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Module information

Leading Resilient Organisations

Module description

The objectives of this module is to engage participants in the world of ‘permaculture’.  Participants will be immersing themselves in the agro-forestry example of permaculture at Dartington and will spend some time at Schumacher College.  Participants will then apply this lens to the equivalent interactions and interventions we lead in organisations.  Participants will learn how they might create more generative, accountable and ethical business and social practices, and enable more innovation and flourishing as a result. 

Internationalisation: The concepts of change management practices is global in nature and can be applied in an international context. 

Employability: The module will enhance participants debating and communication skills, and communicate the nature and implications of assumptions about organisations.

Sustainability: The module will immerse participants in the agro-forestry example of permaculture, applying this learning to interactions and interventions in organisations. 

Corporate Engagement: Guest speakers will contribute to the module, including those working on ecological, economic and social challenges

Research in Teaching: the module will draw on research articles, books and video from leaders in the field; engage participants in the world of ‘permaculture’ through discussion and debate and engage participants in independent research to develop an understanding of the nature of resilient organisation practice

NOTE: This module is suitable for you, if you have limited mobility, you will require basic personal equipment suitable for walking on uneven terrain and inclement weather.  If you are Registered Disabled then this module can be undertaken, and the university and Schumacher College will make reasonable adjustments to accommodate participants with a disability.

Full module specification

Module title:Leading Resilient Organisations
Module code:MBAM942
Module level:M
Academic year:2019/0
Module lecturers:
  • - Lecturer
Module credit:10
ECTS value:


Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 3:

4 days

Module aims

‘Change’ and ‘Organisation’ has, throughout the 20th Century, been largely seen as a mechanistic process – engineered, steered and intervened into.  Change Management practices are often based on deep restructuring, alignment, elimination of redundancy and imposition of social control methods that reduce diversity and fragment social fabric.  Each ‘cycle’ of intervention solves a symptom but leaves a trail of depletion and loss of engagement, ensuring escalation of the intervention the next time.  This is fundamentally ‘ante-resilient’, and the increasing fragility, ethical problems and loss of confidence in our largest institutions stands testament to the unsustainability of the model.

In many ways, this recent history of internal organisational life and leadership is a direct parallel to the world of agro-industry and food production.  Assumptions of machine-thinking, unlimited growth, depletion cycles (reinforcing further investment in recovery strategies), drive us to plough deeper, spray harder, and seek every more utopian solutions to a problem that is of our own making. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. develop an awareness and understanding of the nature and implications of assumptions about organisations and the interventions that nourish or deplete the vitality and resilience of the social fabric of organisation.
  • 2. articulate and evaluate a range of theories and perspectives on organisational resilience, ante-fragility, creative responsivity and leadership drawing on the ‘permaculture’ ideas
  • 3. critically evaluate the potential impact of these ideas and be able to articulate their own perspective on the phenomenon of organisation, resilience and leadership.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. demonstrate an open-minded curiosity to thinking about organisational patterns, culture, social vitality and leadership.
  • 5. demonstrate critical rigor in the evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of organisation change interventions and leadership initiatives.
  • 6. engage in critical reflection and debate on one’s own practice of leading organisations in the light of conceptual and practical insights.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. complete independent reading and enquiry.
  • 8. demonstrate engagement with the ideas, and some degree of experimentation through their writing.
  • 9. engage in active debate about one’s own practice and experience of leading change, and being subject to change.

Syllabus plan

The module is taught through a mixture of pre-reading, very short lectures, experiential and embodied group work and audio-visual materials, and is designed to encourage reflection on 'theory in practice' and personal inquiry.  Course participants are expected to take responsibility for their own learning and progress, and will be encouraged to develop their inquiry skills.  

This means a commitment to undertaking reading and preparation particularly before a session (is essential as much of the content is delivered experientially and will not make sense without the pre-reading) and participating actively in the discussions and experiential processes.  At the end of each day they will be encouraged and supported to pay attention to their upcoming ‘consulting project’, reflecting and reviewing upon their learning in the context of this work.

Formative assessment students (in pairs) will provide an oral summary of key learning points from across the week, using this summary to create dialogue on how permaculture offers a useful metaphor in leading organisational change.

The summative assignment which completes this module will require them to make sense of their prior experience of participating in change and stability processes in communities and organisations, including this MBA group itself, and project forward some intentions (at best) or at least questions relating to their consulting project.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • R. Stacey.  (2012). Tools and techniques of leadership and management (Meeting the challenges of complexity).  Routledge.  Abingdon.

    Chapter 2 – The theory of complex responsive processes; understanding organizations as patterns of interaction between people

  • K. Webster.  (2015). The Circular Economy (A wealth of flows).  Ellen MacArthur Foundation.  Cowes.

    The pre-reading is Chapter 9 – the Regenerative Biological Cycle – At Scale.  Pages 158 to 173.

Permaculture options:

Chapter 5 – Leaders as Gardeners: leadership through facilitating growth.