Systems Thinking

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Systems Thinking Influences

Ratings indicate how much coverage there is in a particular area, one is Low coverage while five is High

 

 

 

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The Brain of the Firm: Managerial Cybernetics of Organization  

I remember reading this many years ago, It contains many fascinating breakthrough ideas which lead on to a string of other books about organisational behaviour. Ideas are now dated but this book was pioneering at the time.

StaffordBeer 1972

ISBN   0713902191

Leadership/Inspiration

3

Practical Advice

3

Breakthrough Ideas

5

Techniques and Tools

4

  
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Recommendedfor customer facing staff

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“I want you to cheat: The unreasonable guide to service and quality organisations”

First published in 1992 and coming out of the ‘systems-thinking’ school of management this little book for some companies is as relevant today as when it was written. A straightforward, simple, no-nonsense, amusing introduction to a better way of working with customer facing staff and customers.

Many years ago I used this book in group discussions with front line staff to illustrate the absurdities of traditional approaches to challenge outmoded thinking and practices. At the time it was ground breaking stuff.

John was an early adopter and populariser of systems thinking. In the 90’s he influenced and infuriated many CEOs with his forthright condemnation of traditional management practices and thinking. He was brave enough to create a business based on these concepts and persist in educating the management community in a better way “to Make the Work Work”.  

John has expanded and crystallized the ideas of many who went before, such as Deming, Shewhart, Checkland, Womack and Jones and in particular Brian Joiner. In addition his work has made some of these complex ideas more accessible to a new generation of managers who grew up without exposure to these early thinkers, he has been credited with introducing the concepts into the service arena. 

You will find his ideas have become main stream in many quarters and he is no longer the voice in the wilderness he once was. Well done John.

Acknowledgements: I will always thank John for putting me onto the work of Edwards Deming ‘Out of the Crisis’ and Womack and Jones ‘The Machine that Changed the World’., and Shewart. I especially thank him for his early encouragement, mentoring and support at a time when these ideas were still seen as heretical and possibly career limiting. This early work set me on a different course of development and investigation. 

John Seddon 1992  

Vanguard Press

ISBN: 095197310X

See also Seddon in Book Review.’Freedom From Command and Control’

Leadership/Inspiration

3                             Very Light Reading

Practical Advice

4

Breakthrough Ideas

3

Techniques and Tools

2

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Highly 

Recommended

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Systems Thinking, Systems Practice.

Peter Checkland 1998

A leader in the field, this book is a practical guide to Soft Systems Methodology and shows how this business practice can be applied and what lessons can be learned through case studies.

Peter’s writings and research have been instrumental in creating the Systems Thinking Movement. Peter has written many books prior to 1998, this edition compiles all the best material and looks back over 30 years of System Thinking development. This is for the very serious reader. 

I consider this to be the best Book on Systems Thinking available.

John Wiley and Sons Ltd

ISBN: 0471986062

Leadership/Inspiration

3                           Very Heavy Reading

Practical Advice

3

Breakthrough Ideas

5

Techniques and Tools

3

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Highly 

Recommended

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Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity: Jamshid Gharajedaghi 1999

Butterworth Heinemann

ISBN 0 7506 7163 7

This is really aimed at the reader who wishes to work on the transformation of whole organisations. Demonstrating the multi-dimensional relationships between organisational design, performance and behaviour.  

Personal acknowledgement: This work has had a profound effect on my thinking and development. It integrates many concepts into a systemic whole. I have used this book with many management teams in recent years. If you are venturing into the world of systems thinking then this is probably the most accessible in terms of simplicity and breakthrough applications.

 

Leadership/Inspiration

5           Heavy Reading and Study Required

Practical Advice

5

Breakthrough Ideas

5

Techniques and Tools

4

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Highly 

Recommended

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The text considers the work of: Ackoff; Banathy; Beer; Capra; Checkland; Churchman; Eden; Emery; Flood; Forrester; Friend; Freire; Jackson; Jantsch; Linstone; Luhmann; Mason; Maturana; Miller; Mitroff; Prigonine; Rosenhead; Senge; Stacey; Trist; Ulrich; Varela; Vickers; von Bertalanffy; Warfield; Wheatley; Wiener.

Systems Approaches to Management

Michael C. Jackson2000

Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publisher

ISBN 030646506X

This ‘systems-thinking’ book provides a guide to the application of this paradigm in the field of management. It traces the emergence of holistic thinking in disciplines such as biology, control engineering, sociology and the natural sciences; details and provides a critique, based upon social theory, of the range of systems approaches, methodologies, models and methods; offers numerous case studies to illustrate systems thinking applied to management. 

Provides an accessible source for managers, management consultants, scholars and students. The text covers: chaos and complexity theory; the learning organization; system dynamics; living systems theory; soft systems methodology; interactive management; interactive planning; total systems intervention; autopoiesis; management cybernetics; the viable system model; operations research (hard and soft); systems analysis; systems engineering; general system theory; sociotechnical systems thinking; the fifth discipline; social systems design; team syntegrity; postmodern systems thinking; critical systems thinking.

 

Leadership/Inspiration

4                    VERY Heavy Reading

Practical Advice

4

Breakthrough Ideas

4

Techniques and Tools

4

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Highly 

Recommended

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Chaos: The amazing science of the unpredictable.
James Glick
1996

Vintage

ISBN 0749386061

James Glick brought the theories of chaos to a wider audience and switched on a new generation to the prospect of breakthrough ideas in science.

I like this book because of its association with systems theory and the concept of emergent properties. I find the story about the struggle to get the ideas accepted by the establishment very reminiscent of the struggle to get systems thinking and Lean into the world of work.

Leadership/Inspiration

2               Medium Reading

Practical Advice

2

Breakthrough Ideas

5

Techniques and Tools

1

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Highly 

Recommended

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The Fifth Discipline: Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. Peter M. Senge

Random House Business Books

ISBN0712656871

‘Peter Senge, founder of the Centre for Organisational Learning at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, experienced an epiphany while meditating one morning back in the fall of 1987. That was the day he first saw the possibilities of a “learning organisation” that used “systems thinking” as the primary tenet of a revolutionary management philosophy. A carefully integrated corporate framework, which is structured around “personal mastery”, “mental models”, “shared vision”, and “team learning”. Using ideas that originate in fields from science to spirituality,  The book’s concepts remain stimulating and relevant as ever. —Howard Rothman, Amazon.com

I found this book highly simulating but required heavy study to transfer the ideas into the working environment. I found the framework was incomplete especially around the issues of creating a learning environment. He describes what might be an end state without any idea of how to get there. Senges’ framework for Systems is best described in terms of ‘systems dynamics’ which leads onto a more developed theory by others on system complexity and emergence.

Leadership/Inspiration

4      Heavy Practice required to master approach.

Practical Advice

4

Breakthrough Ideas

5

Techniques and Tools

4

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Highly 

Recommended

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Diagnosing the System : For organisations

A great introduction to systems theory, the system modelling and characteristics are very simple and useable. Makes you think about the organisation in a wider context being influenced by external and internal forces and describes methods for distinguishing between the two. I recommend studying this book, and persisting with its ideas.

StaffordBeer 1994

John Wiley and Sons Ltd

ISBN  0471951366

Leadership/Inspiration

3

Practical Advice

3

Breakthrough Ideas

5

Techniques and Tools

4