomy of judgment sorts, would have aided readability and clarity. Nevertheless, I hold this book to be a solid Five-Star offering, albeit a rather dated one by now. Still, I not infrequently find reference to it in other scholarly books, so Vickers has made his mark with the concept of appreciative systems. I especially like the scheme whereby value considerations are always unobtrusively embedded into judgment deliberations as a matter of course. In all, this is a very appealing and useful formulation, and one that would seem to merit further evolution.
4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95f69198) out of 5 stars Old-school English Socialism 31 Dec. 2011
By Epictetus (Hong Kong) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I bought this book hoping that it would give some practical advice for how to develop that elusive and valuable capability, judgement, or, alternatively, to explain what "policy" is. It does not do the former and it assumes that one already knows what he latter is. It must be said, however, that the aims of the author are something quite different from answering my two questions.

The author writes as if he firmly believes that the Man from the Ministry knows best, and gave the impression to me, at least, that while private enterprise and the individual free under the common law are to be tolerated, they really interfere with good civil servants working tirelessly for the betterment of society.

The style of the book is that of a superior, arrogant, arts degree English civil servant of no special merit. The author makes mountains out of molehills and will use seven words where one would do. Nowhere in this book is there a table of data or any sort of quantitative method to assist in judgement.

As I re-read parts of this book I thank Heavens that England is no longer run in the way that the book advocates. Apart from anything, life is too short for this much redundant, baroque, repetitive verbiage.

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