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Systems Thinking: Creative Holism for Managers

ISBN: 978-0-470-84522-6
378 pages
November 2003, ©2003
Systems Thinking: Creative Holism for Managers (0470845228) cover image


Jackson's new book responds to the growing interest in systems ideas and their application, and builds on the success of his previous work with Bob Flood Creative Problem Solving. This book is different from existing texts in the systems field - it provides a clear introduction to the origins of systems thinking, concepts and the development of applied systems thinking and offers an account of 'critical systems practice' which demonstrates how other systems methodologies, model and methods can be used in combination.

Creative Problem Solving is comprehensive in scope, offering a brief introduction to all main 'holistic approaches to management' and demonstrating, with case studies, how each is used in practice.  This straightforward and clear text from an established author in the field will be welcomed by students and academics as the 'new' Creative Problem Solving - a comprehensive, practical guide to a potentially difficult subject.

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Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Introduction xix

Part I Holism and Systems Practice 1

1 The Systems Language 3

1.1 Introduction 3

1.2 Philosophy 4

1.3 Biology 5

1.4 Control Engineering 7

1.5 Organization and Management Theory 9

1.6 The Physical Sciences 11

1.7 Why is the Systems Language so Powerful? 12

2 Applied Systems Thinking 15

2.1 Introduction 15

2.2 Hard Systems Thinking 16

2.3 The Development of Applied Systems Thinking 17

2.4 The Main Strands of Applied Systems Thinking 24

2.5 Conclusion 28

3 Creativity and Systems 31

3.1 Introduction 31

3.2 Creativity and Metaphor 32

3.3 Creativity and Paradigms 37

3.4 Conclusion 39

Part II Systems Approaches 43

Type A Improving Goal Seeking and Viability 45

4 Hard Systems Thinking 47

4.1 Introduction 47

4.2 Description of Hard Systems Thinking 48

4.3 Hard Systems Thinking in Action 57

4.4 Critique of Hard Systems Thinking 60

4.5 The Value of Hard Systems Thinking to Managers 62

4.6 Conclusion 63

5 System Dynamics: The Fifth Discipline 65

5.1 Introduction 65

5.2 Description of System Dynamics 66

5.3 System Dynamics in Action 74

5.4 Critique of System Dynamics 78

5.5 The Value of System Dynamics to Managers 82

5.6 Conclusion 83

6 Organizational Cybernetics 85

6.1 Introduction 85

6.2 Description of Organizational Cybernetics 86

6.3 Organizational Cybernetics in Action 101

6.4 Critique of Organizational Cybernetics 106

6.5 The Value of Organizational Cybernetics to Managers 109

6.6 Conclusion 110

7 Complexity Theory 113

7.1 Introduction 113

7.2 Description of Complexity Theory 114

7.3 Complexity Theory inAction 125

7.4 Critique of Complexity Theory 128

7.5 The Value of Complexity Theory to Managers 131

7.6 Conclusion 132

Type B Exploring Purposes 135

8 Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing 137

8.1 Introduction 137

8.2 Description of Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing (SAST) 138

8.3 Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing (SAST) in Action 147

8.4 Critique of Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing (SAST)

8.5 The Value of Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing (SAST) to Managers 153

8.6 Conclusion 154

9 Interactive Planning 157

9.1 Introduction 157

9.2 Description of Interactive Planning 158

9.3 Interactive Planning in Action 168

9.4 Critique of Interactive Planning 174

9.5 The Value of Interactive Planning to Managers 177

9.6 Conclusion 178

10 Soft Systems Methodology 181

10.1 Introduction 181

10.2 Description of Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) 182

10.3 Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) in Action 197

10.4 Critique of Soft SystemsMethodology (SSM) 202

10.5 The Value of Soft SystemsMethodology (SSM) to Managers 208

10.6 Conclusion 208

Type C Ensuring Fairness 211

11 Critical Systems Heuristics 213

11.1 Introduction 213

11.2 Description of Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH) 214

11.3 Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH) in Action 222

11.4 Critique of Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH) 226

11.5 The Value of Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH) to Managers 229

11.6 Conclusion 229

12 Team Syntegrity 233

12.1 Introduction 233

12.2 Description of Team Syntegrity 234

12.3 Team Syntegrity in Action 242

12.4 Critique of Team Syntegrity 247

12.5 The Value of Team Syntegrity to Managers 250

12.6 Conclusion 250

Type D Promoting Diversity 253

13 Postmodern Systems Thinking 255

13.1 Introduction 255

13.2 Description of Postmodern Systems Thinking 256

13.3 Postmodern Systems Thinking in Action 267

13.4 Critique of Postmodern Systems Thinking 269

13.5 The Value of Postmodern Systems Thinking to Managers 272

13.6 Conclusion 273

Part III Creative Holism 275

14 Total Systems Intervention 277

14.1 Introduction 277

14.2 Description of Total Systems Intervention (TSI) 278

14.3 Total Systems Intervention (TSI) in Action 289

14.4 Critique of Total Systems Intervention (TSI) 295

14.5 The Value of Total Systems Intervention (TSI) to Managers 297

14.6 Conclusion 298

15 Critical Systems Practice 301

15.1 Introduction 301

15.2 Description of Critical Systems Practice (CSP) 302

15.3 Critical Systems Practice (CSP) in Action 315

15.4 Critique of Critical Systems Practice (CSP) 321

15.5 The Value of Critical Systems Practice (CSP) to Managers 323

15.6 Conclusion 324

References 324

Conclusion 327

Index 329

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Author Information

Michael C. Jackson graduated from Oxford University and has since worked in public sector management, in academia, and as a consultant. He is Professor of Management Systems at the University of Hull, United Kingdom, and Director of its business school. Mike is author of Systems Methodology for the Management Sciences, Plenum, 1991; Creative Problem Solving, Wiley, 1991 (with R.L. Flood); Systems Approaches to Management, Kluwer/Plenum, 2000; and numerous articles in academic and professional journals, including some of the most cited in the field. He is also editor-in-chief of Systems Research and Behavioral Science and associate editor of Systems Practice and Action Research. Mike has been Chair of the UK Systems Society and President of the International Federation for Systems Research and the International Society for the Systems Sciences. His work has been translated into six languages and he has given invited lectures in over twenty countries. He is a Fellow of the British Computer Society, the Chartered Management Institute, and the Cybernetics Society.
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The Wiley Advantage

  • Comprehensive in scope - covers all major 'holistic' approaches to management and shows how each is used in practice
  • Includes pertinent case studies.
  • Walks the reader through the process of effectively reaching the consumer.
  • Unique focus on 'creative holism' - the employment of different systems approaches in powerful creative combinations
  • Michael C Jackson was awarded OBE in the 2010 New Year Honours list for services to Higher Education and to Business.
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"Provides an excellent guide and introduction to systems thinking for students of management." (Professional Manager, March 2004)

"...a very important contribution to the management and systems literature for its excellent blend of rigor and relevance..." (Review in the Journal of the Operational Research Society, Vol 56 2005)

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Professor Reviews

“It’s neat, easy to read and easy to absorb...  It is a boon to students and executives alike..”

J P. von Gigch in Systems research and Behavioural Science

“ … excellent summary of the latest research findings and … very clear explanations and accessibility”

 “No other recent book in the systems field aims for such an accessible and at the same time rigorous interpretation of the major developments of systems theory”

D. Petkov in Journal of the Operational Research Society 

“As far as I can tell there is no other book that includes all the major developments in systems thinking over the last fifty years”

Misha Hebel (Amazon Review)

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