Systems Thinking - Thoughts for the Project and Change Manager December 2020

In Systems Thinking any idea or thing can relate to any other idea or thing and identifying this relationship can be important to the Change & Project Manager. However, there is a difference between Seeing relationships and Understanding how they work i.e., understanding the relationships strengths and properties.

This ability goes beyond the basic understanding of the simple, linear, “cause & effect” or “action and reaction” level of relationship analysis.  It must consider the context or system that the relationship exists in. As discussed in a previous post, it must decompose the relationship into its parts and identify the distinctions that may exist at each level or part.

The relationship that exists between the pedals on a bicycle and its forward motion is known by all of us who have cycled. However, when we analyse this relationship in depth we begin to see that it is composed of further relationships such as the chain ring, the chain, the rear wheel, the gears. The chain itself is composed of parts such as rollers, pins, links. These all are related and act upon each other to provide the overall relationship that results in motion. ( Not to mention our legs!)

Increasing our knowledge and our understanding of how a relationship and its part relationships work underpins the ability to fully understand the relationship or connection. This attribute or ability is called Characterisation. Characterising, in this case, can be defined as describing the distinctive nature or features of a relationship. Increasing levels of experience result in an increasingly clear and accurate picture of how a relationship works, what its characteristics are, and how strong it is.

Lastly, it is important to recognise that relationships can, in turn, generate feedback loops. The way the relationships interact and generate feedback loops and the way these feedback loops are perceived and influence the overall system, can create dynamic behaviour within a system.

We will talk about Perceptions in the next Blog.