MANAGEMT 7115 - Systems Thinking for Management

North Terrace Campus - Trimester 3 - 2014

Today's complex problems and challenges can no longer be tackled with the narrowly-focused, unconnected thinking of the past. Leaders must make important decisions in complex environments in which finance, economics, people and nature are all highly interconnected. To make things even more challenging, complex problems also transcend the jurisdictions and capacities of different organisations, government departments or companies. The challenges are great, but before you decide that it has become too difficult to be a new era leader, all it requires is to open yourself to new ways of thinking and acting in the interest of our societys future. This course contributes to the development of new era leaders by equipping students with knowledge and skills in the art of systems design and interconnected thinking. It introduces concepts, theories, and cutting edge tools for understanding the multi-dimensional character of complex systems, how to identify leverage points for systemic interventions and how to develop strategic or master plans that will have long lasting effects. Group projects provide unique learning opportunities to gain firsthand experience integrating different areas of interest and learning throughout the MBA program, to develop effective solutions for managing the complex issues that face our organisations and our society.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code MANAGEMT 7115
    Course Systems Thinking for Management
    Coordinating Unit Business School
    Term Trimester 3
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Restrictions Nested MBA Students Only
    Course Description Today's complex problems and challenges can no longer be tackled with the narrowly-focused, unconnected thinking of the past. Leaders must make important decisions in complex environments in which finance, economics, people and nature are all highly interconnected. To make things even more challenging, complex problems also transcend the jurisdictions and capacities of different organisations, government departments or companies.

    The challenges are great, but before you decide that it has become too difficult to be a new era leader, all it requires is to open yourself to new ways of thinking and acting in the interest of our societys future.

    This course contributes to the development of new era leaders by equipping students with knowledge and skills in the art of systems design and interconnected thinking. It introduces concepts, theories, and cutting edge tools for understanding the multi-dimensional character of complex systems, how to identify leverage points for systemic interventions and how to develop strategic or master plans that will have long lasting effects. Group projects provide unique learning opportunities to gain firsthand experience integrating different areas of interest and learning throughout the MBA program, to develop effective solutions for managing the complex issues that face our organisations and our society.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Professor Ockie Bosch

    Name: Professor Ockie Bosch
    Location: Level 9 (9.06), Business School, Nexus 10 Tower, The University of Adelaide, SA 5005 Australia
    Email: ockie.bosch@adelaide.edu.au
    Phone: +61(0)8 8313 6460
    Homepage: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/ockie.bosch

    Name: Dr Nam Nguyen
    Location: Level 9 (9.05), Business School, Nexus 10 Tower, The University of Adelaide, SA 5005 Australia
    Email: nam.nguyen@adelaide.edu.au
    Phone: +61(0)8 8313 1491
    Homepage: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/nam.nguyen
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    After successfully completing this course students should be able to:
    1. Understand that issues facing the world are complex and multi-dimensional, straddle many different factors and involve diverse multi-stakeholder systems;
    2. Understand the context in which the problems arise (culture, political systems, values) and how disciplines or areas of interest fit into the whole;
    3. Understand how different disciplines are interconnected and interdependent;
    4. Obtain skills to address the underlying root causes rather than the symptoms of a problem;
    5. Identify positive and negative feedback across components of a system;
    6. Obtain skills to address problems that appear to be intractable;
    7. Understand how the changing nature of the world impacts upon the way in which people and organisations make decisions;
    8. Identify key leverage points for systemic interventions and to interpret their managerial implications in diverse application areas; and
    9. Apply, through a real life project, concepts of systems thinking and some cutting edge tools in understanding and effectively managing complex problems in various areas and contexts.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 1, 6
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 2, 6
    An ability to apply effective, creative and innovative solutions, both independently and cooperatively, to current and future problems. 4,5 ,6 ,8, 9
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. 2, 9
    A proficiency in the appropriate use of contemporary technologies. 9
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. 1, 2,4, 6
    A commitment to the highest standards of professional endeavour and the ability to take a leadership role in the community. 6, 8
    An awareness of ethical, social and cultural issues within a global context and their importance in the exercise of professional skills and responsibilities. 2, 3, 7
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    No text book is required for this course. See 3.2.
    Recommended Resources
    The following readings will add depth to your studies. The key articles will be provided before classes and other articles can be downloaded for free through the university library. Further readings that are relevant to each lecture/session will also be posted on MyUni in due course.
    1. The first paper providing a comprehensive description of the innovative and unique systems based approach, both locally – Evolutionary Learning Laboratory (ELLab) – and globally – Global Evolutionary Learning Laboratory (GELL), and its diverse applications (Bosch, Nguyen et al. 2013).
    2. The first paper providing a description of the design and use of the innovative concept of Learning Laboratories (LLab), used by UNESCO to promote the LLab concept as best practice in its Biosphere Reserve program (Nguyen, Bosch et al. 2011).
    3. Best paper award winner for the track: [Corporate] Social Responsibility - An approach to overcome the economic crisis (Bosch, Nguyen et al. 2013).
    4. The first paper providing the identification of leverage points and systemic intervention strategies that are required for the sustainable development of a UNESCO biosphere reserve (Nguyen and Bosch 2013).
    5. This is one of the first articles in this area that brought systems thinking to mainstream’s attention (Nguyen, Graham et al. 2012).
    6. This is one of the invited keynote papers from the Business Systems Laboratory 2nd International Symposium on ‘Systems Thinking for a Sustainable Economy: Advancements in Economic and Managerial Theory and Practice’ in Rome (Bosch, Nguyen et al. 2014)
    7. These two books give you a good understanding of systems thinking, with many practical examples (Sherwood 2002; Maani and Cavana 2007).
    8. Peter Senge’s book (Senge 2006): “The prevailing system of management has destroyed our people … The job of management in education, industry, and government should be the optimization of a system… Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline, from which I have learned much, is a good place to begin” (Dr. W.Edwards Deming, Pioneer of the Total Quality Management Movement).
    9. An excellent paper describing leverage points and systemic intervention (Meadows 1999).
    10. An interesting paper to help you understand more about systems thinking (Meadows 2002).
    11. Application of systems thinking in natural resource management (Bosch, King et al. 2007).
    12. Application of systems thinking in sustainable development (Nguyen, Bosch et al. 2009; Smith 2011).
    13. Application of systems thinking in business (Sterman 2000; Walker, Stanton et al. 2009; Bashiri and Tabrizi 2010)
    14. Application of systems thinking in health (Cavana, Davies et al. 1999; Newell 2003; Lee 2009).
    15.  Application of systems thinking in commodity systems (Sawin, Hamilton et al. 2003).
    16. Application of systems thinking in agricultural production systems (Wilson 2004).
    17. Application of systems thinking in environmental conflict management (Elias 2008).
    18. Application of systems thinking in education (Galbraith 1999; Hung 2008).
    19. Application of systems thinking in consensus building (Maani and Maharraj 2004).
    20. Application of systems thinking in human resource management (Quatro, Waldman et al. 2007).
    21. Application of systems thinking in organisational learning (Galanakis 2006)
    22. Application of systems thinking in philosophy, biology, and social theory and management (Mingers 2006).
    23. Application of systems thinking in rural development and food security (Keegan and Nguyen 2011)
    Bibliography
    Bashiri, M. and M. M. Tabrizi (2010). "Supply chain design: A holistic approach." Expert Systems with Applications 37(1): 688-693.
    Bosch, O. J. H., C. A. King, J. L. Herbohn, I. W. Russell and C. S. Smith (2007). "Getting the big picture in natural resource management - systems thinking as 'method' for scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders." Systems Research and Behavioral Science 24(2): 217-232.
    Bosch, O. J. H., N. C. Nguyen and T. M. Ha (2014). "Can Advancements in Economic and Managerial Practice be achieved without Systems Thinking Education as the Foundation?" Business Systems Review 3(2): In Press: Special Issue - Invited Plenary Paper of the Business Systems Laboratory 2nd International Symposium: Systems Thinking for a Sustainable Economy.
    Bosch, O. J. H., N. C. Nguyen, T. Maeno and T. Yasui (2013). "Managing Complex Issues through Evolutionary Learning Laboratories." Systems Research and Behavioral Science 30(2): 116-135.
    Bosch, O. J. H., N. C. Nguyen and D. Sun (2013). "Addressing the critical need for a "new way of thinking" in dealing with complex issues facing our societies (Best Paper Award)." Business Systems Review 2(2): 48-70 (Special Issue - Selected papers of the first B.S.Lab International Symposium).
    Cavana, R. Y., P. K. Davies, R. M. Robson and K. J. Wilson (1999). "Drivers of quality in health services: different worldviews of clinicians and policy managers revealed." System Dynamics Review 15(3): 331-340.
    Elias, A. A. (2008). "Towards a shared systems model of stakeholders in environmental conflict." International Transactions in Operational Research 15(2): 239-253.
    Galanakis, K. (2006). "Innovation process. Make sense using systems thinking." Technovation 26(11): 1222-1232.
    Galbraith, P. L. (1999). "Systems thinking: a missing component in higher educational planning." Higher Education Policy 2(2): 141-157.
    Hung, W. (2008). "Enhancing systems-thinking skills with modelling." British Journal of Educational Technology 39(6): 1099-1120.
    Keegan, M. and N. C. Nguyen (2011). "Systems Thinking, Rural Development and Food Security: Key Leverage Points for Australia’s Regional Development and Population Policy." Migration Australia (launch issue) 1(1): 50-64.
    Lee, A. (2009). "Health-promoting schools: evidence for a holistic approach to promoting health and improving health literacy." Appl Health Econ Health Policy 7(1): 11-17.
    Maani, K. and V. Maharraj (2004). "Links between systems thinking and complex decision-making." System Dynamics Review 20(1): 21-48.
    Maani, K. E. and R. Y. Cavana (2007). Systems thinking, system dynamics: Managing change and complexity. Auckland, NZ, Prentice Hall.
    Meadows, D. (1999). Leverage points: Place to intervene in a System. Hartland, VT, USA, The Sustainability Institute.
    Meadows, D. (2002). "Dancing with systems." The Systems Thinker 13(2).
    Mingers, J. C. (2006). Realising Systems Thinking: Knowledge and Action in Management Science. New York, USA, Springer.
    Newell, D. (2003). "Concepts in the study of complexity and their possible relation to chiropractic health care: a scientific rationale for a holistic approach." Clinical Chiropractic 6(1): 15-33.
    Nguyen, N. C. and O. J. H. Bosch (2013). "A Systems Thinking Approach to identify Leverage Points for Sustainability: A Case Study in the Cat Ba Biosphere Reserve, Vietnam." Systems Research and Behavioral Science 30(2): 104-115.
    Nguyen, N. C., O. J. H. Bosch and K. E. Maani (2009). The importance of systems thinking and practice for creating biosphere reserves as "learning laboratories for sustainable development". Proceedings of the International Society for the Systems Sciences 2009 Conference, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
    Nguyen, N. C., O. J. H. Bosch and K. E. Maani (2011). "Creating 'learning laboratories' for sustainable development in biospheres: A systems thinking approach." Systems Research and Behavioral Science 28(1): 51-62.
    Nguyen, N. C., D. Graham, H. Ross, K. Maani and O. J. H. Bosch (2012). "Educating Systems Thinking for Sustainability: Experience with a Developing Country." Systems Research and Behavioral Science 39(1): 14-29.
    Quatro, S. A., D. A. Waldman and B. M. Galvin (2007). "Developing holistic leaders: Four domains for leadership development and practice." Human Resource Management Review 17(4): 427-441.
    Sawin, B., H. Hamilton and A. Jones (2003). Commodity system challenges: Moving sustainability into the mainstream of natural resource economies. Hartland, USA, Sustainability Institute.
    Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization (revised and updated). New York, USA, Random House, Inc.
    Sherwood, D. (2002). Seeing the Forest for the Trees: A Manager's Guide to applying Systems Thinking. London, UK, Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
    Smith, T. (2011). "Using critical systems thinking to foster an integrated approach to sustainability: A proposal for development practitioners." Environment, Development and Sustainability 13(1): 1-17.
    Sterman, J. D. (2000). Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World. Boston, USA, Irwin McGraw-Hill.
    Walker, G. H., N. A. Stanton, D. P. Jenkins and P. M. Salmon (2009). "From telephones to iPhones: Applying systems thinking to networked, interoperable products." Applied Ergonomics 40(2): 206-215.
    Wilson, J. (2004). Changing agriculture: An introduction to Systems thinking. QLD, Australia, Print on Demand Centre, University of Queensland Bookshop.
    Online Learning
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  • Assessment

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    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
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    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

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