MANAGEMT 7115NA - Systems Thinking for Management
Ngee Ann Academy - Trimester 3 - 2015
General Course Information
Course Code MANAGEMT 7115NA Course Systems Thinking for Management Coordinating Unit Business School Term Trimester 3 Level Postgraduate Coursework Location/s Ngee Ann Academy Units 3 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 society's 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 multidimensional 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 Coordinator: Dr Nam NguyenName: Professor Ockie Bosch
Location: Level 9 (9.06), Business School, Nexus 10 Tower, The University of Adelaide, SA 5005 Australia
Phone: +61(0)8 8313 6460
Name: Dr Nam Nguyen
Location: Level 9 (9.05), Business School, Nexus 10 Tower, The University of Adelaide, SA 5005 Australia
Phone: +61(0)8 8313 1491
The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.
Intensive 1 Intensive 2 Daily Schedule Friday 2 October 2015
Saturday 3 October 2015
Sunday 4 October 2016
Friday 30 October 2014
Saturday 31 October 2014
Sunday 1 November 2011
Friday: 7pm – 10pm
Saturday 1pm – 8pm
Sunday 9am – 4pm
Course Learning OutcomesAfter successfully completing this course students should be able to:
- Understand that issues facing the world are complex and multi-dimensional, straddle many different factors and involve diverse multi-stakeholder systems;
- Understand the context in which the problems arise (culture, political systems, values) and how disciplines or areas of interest fit into the whole;
- Understand how different disciplines are interconnected and interdependent;
- Obtain skills to address the underlying root causes rather than the symptoms of a problem;
- Identify positive and negative feedback across components of a system;
- Obtain skills to address problems that appear to be intractable;
- Understand how the changing nature of the world impacts upon the way in which people and organisations make decisions;
- Identify key leverage points for systemic interventions and to interpret their managerial implications in diverse application areas; and
- 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
Required ResourcesThe required text book for this course is: “Systems Thinking for EVERYONE: The Journey from Theory to making an Impact” (1st Edition, 2015) by Ockie Bosch & Nam Nguyen; published by Think2Impact, Kingston, ACT, Australia; ISBN 978-0-9942356-0-2.
Recommended ResourcesThe following readings will add depth to your studies. Some 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)
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 LearningMyUni is the University of Adelaide’s online learning environment. It is used to support traditional face-to-face lectures, tutorials and workshops at the University. MyUni provides access to various features including announcements, course materials, discussion boards and assessments for each course of study (see: https://myuni.adelaide.edu.au).
Learning & Teaching Activities
Learning & Teaching ModesTEACHING & LEARNING MODES
This course is offered in blended learning mode with face-to-face component offered as intensives.
The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.
As a guide, you could expect to spend in the order of 70-80 hours of study time to complete the course (including time for attending classes, reading and doing assignments).
LEARNING ACTIVITIES SUMMARY
A summary of the learning activities is provided in the table below.
Session Learning Activities 1 Informal Introduction: Course Staff and Course Participants
Lecture: Introduction to Systems Thinking for Management
Class Exercise: Cybernetic simulation computer game for demonstrating the concept of “Interconnectedness in systems”
Course Profile: Explanation of myUni, learning activities, assessments, etc
Video: Prof Russell Ackoff
Discussion: Key messages from the Introduction Lecture and Prof Ackoff’s video
Group Work: Formation of group projects
2 Lecture: Brief Introduction to the Evolutionary Learning Laboratory (ELLab) framework
Video: Malik Management’s Living Knowledge
Lecture: The Art of Systems Thinking – Starting with the Young
Practice: Ecopolicy game
3 Lecture: Integrating Stakeholders’ Mental Models – Creating Platforms for Discussions and Consensus (using Causal Loop Diagrams (CLDs))
Tutorial: Using Vensim software to develop CLDs
Practice: CLD exercises
Group Work: Group project work/discussion
4 Lecture: Systems Archetypes (SAs)
Examples: Applications of CLDs and SAs in real projects
Reading: SA reading
Practice: SA exercises
5 Lecture: Leverage Points for Development of Strategic and Operational Management Plans
Group Work: Group project work; Progress report presentation
6 Lecture: Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Data in Management Plans (using Bayesian Belief Networks (BBNs) modelling)
Examples: Applications of BBNs in real projects
Tutorial: Using Netica to develop BBNs
Practice: Developing BBNs for group projects
Group Work: Group project work; Progress report
7 Group Assignment: ‘Ecopolicy’ report (1.5 hours in class)
Lectures: Evolutionary Learning Laboratories (ELLabs) and Think2Impact: Platforms for Managing Complex Issues and Informal Co-learning
Group Work: Update on the progress of group projects
8 Individual Assignment: BBN model assignment
Q & A session: Revision of course materials/lectures to deepen understanding
Group Work: Group project work; Progress report
9 Group Work: Finalising and Presenting group projects
Invited Guest Speakers: Systems Approaches and their Applications in Management (examples from Malik Management Institute, Switzerland and Systemic Excellence Group, Germany)
NOTE: students will be informed of the detailed schedule/activities by attending the lectures and checking any relevant information and announcements on MyUni. There might be some minor changes in the sequence of modules and learning activities as the course progresses.
The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.See above in section 'Learning & Teaching Modes'.
Learning Activities SummarySee above in section 'Learning & Teaching Modes'.
The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:
- Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
- Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
- Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
- Assessment must maintain academic standards.
Assessment SummaryThere are four assessment items in this course:
1. Assignment 1 (10%): a short report – interpretation of making investment and management decisions using “Ecopolicy” simulation model.
2. Assignment 2 (15%): a short essay on three systems archetypes and their descriptions.
3. Assignment 3 (15%): modelling activity – a BBN model for improving the probabilities to institutionalise an ELLab in your own organisation (or generic model for any organisation). Alternatively, you can choose your own goal for the BBN assignment.
4. Assignment 4 (60%): a group project including report, presentation and peer assessment.
Assessment Related RequirementsSpecific requirements for each assignment will be made available (via MyUni) to students enrolled in the course.
Assignment Guidelines including Referencing Details
A copy of the Postgraduate Programs: Communication Skills Guide will have been given to you at the beginning of your program. This guide will assist you structure your assignments. A copy of the guide can also be downloaded from:
This publication also provides guidelines on a range of other important communication skills including writing essays and management reports, making oral presentations etc.
In preparing any written piece of assessment for your postgraduate studies it is important to draw on the relevant ‘literature’ to support critical analysis. Also essential is to reference the literature used. Correct referencing is important because it identifies the source of the ideas and arguments that you present, and sometimes the source of the actual words you use, and helps to avoid the problem of plagiarism.
The Harvard system is widely used in the Business School. Guidelines for the use of this style of referencing can be found in the Communication Skills Guide.
Further assistance with referencing is available from the Faculty’s Learning Support Advisors. The contact details are provided on page 6 of the Communication Skills Guide.
Assessment DetailAssessment detail will be made available (via MyUni) to students enrolled in the course.
SubmissionAll text based assignments and group project presentations must be submitted via MyUni.
Please refer to step by step instructions:
There are a few points to note about the submission of assignments:
• Assignment Submission: Assignments should not be emailed to the teaching staff but should be lodged via the MyUni Course site. Assignments may be processed via TURNITIN which is an online plagiarism prevention tool.
• Cover Sheet: Please submit, separate to your assignment, the completed University of Adelaide Assessment Cover Sheet providing details of yourself and your team members (if applicable), your assignment, the course, date submitted, etc. as well as the declaration signed by you that this is your (your team’s) work. Note that the declaration on any electronically submitted assignment will be deemed to have the same authority as a signed declaration.
• Backup Copy of Assignments: You are advised to keep a copy of your assignments in case the submitted copy goes missing.
• Extensions of Time: Any request for an extension of time for the submission of an assignment should be made well before the due date of the assignment to one of the Teaching Staff. Extensions will normally be granted for a maximum of two weeks from the original assignment submission date. Extensions will only be granted in exceptional circumstances and proof, such as a doctor’s certificate, may be required.
• Failure to submit: Failure to submit an assignment on time or by the agreed extension deadline may result in penalties and may incur a fail grade. A late penalty of 5% of the total available marks for that assessment item will be incurred each day an assignment is submitted late.
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.
Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.
Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.
The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.
SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/101/) course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.This is the 3nd year that this course is offered at The University of Adelaide (UA). We had also taught several systems thinking courses at The University of Queensland (UQ) and below are just some of the comments from previous students at UQ:
• “Systems Thinking [ST] was a great course and gave me a lot of insight.”
• “I believe a course like this should be a core course in all disciplines and degrees.”
• “We wanted to thank the teaching staff and the University of Queensland itself for making this course essential to our career as it has really improved the way we perceive the world.”
• “I’ve definitely taken out of this course a tool for life. ST can be applied in almost any context.”
• “One of my favourite courses throughout my whole degree, very relevant and applicable.”
• “The whole course was well-designed and wonderfully accessible for external modes of study, and combined with prompt/supportive correspondence, I learnt AND enjoyed more than I anticipated.”
• “This is one of the most useful courses ever taught at UQ.”
• “I have benefited significantly from this course.”
• “I find this course as mind boggling and intellectually stimulating.”
• “I’m now applying it [ST] in all areas of my life.”
Feedback on this course from the Adelaide MBA class in Trimester 2 2014:
• I found the Systems Thinking concepts presented during this course to be a real eye-opener.
• It was a great relief to see that that there was a rational approach to dealing with complex, non-technical issues by understanding, visualising and making use of the complexity rather than hiding or ignoring it.
• I enjoyed the course a lot and I am now equipped with some new tools which I can apply into the workplace, as a project manager.
• The opportunity to learn about systems thinking and apply the ELLab process in the development of this group project has been a value skill that believe I can now utilise to apply system thinking to tackle complex problems in my future working life
• This course has been very valuable on raising my awareness and understanding and gaining new knowledge of the discipline of Systems Thinking and has provided me with the methodologies, tools and skills to be able to apply this at a significantly more effective level and address more complex issues.
• Systems thinking is obviously important, as most problems in business or in life are more complex than simple cause and effect problem solving can solve for the long term.
• The key learning for me from completing Systems Thinking is the extent to which it can be applied.
• This subject reinforces the need to look past the superficial issues that may be visible for all to see, and find the underlying cause that can be remedied to reduce reoccurrence.
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