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Systems Thinking: Principles and Practice (T205)

Systems Thinking: Principles and Practice (T205)






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  • A simple representation of what a system is (looks like)
  • The essence of systems thinking and practice is in "seeing" the world in a particular way because how we "see" things affects the way we approach situations or undertake specific tasks. The point of looking at something as if it were a system is to generate a rich, representation of the issue that makes it it easy to think about and to solve The way you perceive a situation is more important than the situation itself
  • One of the biggest challenges of studying complex systems is how to represent their behavior in a way that makes intuitive sense
  • Could you think of some the complex issues around you at all levels?
  • + Course Syllabus
  • http://www.open.edu/openlearn/money-management/management/guide-diagrams
  • As the course progresses, keep a journal of any new systems concepts you come across
  • Problem analysis is one of the main applications of systems thinking. In this course, you are encouraged to think of problem analysis in terms of working through four basic phases: sensing, understanding, deciding and acting. We will sometimes refer to these four phases as SUDA for short. When you try to analyze and explore in this way you start by sensing the presence of some issue, then achieving some kind of understanding of it, then deciding what to do in the light of this new understanding, and finally acting to make something happen. The four-phase cycle and individual phases will be referred to at many points in the course.
  • Trap:A state of mind or way of thinking that limits what we can do and prevents us seeing ways of overcoming problems (Webzone, page 47)The core idea of a mental trap is that it is a closed way of thinking that prevents the person involved from seeing a solution that is 'obvious' once a different way of thinking is adopted.
  • In reductionist thinking the whole is nothing but the sum of its parts.We bring our perspectives and worldview to messy situation (creating a system of interest.)Multiple Partial View…Slicing up the “whole” to gain a better understanding of the system.A central fact of the systems approach is that everyone sees the world differently (mental models)..we draw conclusions based on our perspectivesSystems approach takes multiple perspective into accountCheck page 48-49 on Webzone for more on perspective vs. worldview.
  • Check linear programming book (T551) for details.
  • Causality --Tracing a chain of events that led to what happened.
  • Review Table 1 on page 11 (T552)
  • Reference, pp21-22 (T552)
  • The experiential learning model adapted for Kolb which starts with experience.Learning is a process. Experience (what you did) Reflection (what you learned) Abstract conceptualization (synthesis of what you learned and relating it to a bigger picture- usefulness of knowledge in other situations)…Active experimentation (putting your learning into practice)
  • Check page 119 of Webzone.In practice, problem-solving and learning are likely to involve backtracking to various phases, as well as recycling through the phases, as a greater understanding is gained.
  • A mess is an ill-structured situation . It is an interacting set of problems, a system of problems, that won’t be solved by any simple, single, narrow focus.In a messy situation, you can’t change only one thing and expect to accomplish anything substantial on behalf of an entire system (e.g., think of organizations trying to survive in today’s ever-changing world.)A difficulty is a situation considered as bounded and well-defined problem where it is assumed that it is clear who is involved and what would constitute a solution within a given time frame SAQ 8
  • Webzone page 155
  • Complexity has many different facets based on both rational and emotional factors. The rational factors tend to involve technical or computational complexity, other wise known as ‘hard’ complexity. The emotional factors or ‘soft’ complexity includes the way people view and interact wit the situation. These ideas also relate to those of difficulties and messes whereby difficulties involve more hard complexity and messes. Related references: check webzone, p513 and p940
  • The ideas of soft and hard complexity also relate to those of difficulties and messes whereby difficulties involve more hard complexity and messes more soft complexity but most situations will probably involve both.
  • SAQ 9.
  • Attempt SAQ 7.1, pag3 43 (also review page 145)
  • Hygiene factors (by analogy with the routine measures needed to prevent diseases) which must be in place before the motivators come into play.
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is based on the premise that all people have needs which emerge in a certain order of importance. As one level is reasonably well-satisfied, emphasis shifts to the next (unmet need) level.Satisfied needs cease to motivate! People function at different levels at different times. Circumstances, life events, etc., elevate or lower people on the hierarchy People seek satisfaction of the same need level in different ways. For instance, when levels 3, 4, and 5 are not met on the job, people will look for ways off-the-job to meet these needs. People need to feel secure, accepted and recognized when required to function at levels requiring self-discipline and self-direction (Levels 4 and 5)
  • For individuals, motivation is a key organizational variable - just like the organizational variable of profitability - that can be thought of in a systemic way.
  • Reference: Understanding Another Person, Part 1: The Individual Frame of Reference
  • Your strategy is to look for a system within a mess as a means to do something about it.It is not about discovering the system or a system BUT the process of distinguishing one or many systems of interest in a context.
  • Reference:Appendix A.1.4 (T552, Diagramming)
  • Reference: T552-AudioVision
  • T551 (Primer-Linear Programming), Reading 07
  • The wider the boundary chosen in the systems map, the higher the level in the tree.
  • This hierarchy has three levels: ●  organizational ●  departmental (finance, etc.) ●  sub-departmental.
  • A systems map of the same organization also represents hierarchy, again at three levels, although this time the externalenvironment is included.
  • Reference: T551, Reading 07.
  • Reference: T551, SAQ15, Page 64
  • Negative or balancing feedback
  • Reference: The V Discipline by Peter SengePositive (Virtuous) Feedback
  • Reference: Concept File 2, reading 11, page 62
  • NOTE:Though paradigm was originally a scientific term, it is commonly used today to mean a model, perception, assumption, or frame of reference (how you see the world.)
  • References:The Structure of Scientific Revolutions The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Self-sealing…Perception influences in a way that will reinforce the theories and assumptions on which that perception is based and will tend to negate tor make invisible any contrary evidenceSelf-fulfilling…a relations set up in which a particular theory about the other person is going to establish precisely the interpersonal dynamic described in the theory Within personal relationships one’s ideas and beliefs about other people tend to have a strong influence on how one relates to them
  • Reference: The Rich Picture: A Tool for Reasoning about Work Context. Andrew Monk and Steve Howard.
  • There are three major ego-states, or sub-personalities, that can be involved when you interact with someone else. Berne calls them the Adult, the Parent and the Child,
  • Reference: Concept File 2, Reading 13, page..
  • A complementary transaction occurs when the person sends a message or stimulus from one ego stat to an ego state of another person, and gets an expected response. Here, the lines of communication are open, and this type of transaction or interchange can continue indefinitely. Each side plays its role ‘correctly’.!
  • Crossed transactions occur when a stroke is given one way and the response is unexpected. The lines of communication are not parallel, and conflict or misunderstanding usually ensues. The two people involved do not agree about the roles they are supposed to play,
  • This is a crossedtransaction because although the manager, parent ego state, attempted to address the employee as a child, the employee refuses this ego state and responds in adult ego state to the manager’s ego state.
  • This is a complementary transaction because the employee accepts the child ego state assigned to him by the manager and responds in child ego state.
  • Reference: Concept File 2, Reading 13, page 80
  • Reference: Concept File 2, Reading 13, page 80
  • Reference: Concept File 2, Reading 13, page 80
  • The right time for this step is once an understanding of an idea has been checked and the good points of an idea have been acknowledged.
  • The purpose of argument: (1) persuasion; (2) justification; (3) explanation
  • Reference: T552 (Diagramming)
  • Reference: T205, Concept File 2, Reading 17
  • E.g. competitive team sports have long been used as a device for consolidating elite groups.
  • The four possible pay-off patters from a two party conflict. Reference: T205, Concept File II, Reading 19: Conflict Resolution.
  • Forcing represents the ultimate need to satisfy one’s own needs at the expense of others, and may involve the use of formal authority, physical threats Accommodating satisfies the needs of the other person at the expense of one’s own. Avoiding circumventing potential conflict - the classic lose-lose situation Compromising seeks to obtain partial satisfaction for both parties. The lose-lose pattern is often the result of a compromise Collaborating (expanding the pie) is the only true win-win strategy.The underlying intention of a collaborating strategy is to find solutions to the causes of the conflict that are understood and appreciated by the parties involved. The focus is on the problem, not on personalities nor on who is to blame or who is at fault.
  • The aim is to identify possible points of intervention to ensure that the events don’t reoccur or to change the situation
  • Recognizing feedback loops- Negative (dampening) feedback loop
  • Recognizing Feedback LoopPositive feedback loop might outweigh the previously shown negative feedback loop
  • Negative Feedback Loop
  • Reference: Organizational Behavior by Stephen P. Robbins (11e)
  • A definable membership: a collection of three or more people identifiable by name or typeA group consciousness or identity: the members think of themselves as a groupA sense of shared purpose: the members share some common talks or goals or interests. Interdependence: the members need the help of one another to accomplish the the purpose for which they joined the group. Interaction: the members communicate with one another, influence on another, react to one anotherSustainability: the team members periodically review the team's effectiveness.
  • Designed to provide a stable backbone to the organization. However, projects are concerned with change and tend to be organized quite differently. Their structure needs to be more fluid than that of conventional management structures.
  • In addition, there are mixed structures Check out the pros and cons of each type on page 12 of concept file 3.
  • A self-managed team is a team in which the members take collective responsibility for ensuring that the team operates effectively and meets its targets. Self-organizing teams are formed in response to an issue, idea or challenge (circumventing red tape). Self-organizing teams work together outside the formal structure until their tasks are done.
  • Reference:Mental Models and Transformative Learning: The Key to Leadership Development? By Homer H. Johnson
  • Reference: The Power of Impossible Thinking. Is it relevant to SUDA/KOLB?
  • Reference: Practical Systems Thinking
  • These types of contracts are overlapped and influence one another!
  • * See table 2,Belbin team roles, Reading 2, Concept file 3.
  • Reference: The four faces of a team (adapted from Lewis and Lawton, 1992)The matrix above provides a useful way of weighing up the mixture of ‘task’ and people function of a team: Faces 1 and 2 are external to the team and concern: Adapting to the environment and using organizational resources effectively in order to satisfy the requirements of the team's sponsor. Relating effectively with people outside the team in order to meet the needs of clients or customers, whether internal or external to the organization. Faces 3 and 4 are internal to the team and concern: Using systems and procedures appropriately to carry out goal-oriented tasks. Working in a way which makes people feel part of a team. Other membership-related aspects that can influence the team are diversity, gender. These are important aspects for fostering homogeneity and trust.The range of people that makes up the membership of a team, and the relationships they have with each other, have great influence on the team's effectiveness. It is important to appraise the relationship between team functions and required competences in order to identify gaps and begin to allocate responsibilities, organize training and so on.
  • Forming:the purpose of the group and its title is discussed; individuals establish personal identities.Storming: a stage of conflict where purpose, leadership, roles and norms may be challenged. Personal agenda revealed and some interpersonal hostility is expected. If successfully handled, it will lead to the formulation of more realistic objectives. Norming: Group Establish the patterns of work and norms. Involves tentative experimentation by individual members to test the climate of the group and establish commitments.Performing: When the three pervious stages have been completed, the group usually can become fully productive. Adjourning: Team disbands having completed its task. Members provide feedback on how well they performed and what they have learned.
  • The creative cycle can be thought of as occurring in four phases: Nurturing phase: People are drawn together. It involves creating a safe and effective container for the work of the group.Energizing phase:The point when the interaction intensifies as the group engages in its primary task. Peak Activity Phase: The point of accomplishment; when the main purpose at hand is (about to be) achieved Relaxing phase:Group members celebrate achievements, reflect & learn
  • Members of any small cohesive group tend to maintain espritde corps by unconsciously developing a number of shared illusions and related norms that interfere with critical thinking and reality testing.Metaphorically speaking “Groupthink” could be thought of as A giant blind spot operating on the whole group
  • - Risky Shift:When people are in groups, they make decision about risk differently from when they are alone. In the group, they are likely to make riskier decisions, as the shared risk makes the individual risk less.
  • it is important to be aware of who all the players are and what role they play in the project's environment.
  • Adair (1983) sees the role of the leader as composed of three overlapping areas of responsibility: 1: Defining the objectives to achieve the task, to focus and coordinate team effort. 2: Building and maintaining the team involves fostering constructive relationships between team members. 3:Developing the individual includes assigning personal goals that suit the strengths and skills of the individual, and ensuring that each member feels that his or her contribution to the team's overall task is valued.
  • The Dimensions of Leadership Style (Blake and Mouton, 1964)it is the style of leadership that matters. The leadership styles are not mutually exclusive and can be represented in the form of a grid, Leaders high on task orientation are generally perceived as more efficient, while those high on person orientation are seen as providing a more pleasant and satisfying work environment. It has been argued that the person-centered style is more effective because it enables people to meet their self-actualizing and esteem needs.
  • Summary of Fielder’s results on which leadership style is most effective.Based on the idea that there is no single best style of leadership but that the most effective style depends upon the circumstances. Focuses of the degree of structuring in the task and the leader’s organizational power (i.e., the power to reward and punish.) Where the task is highly structured, and the leaders liked and powerful, then the most effective leadership is a directive, task-oriented style .Where the task is ambiguous and the leaders is a a weak position, then the same directive, task-oriented style is most effective. Where the task is ambiguous and the leader is liked and respected, then a participative, person-centered style is most effective.
  • Positive (virtuous)