Critical Systems Thinking: A Practitioner's Guide

Автор: literator от 18-05-2024, 14:37, Коментариев: 0


Название: Critical Systems Thinking: A Practitioner's Guide
Автор: Michael C. Jackson
Издательство: Wiley
Год: 2024
Страниц: 334
Язык: английский
Формат: pdf, epub (true), mobi
Размер: 10.3 MB

Understand the full range of systems approaches and how to use them with this innovative overview.

Leaders and managers face increasing complexity and uncertainty because technical, organizational, socio-cultural, political, and environmental issues have become intensely interconnected. Systems thinking is recognized as the essential competence for managing complexity. As the demand for systems thinking grows, however, the fragmentation of the field into different methodologies has become a potential liability. Critical systems thinking (CST) shows how this diversity can be a strength rather than a weakness by revealing how different systems methodologies address various aspects of complexity and how they can be used in combination to resolve the messiest of wicked problems.

Critical Systems Thinking offers, in a single volume, an account of the value of systems thinking and CST in the modern world, an explanation of the pragmatic philosophy and expansion in mindset necessary to embrace CST, and detailed instructions on how to undertake critical systems practice (CSP) using the variety of systems approaches to navigate multi-dimensional complexity.

Readers will find
• An accessible introduction to systems thinking and CST.
• A description and critique of the best-known systems methodologies.
• A guide to the mindset changes, the steps required, and the toolkit necessary to undertake successful CSP.
• Case studies and examples of CSP.
• A discussion of the nature of systemic leadership.

The book has three parts. The first traces the emergence of Critical Systems Thinking (CST) and has three chapters. Chapter 1 outlines the achievements and limitations of the scientific method, suggesting that increasing awareness of these limitations and their consequences for humanity and the environment points to the need for ST as a complementary approach, especially in the realm of human affairs. Chapter 2 sets out the challenges this poses to ST and two ways in which it has tried to meet them. The first of these, the pursuit of general systems laws, flounders, because higher levels of complexity give rise to ‘emergent properties’ which cannot be explained with theories appropriate to lower levels of complexity. ST has been more successful in following a second route – developing a range of systems methodologies that engage with different aspects of complexity in different ways. However, this has led to fragmentation. Chapter 3 shows how CST has sought to restore order to a field in which different systems approaches came to be seen as competing. It does so by pointing to the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches (systemic critique) and suggesting that they could be used in combination (systemic pluralism) to achieve wide‐ranging systemic improvement. Systemic pragmatism provides the rationale and justification for CST.

Part 2 looks at how CST can be translated into practical action through the EPIC stages (Explore, Produce, Intervene, Check) of CSP. Chapter 4 provides an introductory overview, explains the role of EPIC as an ‘ideal type’ of systems practice and links CSP to some related approaches. Chapter 5 details the multiperspectival Explore phase and how it employs five insightful ‘systemic perspectives’ – mechanical, interrelationships, organismic, purposeful and societal/environmental – to surface the most important issues that need attending to in a situation of interest. Justification is provided for the choice of these five perspectives. Chapter 6 considers how best to Produce an intervention strategy to manage those issues. This rests upon an understanding of what different systems methodologies do well. Five types of systems methodology are identified: engineering, system dynamics, living, soft and emancipatory. Each type is related to one of the ‘systemic perspectives’ and prioritises the concerns it highlights. Example methodologies are described, and their mode of operation is clarified using case studies. Chapter 7 discusses Intervene, the third stage of CSP, considering how best to conduct a flexible multimethodological intervention in accordance with agreement on which systems methodologies, models and methods are best suited to addressing the issues of concern. Chapter 8 looks at Check. EPIC should be seen as an iterative process which continually identifies and manages new issues as they come to the fore. Nevertheless, attention must be given to evaluating progress both during an intervention and as it comes to an end. Check considers the best way of doing this from a CSP perspective.

Part 3 contains Chapter 9. This explains Critical Systems Leadership as an approach that can best take advantage of the current upsurge in interest in ST and overcome the barriers to successful implementation deriving from the way ST is presented and perceived and from various cultural and societal constraints.

The book is a ‘practitioner’s guide’, and the busy reader can be excused for going straight to Parts 2 and 3, which explain CSP and how to succeed in applying it, but that would be a pity. CST has the broad purpose of enhancing ‘good deliberation’ in ways that will allow us to evolve in a more ‘balanced way’ and improve the world in which we live. CSP needs to be understood as a means of realising that ambition.

Critical Systems Thinking is ideal for leaders and managers in government, business, the public sector, the professions, and beyond who want to understand the potential of systems thinking and use it in their work. It is essential for systems researchers and practitioners who want a deeper understanding of the field.

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