Heat oil in a large pot over high heat. Add beef and brown 1 minute. Turn and brown another minute. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
Reduce heat under pot to medium. Add carrots, celery, parsnips and onion. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add broth, 2 cups water and the dried thyme. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
Add barley and reduce heat to medium. Cook 12 minutes or as per package instructions. Stir in beef and any accumulated juices, salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes and serve.