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Critical Systems Thinking and the Management of Complexity

Hardcover

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Critical Systems Thinking and the Management of Complexity

Michael C. Jackson

ISBN: 978-1-119-11837-4 March 2019 728 Pages

Description

The world has become increasingly networked and unpredictable. Decision makers at all levels are required to manage the consequences of complexity every day. They must deal with problems that arise unexpectedly, generate uncertainty, are characterised by interconnectivity, and spread across traditional boundaries. Simple solutions to complex problems are usually inadequate and risk exacerbating the original issues.

Leaders of international bodies such as the UN, OECD, UNESCO and WHO — and of major business, public sector, charitable, and professional organizations — have all declared that systems thinking is an essential leadership skill for managing the complexity of the economic, social and environmental issues that confront decision makers. Systems thinking must be implemented more generally, and on a wider scale, to address these issues.

An evaluation of different systems methodologies suggests that they concentrate on different aspects of complexity. To be in the best position to deal with complexity, decision makers must understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches and learn how to employ them in combination. This is called critical systems thinking. Making use of over 25 case studies, the book offers an account of the development of systems thinking and of major efforts to apply the approach in real-world interventions. Further, it encourages the widespread use of critical systems practice as a means of ensuring responsible leadership in a complex world.

Comments on a previous version of the book:

Russ Ackoff: ‘the book is the best overview of the field I have seen’

JP van Gigch: ‘Jackson does a masterful job. The book is lucid ...well written and eminently readable’

Professional Manager (Journal of the Chartered Management Institute): ‘Provides an excellent guide and introduction to systems thinking for students of management’

Preface xvii

Introduction xxv

Part I Systems Thinking in the Disciplines 1

1 Philosophy 3

1.1 Introduction 3

1.2 Kant 4

1.3 Hegel 8

1.4 Pragmatism 9

1.5 Husserl and Phenomenology 10

1.6 Radical Constructivism 11

1.7 Conclusion 12

2 The Physical Sciences and the Scientific Method 15

2.1 Introduction 15

2.2 The Scientific Method and the Scientific Revolution 16

2.3 The Physical Sciences in the Modern Era 19

2.4 The Scientific Method in the Modern Era 21

2.5 Extending the Scientific Method to Other Disciplines 24

2.6 Conclusion 25

3 The Life Sciences 27

3.1 Introduction 27

3.2 Biology 27

3.3 Ecology 35

3.4 Conclusion 40

4 The Social Sciences 43

4.1 Introduction 43

4.2 Functionalism 44

4.3 Interpretive Social Theory 49

4.4 The Sociology of Radical Change 52

4.5 Postmodernism and Poststructuralism 56

4.6 Integrationist Social Theory 59

4.7 Luhmann’s Social Systems Theory 62

4.8 Action Research 67

4.9 Conclusion 68

Part II The Systems Sciences 71

5 General Systems Theory 75

5.1 Introduction 75

5.2 von Bertalanffy and General System Theory 75

5.3 von Bertalanffy’s Collaborators and the Society for General Systems Research 79

5.4 Miller and the Search for Isomorphisms at Different System Levels 80

5.5 Boulding, Emergence and the Centrality of “The Image” 82

5.6 The Influence of General Systems Theory 85

5.7 Conclusion 86

6 Cybernetics 89

6.1 Introduction 89

6.2 First‐Order Cybernetics 91

6.3 British Cybernetics 95

6.4 Second‐Order Cybernetics 102

6.5 Conclusion 108

7 Complexity Theory 111

7.1 Introduction 111

7.2 Chaos Theory 112

7.3 Dissipative Structures 117

7.4 Complex Adaptive Systems 119

7.5 Complexity Theory and Management 125

7.6 Complexity Theory and Systems Thinking 136

7.7 Conclusion 144

Part III Systems Practice 147

8 A System of Systems Methodologies 151

8.1 Introduction 151

8.2 Critical or “Second‐Order” Systems Thinking 152

8.3 Toward a System of Systems Methodologies 155

8.3.1 Preliminary Considerations 155

8.3.2 Beer’s Classification of Systems 155

8.3.3 The Original “System of Systems Methodologies” 157

8.3.4 Snowden’s Cynefin Framework 160

8.3.5 A Revised “System of Systems Methodologies” 162

8.4 The Development of Applied Systems Thinking 166

8.5 Systems Thinking and the Management of Complexity 169

8.6 Conclusion 169

Type A Systems Approaches for Technical Complexity 171

9 Operational Research, Systems Analysis, Systems Engineering (Hard Systems Thinking) 173

9.1 Prologue 173

9.2 Description of Hard Systems Thinking 175

9.2.1 Historical Development 175

9.2.2 Philosophy and Theory 177

9.2.3 Methodology 179

9.2.4 Methods 182

9.2.5 Developments in Hard Systems Thinking 184

9.3 Hard Systems Thinking in Action 188

9.4 Critique of Hard Systems Thinking 191

9.5 Comments 196

9.6 The Value of Hard Systems Thinking to Managers 197

9.7 Conclusion 197

Type B Systems Approaches for Process Complexity 199

10 The Vanguard Method 201

10.1 Prologue 201

10.2 Description of the Vanguard Method 203

10.2.1 Historical Development 203

10.2.2 Philosophy and Theory 206

10.2.3 Methodology 209

10.2.4 Methods 211

10.3 The Vanguard Method in Action 212

10.3.1 Check 213

10.3.2 Plan 215

10.3.3 Do 216

10.4 Critique of the Vanguard Method 220

10.5 Comments 224

10.6 The Value of the Vanguard Method to Managers 225

10.7 Conclusion 226

Type C Systems Approaches for Structural Complexity 227

11 System Dynamics 229

11.1 Prologue 229

11.2 Description of System Dynamics 231

11.2.1 Historical Development 231

11.2.2 Philosophy and Theory 233

11.2.3 Methodology 241

11.2.4 Methods 244

11.3 System Dynamics in Action 247

11.4 Critique of System Dynamics 249

11.5 Comments 258

11.6 The Value of System Dynamics to Managers 258

11.7 Conclusion 259

Type D Systems Approaches for Organizational Complexity 261

12 Socio‐Technical Systems Thinking 263

12.1 Prologue 263

12.2 Description of Socio‐Technical Systems Thinking 264

12.2.1 Historical Development 264

12.2.2 Philosophy and Theory 268

12.2.3 Methodology 276

12.2.4 Methods 279

12.3 Socio‐Technical Systems Thinking in Action 280

12.4 Critique of Socio‐Technical Systems Thinking 281

12.5 Comments 288

12.6 The Value of Socio‐Technical Systems Thinking to Managers 289

12.7 Conclusion 289

13 Organizational Cybernetics and the Viable System Model 291

13.1 Prologue 291

13.2 Description of Organizational Cybernetics 296

13.2.1 Historical Development 296

13.2.2 Philosophy and Theory 299

13.2.3 Methodology 311

13.2.4 Methods 317

13.3 Organizational Cybernetics in Action 320

13.4 Critique of Organizational Cybernetics and the Viable System Model 325

13.5 Comments 337

13.6 The Value of Organizational Cybernetics to Managers 339

13.7 Conclusion 340

Type E Systems Approaches for People Complexity 341

14 Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing 343

14.1 Prologue 343

14.2 Description of Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing 346

14.2.1 Historical Development 346

14.2.2 Philosophy and Theory 348

14.2.3 Methodology 353

14.2.4 Methods 355

14.3 Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing in Action 357

14.4 Critique of Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing 360

14.5 Comments 365

14.6 The Value of Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing to Managers 366

14.7 Conclusion 367

15 Interactive Planning 369

15.1 Prologue 369

15.2 Description of Interactive Planning 371

15.2.1 Historical Development 371

15.2.2 Philosophy and Theory 375

15.2.3 Methodology 379

15.2.4 Methods 382

15.3 Interactive Planning in Action 384

15.4 Critique of Interactive Planning 388

15.5 Comments 394

15.6 The Value of Interactive Planning to Managers 395

15.7 Conclusion 395

16 Soft Systems Methodology 397

16.1 Prologue 397

16.2 Description of Soft Systems Methodology 401

16.2.1 Historical Development 401

16.2.2 Philosophy and Theory 404

16.2.3 Methodology 411

16.2.4 Methods 420

16.3 Soft Systems Methodology in Action 427

16.4 Critique of Soft Systems Methodology 431

16.5 Comments 441

16.6 The Value of Soft Systems Methodology to Managers 442

16.7 Conclusion 443

Type F Systems Approaches for Coercive Complexity 445

17 Team Syntegrity 447

17.1 Prologue 447

17.2 Description of Team Syntegrity 449

17.2.1 Historical Development 449

17.2.2 Philosophy and Theory 450

17.2.3 Methodology 455

17.2.4 Methods 458

17.3 Team Syntegrity in Action 459

17.4 Critique of Team Syntegrity 462

17.5 Comments 468

17.6 The Value of Team Syntegrity to Managers 470

17.7 Conclusion 470

18 Critical Systems Heuristics 471

18.1 Prologue 471

18.2 Description of Critical Systems Heuristics 473

18.2.1 Historical Development 473

18.2.2 Philosophy and Theory 476

18.2.3 Methodology 479

18.2.4 Methods 484

18.3 Critical Systems Heuristics in Action 485

18.4 Critique of Critical Systems Heuristics 490

18.5 Comments 502

18.6 The Value of Critical Systems Heuristics to Managers 508

18.7 Conclusion 509

Part IV Critical Systems Thinking 511

19 Critical Systems Theory 515

19.1 Introduction 515

19.2 The Origins of Critical Systems Theory 516

19.2.1 Critical Awareness 517

19.2.2 Pluralism 519

19.2.3 Emancipation or Improvement 522

19.3 Critical Systems Theory and the Management Sciences 524

19.4 Conclusion 528

20 Critical Systems Thinking and Multimethodology 531

20.1 Introduction 531

20.2 Total Systems Intervention 540

20.2.1 Background 540

20.2.2 Multimethodology 541

20.2.3 Case Study 545

20.2.4 Critique 553

20.3 Systemic Intervention 558

20.3.1 Background 558

20.3.2 Multimethodology 559

20.3.3 Case Study 562

20.3.4 Critique 565

20.4 Critical Realism and Multimethodology 568

20.4.1 Background 568

20.4.2 Multimethodology 570

20.4.3 Case Study 572

20.4.4 Critique 572

20.5 Conclusion 576

21 Critical Systems Practice 577

21.1 Prologue 577

21.2 Description of Critical Systems Practice 579

21.2.1 Historical Development 579

21.2.2 Philosophy and Theory 581

21.2.3 Multimethodology 593

21.2.4 Methodologies 601

21.2.5 Methods 604

21.3 Critical Systems Practice in Action 607

21.3.1 North Yorkshire Police 607

21.3.2 Kingston Gas Turbines 617

21.3.3 Hull University Business School 621

21.4 Critique of Critical Systems Practice 632

21.5 Comments 637

21.6 The Value of Critical Systems Practice to Managers 638

21.7 Conclusion 638

Conclusion 641

References 645

Index 679