II: Thinking Systemically

Part II introduced you to a formal concept and methodology for thinking system- ically. The methodology addressed the who, what, where, how, and when associated with problems and decision making in six separate chapters. Chapter 6 introduced the concept of stakeholders, those humans and organizational entities that exist at the center of all systems problems and who serve as the principal contributors to the solution of these problems. We developed a six-step approach to stakeholder analysis and management which included the following: (1) identification of stakeholders; (2) classification of these stakeholders; (3) assessment of their attitude; (4) calculation of their engagement priority; (5) mapping them in relation to one another; and (6) developing a plan for managing them. It also included an implicit 7th step, carrying out the management plan in a formal stakeholder management and communication plan. This comprehensive technique serves as an important discriminator enabling systems practitioners to deal with stakeholders in an effective manner. Chapter 7 reviewed the anatomy of a problem and discussed the importance of objectives. The organization of objectives into both a fundamental objective hierarchy and means-ends network was emphasized as an important consideration required to answer the what question of systemic thinking. Chapter 8 provided the background for why by investigating a wide variety of theories associated with motivation as the incentive, the stimulus, and the inspiration for continued involvement. We provided a cybernetic model with clear feedback loops that ensures continued performance by ensuring goals remain synchronized with the individual and situational characteristics that form the context of the messes and constituent problems. This cybernetic model provides a congruent, current, and logical framework for achieving goals and objectives developed to address the elements of messes and associated problems. In Chap. 9, we provided a foundation for understanding the where in a mess or problem. The importance of the circumstances, factors, conditions, values, and patterns that surround messes and problems (i.e., the context) was presented. In addition, problem boundaries, the representations we use that provide lines of demarcation between messes and problems and the surrounding environment, were presented along with a framework for operationalizing the process of assessing problem boundary and context issues. Chapter 10 addressed the how question as it relates to the attainment of specific, purposeful goals. Nine physical, human, and abstract mechanisms were identified as the means for moving a mess from a current state toward a desired state. Specific focus was placed on abstract mechanisms, namely methods and information, because of their nonintuitive nature and their importance in achieving increased understanding in complex problem domains. The processes used to develop knowledge were addressed using three separate models of knowledge generation. The third of these models, the Cynefin framework, was discussed as an approach by which to achieve increased understanding in the five domains found in complex systems. The section was finalized in Chap. 11 which discussed the when question of systemic thinking. In order to determine the appropriate time for intervention in our mess, we developed an approach to assess the maturity and stability of our mess. The maturity discussion focused on life-cycle concerns and on evaluating the cost-to-benefit ratio of mess intervention, while our stability perspective focused on a discussion of system evolution and self-organization. The resulting six-element framework served as a guide for individuals interested in determining timing issues as they pertain to increasing understanding about their mess.

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