Systems’ thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static ‘snapshots.’ It is a set of general principles — distilled over the course of the twentieth century, spanning fields as diverse as the physical and social sciences, engineering, and management…. During the last thirty years, these tools have been applied to understand a wide range of corporate, urban, regional, economic, political, ecological, and even psychological systems. And system thinking is a sensibility — for the subtle interconnectedness that gives living systems their unique character.
New insights fail to get put into practice because they conflict with deeply held internal images of how the world works … images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting. That is why the discipline of managing mental models — surfacing, testing, and improving our internal pictures of how the world works — promises to be a major breakthrough for learning organizations.
When there is genuine vision (as opposed to the all-too-familiar ‘vision statement’), people excel, and learn, not because they are told to, but because they want to.
An organization is a system comprising of a various operations as sub-systems and the product of the interaction of the operations will aid the achievements of objectives, not the action of the operations taken separately.
Shah M. Siddiqui
“A company is a multidimensional system capable of growth, expansion, and self-regulation. It is, therefore, not a thing but a set of interacting forces. Any theory of organization must be capable of reflecting a company’s many facets, its dynamism, and its basic orderliness. When company organization is reviewed, or when reorganizing a company, it must be loked upon as a whole, as a total system.”
– Albert Low
“When Simplicity is broken up, it is made into instruments. Evolved individuals, who employ them, are made into leaders. In this way, the Great System is United.”
– Lao Tzu
The Tao Te Ching (Verse 28)
“The overall name of these interrelated structures is system. The motorcycle is a system. A real system. …There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding. That’s all a motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. There’s no part in it, no shape in it that is not in someone’s mind. I’ve noticed that people who have never worked with steel have trouble seeing this- that the motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon.”
– Robert Pirsig
“General Systems Theory, a related modern concept [to holism], says that each variable in any system interacts with the other variables so thoroughly that cause and effect cannot be separated. A simple variable can be both cause and effect. Reality will not be still. And it cannot be taken apart! You cannot understand a cell, a rat, a brain structure, a family, a culture if you isolate it from its context. Relationship is everything.”
– Marilyn Ferguson
“A system is a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system. A system must have an aim. Without an aim, there is no system. …A system must be managed. The secret is cooperation between components toward the aim of the organization. We cannot afford the destructive effect of competition.”
– W. Edwards Deming
“A ‘system’ can be defined as a complex of elements standing in interaction. There are general principles holding for systems, irrespective of the nature of the component elements and the relations of forces between them. …In modern science, dynamic interaction is the basic problem in all fields, and its general principles will have to be formulated in general General Systems Theory.”
– Ludwig von Bertalanffy
“Everything affects everything else in one way or another. Whether you are aware of that or not does not change the fact that this is what is happening. That’s why I say a business is a system. This systems perspective reminds us that this is what is going on. And when you see it this way, you can manage your business better. You appreciate, for example, that any action will reverberate throughout the entire company. This causes you to pay more attention to what you do, and learn the right lessons from your experience.”
– John Woods
“Metanoia means a shift of mind… a fundamental shift or change, or more literally transcendence. “To grasp the meaning of “Metanoia” is to grasp the deeper meaning of “learning,” for learning also involves a fundamental shift or movement of mind”.
“Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we re-perceive the world and our relationship to it”.
The more we study the major problems of our time, the more we come to realize that they cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they are interconnected and interdependent. Capra (1996)
People who learn to read situations from different (theoretical) points of view have an advantage over those committed to a fixed position. For they are better able to recognize the limitations of a given perspective. They can see how situations and problems can be framed and reframed in different ways, allowing new kinds of solutions to emerge. Morgan (1986)
Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing the ‘structures’ that underlie complex situations, and for discerning high from low leverage change . . . Ultimately, it simplifies life by helping us to see the deeper patterns lying beneath the events and the details. Senge (1990)
Our institutions are failing because they are disobeying laws of effective organization, which their administrators do not know about, to which indeed their cultural mind is closed, because they contend that there exists and can exist no science competent to discover those laws.
Feedback is Ubiquitous – Stafford Beer
The systems approach begins when first you see the world through the eyes of another.
If you read the newspapers and are still satisfied with the state of the world, put this book down; it is not for you. My objective is not to convert those who are satisfied N even though I believe they need conversion N but to give those who are dissatisfied cause for hope and something to do about it. Ackoff (1974)
Here we need to remember that what in the end turns out to be feasible will itself be affected by the learning generated by the project itself: human situations are never static.
Checkland and Scholes (1990)
The future prospects of management science will be much enhanced if (a) the diversity of issues confronting managers is accepted, (b) work on developing a rich variety of problem-solving methodologies is under- taken, and (c) we continually ask the question: ‘What kind of issue can be ‘‘managed’’ with which sort of methodology’. Flood and Jackson (1991a)