Systems thinking refers to a framework that is based on the idea that system’s components can be understood by analyzing relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than isolating them. A better understanding of systems helps individuals identify leverage points that would result in the desired outcome (Stowell, 2012). Today’s business is complex, and managers find it hard to make effective decisions; therefore, systems thinking offers a model that the management can use to make decisions that would help the organization adapt to change. The paper will examine systems theory and the advent of system thinking, historical factors that have influenced systems thinking and the advantages and disadvantages of system thinking.
Systems Theory and the Advent of Systems Thinking
Systems theory can be defined as an interdisciplinary theory that concerns with complex systems in society, nature, and scientific domain as well as a framework by which a person can investigate groups of elements that function together to produce particular results (Stowell, 2012). System thinking is a shift from the old system of decision-making in which one would partition the system into parts and analyze them differently. The approach allows us to scrutinize interactions between components of the system and see larger patterns emerge (Mele, Pels & Polese, 2010). Therefore, if the pattern has a positive influence on the organization, the management can make decisions to reinforce it. However, if the pattern is bad, then the decision will entail changing the pattern.
Historical Factors that Influenced Systems Thinking and their Influence on the Society, Human Resources, and Individuals
As a modern approach to problem solving, system thinking was influenced following the end of the World War II. However, some of the historical events that have influenced systems thinking include the following. First, we have the ancient Phoenicians with their cuneiforms. Cuneiforms was a picture writing system that encompassed the use of symbols. This system of writing was accepted throughout the Middle East and could be understood by all ethnic groups. Second, system thinking was influenced by the Egyptians with their pyramids. The massive scale of the pyramids portrays the unique role played by the king in the ancient Egypt society (Stowell, 2012). Third, systems thinking was influenced by the Maya Indians. The Mayan numerical system is regarded as the most accurate systems used to describe the present and future of civilization. For instance, the Mayan calendar is one of the evolutionary system based on mathematics.
These historical events have influenced the society, human resources, and individuals in the following ways. Society is a system that interrelates with areas that concern human life. We can define society as a complex system with softly defined problems and uncertain phenomena. The Egyptian pyramid affected the society by making it a focal point of its period. During that time, many civilizations were attracted to the Egyptian culture. The construction of the Egyptian pyramid required immense human resource. For instance, the role of the priest and architects was to determine the location and come up with the design. The king used average citizens to provide unskilled labor in pyramid construction. Individuals in the society use conventional thinking to make decisions. Moreover, as an individual, systems thinking has a major influence. Precisely, it provides one with a broader perspective and long-term solutions to problems (Stowell, 2012). In addition, system thinking offers naturally attained sustainability within the society.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Systems Thinking in the Workplace
Organizations have realized the importance of systems thinking in regards to improving services and eliminating waste. System thinking helps an organization avoid the unintended consequences of making isolated decisions (Mele, Pels & Polese, 2010). In the event that a salesman is replaced by a new employee with the intention of improving a firm’s sales, the new employee may lack the skills similar to the one fired; therefore, applying systems thinking despite the new recruit not having the required skills, will allow the organization to evaluate the behavior and practices of the sales team as a whole. In this situation the organization can address its problem rather than identifying a single employee as the root cause of the problem. Second, with system thinking the management can identify how everything interact and work. Moreover, it is easy for one to identify what is of value in delivering the organization’s products and services and one that would result in waste. The outcome of such a move is reduced cost.
Regarding the disadvantages, systems thinking is time-consuming (Mele, Pels & Polese, 2010). If a manager decides to address all of his issues with systems thinking, he has to save enough time to complete a thorough review of the entire operations of the business. Finally, systems thinking can be too overwhelming especially for managers who are in charge of large organizations.
In systems thinking, one gives up assumptions that someone else is responsible for the problem encountered. However, in my opinion, problems are as a result of the behavior and structural dynamics set up by the system itself. Systems thinking is, therefore, understanding the relationships and patterns between the various components in a relationships network. Realistically, no one creates these problems; the systems are the problems. In other words, they are unwanted characteristic behaviors produced by the very system structure that we have put unsuspectingly in place.
Mele, C., Pels, J., & Polese, F. (2010). A brief review of systems theories and their managerial applications. Service Science, 2(1-2), 126-135.
Stowell, F. A. (2012). Systems approach applications for developments in information technology. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
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