There are several paradigms for Systems Thinking. Ranging from Psychobabble to hard core Systems Engineering. A group of colleagues are starting a book with a working title Increasing The Probability of Project Success, several of the chapters are based on Systems Thinking.
But first some background between Systems Theory, Systems Thinking, and Systems Engineering
Systems Theory is the interdisciplinary study of systems in general, with the goal of elucidating principles that can be applied to all types of systems at all nesting levels in all fields of research.Systems Engineering is an interdisciplinary field of engineering that focuses on how to design and manage complex engineering systems over their life cycles.
Systems Management (MSSM, USC, 1980) is an umbrella discipline encompassing systems engineering, managerial finance, contract management, program management, human factors, operations research, in limitary, defense, space, and other complex systems disciplines)
Here's are two books references that inform our thought processes
This book is the basis of Thinking about systems. It's a manufacturing and Industrial Engineering paradigm. Software Intensive Systems fit in here as well, since interfaces between system components define the complexity aspects of all system of systems.
This book opens with an Einstein quote In the brain, thinking is doing. As engineers - yes software engineering is alive and well in many domains, no matter how much we think wqe have to do. We can plan, prepare, and predict, but action occurs through doing.
so when we hear any suggestion, ask how can this be put to work in some measurable way to assess the effectiveness and performance of the outcomes?
This is the companion mapping processes book. Systems Thinking is the process of understanding how systems influence one another withn a world of systems and has been defined as an approach to problem solving by viewing our "problems" as parts of an obverall system, rather than reacting to a specific part or outcome.
There are many kinds of systems. Hard systems, software systems, evolutionary systems. It is popular to mix these, but that creates confusion and removes the ability to connect concepts with actionable outcomes.
Cynefin is one of those popular approaches that has no units of measure of complex, complicated, chaotic, and obvious. Just soft self referencing words.
so in our engineering paradigm this approach is not very useful.
Along with these appoaches are some other seminal works
- The Art of Systems Architecting, 2nd Edition, Mark Maier and Eberhardt Rechtin
- Systems Engineering: Coping with Complexity, Richard Stevens, et al
- Systematics: How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail, John Gall
- The Systems Bible: The Beginner's Guide to Systems Large and Small, John Gall
In The End
Everything's system. Interactions between components is where the action is and where the problems come from. Any non-trivial systems has interactions that must be managed as system interactions. this means modeling these interactions, estimating the impacts of these interactions. defining the behaviors of these interaction before, during, and after their development,
This means recognizing the criteria for a mature and effective method of managing in the presence of uncertainty.
- Recognition by clients and providers the need to architect the system.
- Acceptance of a disciple to those function using known methods.
- Recognition of the separation of value judgements and technical decisions between cleint, architect and builder.
- Recognition that the architecture is an art as well as a science, in particular, the development and use of nonanalytical techniques.
- Effective utilization of an educated professional staff engaged in the process of systems level architecting.