Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking - Systems Thinking What is Systems...

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Systems Thinking What is Systems Thinking? We are taught at an early age to solve big problems by breaking them apart into many smaller problems. Our thinking, or mental model, formed by solving problems in this fashion is that the solution to the many smaller problem vignettes once aggregated represents the solution to the much bigger problem. Think of a mental model as the repository of your deeply held assumptions about how systems work and the decisions you make as on these assumptions. The challenge is that solving large complex problems with this mental model doesn’t work. We end up with a variety of smaller solutions to problems that don’t exist or with a problem that appears to be solved at least at the moment but surfaces later, possibly many years later, masked as different problem. The challenge we face by trying to solve organizational problems by the “breaking apart” of large, complex problems into more manageable pieces is that we fail to see the consequences of our solutions -- we lose our overall sense of the “whole.” As Peter Senge suggests this becomes analogous to reassembling the pieces of a broken mirror and still expect to see a true reflection. (Senge 1990) Analysts often don’t have the mental model that allows them to recognize that organization, business and information systems are bound by invisible threads of interrelated relationships, interfaces and actions. (Senge, 1990) Why a Systems Thinking perspective? Organizations and their systems have become increasingly complex. In large complex global organizations the small, simple, unrelated, stand alone systems simply no longer exist. Instead we have systems that have hundreds of interfaces, span time zones, geo- political boundaries, have both internal (employee) and external (customer and vendor) interactions. With the sheer scale of enterprise systems coupled with the complexity of interrelationships among systems we need a new mental model that allows us to see patterns that will help us make change more effective verses our natural tendency to focus on the snapshots on the isolated parts of the system. Systems Thinking is a disciplined way of seeing systems in their entirety, that is, the framework for seeing an entire system, its structure with all of its interrelationships instead of discrete pieces in isolation. Organizational learning disabilities prevent us from Systems Thinking? As analysts we sometimes are impeded by the learning disabilities of the organization. Organizational disabilities normally manifest themselves in the organizational structure. Consider an organization’s structure for a moment. Most employees have a position description that describes their job duties and elude to their decision rights. That is, their perceived domain of authority, their relative place in the organization’s hierarchy and perceived influence on the organization’s other actors. Structure has a tendency to: 1
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1. Influence our behavior – different people in the same structure have a
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This note was uploaded on 12/13/2011 for the course IST 352 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '10 term at Syracuse.

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Systems Thinking - Systems Thinking What is Systems...

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