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 Business book.  The ultimate resource.

Voice activation applied, excuse typos.


Open Systems Thinking.


Does not replace expert consultation.

Open systems thinking should not follow a rigid series of tasks.

Systems thinking invades many of the most radical approaches to modern management.

Three main reasons why a mechanical view of systems fails to work.

System complexity.

Uncertainty in the environment.

Conflict in human values.



The forces of interrelationships that shape the behavior of systems.

Traditional approaches might work for engineering are scientific problems.

Totally inadequate for complex systems like organizations.

Open systems thinking concentrates on describing the behavior of the system and associated problems before the possibility for improving the behavior of the system and solving these problems are explored.

Open systems thinking is also a learning approach compatible with modern quality philosophies.



Can encourage creative thinking, new ways of doing things.

Focuses on reality, not idealized mental maps.

Probably the only way to deal with wicked problems.

Takes a longer-term strategic view, not just a technical one.

Fits well with management practices such as teamwork and continuous improvement.



Intellectually challenging.

May produce more questions than answers.

Not appropriate for situations were structured problems solving approaches are guaranteed to work. Or where there is cultural heavily technocratic environments.

Usually requires like-minded people.



1. Find out about the problem.

Open systems thinking leaves explanations until the end.

Trying to observe all the symptoms in a situation.  A wide as viewpoint as possible.

2.  Define the system.

Describe the events that are relevant to the situation.

Pay attention to the department or organization as a whole.

Pick up the main trends or patterns.  Trying to identify the most important variables and understand what is going on is most important.

Mapping changes on time lines will often reveal surprising relationships between the variables and events in time.

Map the underlying systems or structures.

This is a key stage in building effective models of systems.

Identify the relationships or inner dependency between components.

Focus on the feedback loops that control the behavior of the system.

The behavior of all systems is controlled by feedback loops.

Do not make your mind up early.

Example, a rising customer complaints might be linked to a circle in which increased pressure on sales staff is occurring.

3.  Build models from your definitions.

Models are an important part of our everyday lives.

Finding the right model to describe complex situations is a real art form.

Mental models, can achieve remarkable results in conveying to others the essence of particular situations.

4.  Compare the models with the real world.

Go back to the stakeholders and confirm that the model works and takes all the factors into consideration.

Someone throws a monkey wrench into the works at this time, change the model.

5.  Identify possible actions.

Not solutions, the ways of improving the behavior of the system.

The solution may require shifts in these relationships instead of intermediate short-term measures.

6.  Implement the action.

In a learning organization, managers to spend a lot of time watching the effects of introduced change.

7.  Start the cycle again.

The approach to solving problems, is cyclical.

Continuous improvement.



Structured systems analysis.  The use of formal problems solving techniques to describe systems.  Top-down approach.

System.  A collection of units interactive form a single operational unit.

Systems analyst.  The application of special techniques to study systems.


Open systems thinking DO's.

Avoid quick fixes.

Test and retest.

Try to gain ownership and acceptance for your models before you look for solutions.


Open systems thinking don'ts.

Do not place too much trust on the ability of your explanation to account for the behavior of your organization.

Don't take the rejection of your interpretation as personal criticism.

Don't underestimate the importance of human beings in the system your modeling.


Thought starters.  If you are to draw an organizational chart based on the real power illusion, how would differ from the official one.

How many levels of systems are there in your organization.

Delayering attempts to simplify systems, but often fails to reestablish the right sort of feedback loops in the system.


End of data.




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