Systems thinking for mangers Essay Example

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System Thinking 13

Lecturer’s name

1 — Provide a brief description of the system/ problem under investigation and the context (max 250 words)

In most organizations, the management always faces massive delays and cost excesses in spite of the great application of techniques and expertise to improve on the results (Forrester, 2011). The dynamics of the external environment that include changes in the consumer tastes and preferences, delays in the procurement processes and the availability of resources are some of the factors that cause cost overruns as well as problems in scheduling. To correct the cost overruns and scheduling problems, the reaction of most project managers would be to increase pressure on employees by making them work overtime, hiring more workers and the reduction of quality in a bid to reduce the cost of production. These are the causes of project failures where the performance of the project goes down more and more. On the other hand, the level of production decreases due to law suits that result from breach of contracts as consumers seek litigation (De Marco and Rafele 2012). Project managers in the past used traditional approaches such as PERT that were not very effective. New approaches have however been developed such as those based on system dynamic models that focus on the organization of the project, concentrate on the behavior, and its relationship with the strategy managers as well as the corrective actions that control the outcomes of the project.

The systems dynamics models refers to an approach based on a holistic view of the process of management of a project and puts an emphasis on the feedback process that take place in the system of the project. The system is a complex model that includes the elements of the organization the environmental factors and the elements of the project work (De Marco and Rafele, 2012).

2 — Describe and analyze the system or problem under investigation, unpacking the
dynamics involved, exploring how events are linked and the emergent meanings or themes using diagrams where appropriate (max 1000 words) – 25 marks

The system dynamics model is an approach used in framing, understanding and the discussion of complex issues in project management process. The approach involves the dynamic definition of problems using graphs over time. The model that was originally developed by Forrester who stressed the need to have a continuous approach, although the modern models have a mixture of distinct equations and the continuous differential or integration equations (Zawadzki, 2009). Some of the users of this system have utilized the use of mathematical structures that includes the use of computer based simulations, simplifying, and analyzing systems, optimization of policies and complex dynamics (Zawadzki 2009). The system dynamic model is created for the stakeholders to have an understanding of the factors that create a problem in project and how they persist. For one to have a meaningful systems model there has to be a problem underlying to the project that makes it necessary to seek more knowledge and the understanding of the system. After making a choice on the problem to deal with, the project manager making use of the systems dynamic model needs to collect the relevant information and define the focus the focus of the model. The relevant information in this case should not only focus on the quantitative forms of data but also the knowledge that is gathered from those people that are familiar with the systems being analyzed. The systems dynamics models refers to an approach that is based on a holistic view of the process of project management and puts an emphasis on the feedback process that take place in the system of the project. The system is a complex model that includes the elements of the organization the environmental factors and the elements of the project work (Toole 2007).

systems thinking for mangers

Figure 1 sourced from (Zawadzki 2009):
East Calcutta Wetland Model: linked biological, social and development variables,

The emerging trends coupled with dynamic environment in project management and the increasing complexities of the projects together with the environments under which they operate has made the stakeholders in project management realize the weaknesses that make it difficult for project managers to cope up with the issues of strategic project management. The use of the systematic systems model provides the project managers with an important tool for systematically managing the strategic issues (Zawadzki 2009). A number of applications of systematic systems models have existed before and provides the project managers with an opportunity to compare the classical models and study the benefits of the system dynamics. The difference in the opinions of the supporters of the approaches puts emphasis on the perspective of the process of project management. The two approaches assume a systematically identified planning cycle, implementing and the control of the project process, the depth in which they consider the system of the project differ greatly (Richardson, 1999). Systematic dynamic approach has provided a more strategic analysis in an understanding of how effective the different managerial policies are. The key issue in identifying a good model is to define the purpose of having the model in the first place and at the same time keeping the users of the information in mind. Studies on the systems dynamic approach have over the past focused on different points of view depending on the nature of the problem that the project is facing and which the model is being set up to offer a solution. Some of the models emphasize on the deadlines and milestones and their effect on the productivity of the project while others concentrate on the designing and the construction processes (Maani and Cavana, 2007). Others look at the managing of change, the control measures in the project as well as the human resource aspects such as being overworked, morale issues and work related fatigue. The operation of the systems dynamic model helps the project management in understanding in a better way the decisions they make and also carry out a simulation under diverse conditions that the project is likely to encounter in its lifetime (Maani & Cavana, 2007).

The systems dynamics model was first in 1970 for the purpose of the research and development in projects. Roberts later in 1974 came up with a simple model of project dynamics where a concept describing the expected progress as well as the actual progress is compared. Systems dynamic model is a computer based approach used for analyzing and designing the project policies. It is applied in dynamic issues that crop out of complex managerial, social economic and ecological systems (Richardson, 1999). The model first defines problem in a dynamic manner then maps and the stages of modeling and the building of confidence in the approach.

The basic objective of the systematic dynamic model is to put into consideration all the feedback processes of that are responsible for the project under consideration. The process of managing the project is placed in a wider context that involves the consideration of the so called soft factors most of which operate in the external environment. The model focuses attention on the human resource as this is where the feedback structures of the project are sourced from. The systems dynamics modeling is an important tool in the project startup process, i.e. the feasibility studies and the planning process or immediately the provisional budget has been approved, to do a simulation of the trends in the project management process as well as carrying out an initial estimate of the cost elements and the time schedule (De Marco and Rafele 2012). Systems dynamics approach allows for the definition and the testing of computer based models that consider the variables and the actions of management in a systematic way, making it easier for decision making. The model is important also in the offering a practical value to the managers of the project during the execution of the project to check the excesses in the cost elements and the scheduling problems by adopting a management approach towards the human resources as well as the clients (De Marco and Rafele 2012).

The systems dynamic model is an essential tool that enables individuals to gain an insight of the complexities in the world, together with the interrelationships between the project management process, the human resources and the products being developed.

3 — Explain what insights and/or solutions the methodology (is) provide(s). You may like to ask questions such as – Does the system have a viable continuing role? Is the system capable of adapting to changes? Is the system working as it was intended providing the expected benefits to its stakeholders? (Max 750 words) – 20 marks.

The system dynamic approach has in the past demonstrates its usefulness as effective tools for the analysis of a wide variety of situations practically. The model is currently being used by a number of organizations to advance their organizational objectives. These firms include the fortune 500 firms in the United States of America and other parts of the world. The systems dynamics approach is mostly used in quantitative cost benefit analysis of the projects (Forrester, 2011).The model is also being used widely in management of projects which includes the large scale building of ships, the civil construction, military defenses and power generation plants. This approach have in the past been utilized in the effective management of projects as well as in testing the viability of the magnitudes and the causes of the scheduling delays and the cost overruns especially in cases where the expected beneficiaries of the project will feel let down by the delays and will seek litigations for breach of contract. The United States of America’s department of energy is using the system dynamic approach in the production of forecast and analysis of the energy sector policies since the 1970s (De Marco and Rafele 2012).

Project management is so dynamic. There are processes that crop up each and every time such as hiring and training of staff. Project implementation is disrupted on so many occasions, and while pinpointing where and the cause of the errors take additional time and the responses to such unexpected turn of events may take longer than it is expected. Take for instance, the hiring and the training of additional staff which could serve as a way of preparing the staff to increase the project’s capacity in the future but for purposes of the short run, the members of staff with more experience must quit their daily routines in order to devote their attention on offering training to the new recruits and most cases will result in reduced productivity. The systems dynamic model is meant to solve such issues that are dynamic in nature. The model is regarded as having the most evolved guidelines compared to other known techniques for modeling, for the presentation, the analysis and the explaining the dynamic complex managerial and technical aspects (Love, 2002).

The systems dynamic model has proved to be effective tools for the analysis and the estimation of the corrective actions in progress concerning the cost elements and the issues of scheduling. The model has in most cases proved to be flexible enough to enable changes to suit the environmental issues that the project is facing. In Italy for instance, a gas and steam power station whose name cannot be mentioned for purposes of confidentiality, the project manager had to request the stakeholders for major changes during its construction where changes had to be introduced just three and half months after the initiation of the project (Love, 2002). It is therefore correct to ascertain that the model is a tool for managing change which sets a platform or discussing and communicating for purposes of making decisions that are critical to the project execution.

The systems dynamic approach has been credited with providing a platform for project managers to mitigate losses that result from delays and cost elements that go beyond the budgets. The systems dynamic model is meant to solve such issues that are dynamic in nature and has since its development enable the project managers to adopt to the ever changing business environment and at the same time offer reprieve to the consumers who would be affected negatively if the project was to fail to complete at the scheduled time and cost (Lisse 2012). The model is credited for having guidelines that are more developed when compared to other known techniques for modeling, for the presentation, the analysis and the explaining the dynamic complex managerial and technical aspects of the project. In this way the management of the project would avoid a situation where they would have to employ more staff, and spend more resources in order to take corrective action to prevent the project from collapsing. This is because correct the cost overruns and scheduling problems, the reaction of most project managers would be to increase pressure on employees by making they work overtime, hiring more workers and the reduction of quality in order to reduce the cost of production (Love, 2002).

4 — Evaluate the potential of the methodology (is) used in your work as a project manager or a manager in an organization. (Max 500 words) – 15 marks

The systems dynamic approach has often been used as an important tool that is used in understanding the dynamics of the project management environment more so the behaviors of feedback. The future is said to be uncertain and no one knows what the future holds on the project management environment. The ever increasing use of the qualitative data as the only modeling has the potential negative effects and there is a need for the stakeholders in the project management processes. New emerging computer software tools on the other hand have increased the flexibility of the systems dynamic model, increasing the flexibility of the modeling of quantitative data make it easier for the project managers to increase the scope under which the model can be applied although researchers have recommended that more research be done to make this more flexible (Love, 2002).

The potential of the systematic dynamic model has been enhanced by the numerous studies that are being carried out to establish a relationship between the structure of the systems model and its behavior as well as the optimization roles that are being undertaken by the project managers. The increase in the use of the systems dynamic approach has greatly increased the demand since more organizations seek to make use of the model (Ocak 2012). They include consultancy firms and this has greatly increased for the modelers to offer better training and education while the universities and other learning institutions are going to provide training programmers to meet the expanding demand.

It is the prediction of the scholars that project management models are going to evolve in the future. It is expected that with the constant research work, more improved versions of the model will be introduced and the project management processes will be easy. The constant issues witnessed in project execution such as cost overruns and the scheduling issues are expected to drastically reduced, and consequently lead to a reduction in the losses that accompany such problems. The need for these changes is necessitated by the fact that like the environmental factors under which projects operate, the problems that projects face also change with a proportional dynamism (Pruyt & Kwakkel, 2012).

The tools and equipments used in the execution of the projects have changed over time as humans ensure that they mechanize their operations. This implies that all factors that contribute to the success of the projects will have to be changed for the projects to be successful. The new discoveries as well as the improvements will mean that new challenges that the systems dynamic models would not be able to find a solution. In such a scenario, the approach would be rendered useless unless a deliberate effort has been made to ensure that the systems dynamic approach is improved to match the changing project management environment so that it is not rendered obsolete (Toole, 2007).


De Marco, A and Rafele, C 2012, Using System Dynamics To Understand Project Performance, Retrieved 20th May from

Forrester, J.W 2011, ‘On The History, The Present, And the Future of System Dynamics’, System Dynamics, vol. 1, p. 1-5.

Love, P., Holt, G., Shen, L., Li, H. and Irani, Z., 2002, Using Systems Dynamics to Better Understand Change and Rework in Engineering Project Management Systems, International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 20, No. 6, pp. 425-436.

Lisse, S.D 2012, ‘System dynamics applied to Outsourcing engineering services in design build- projects’, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Retrieved from

Maani K and Cavana R 2007, Systems Thinking, System Dynamics, 2nd Edition, Pearson Education New Zealand.

Ocak, Z 2012, ‘Systems dynamics application in project management’, Proceedings of the 2012 International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Operations Management Istanbul, Turkey, July 3 – 6, 2012, pp. 1225-1233. Yeditepe University, Istanbul, Turkey

Pruyt, E and Kwakkel, J 2012, ‘A bright future for system dynamics: From art to computational science and beyond’. Retrieved 20th May from

Richardson, G.P 1999, ‘Reflections for the future of system dynamics’, The Journal of the Operational Research Society, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 440–449. doi: 10.2307/3010465.

Toole, M.T 2007, ‘A Project Management Causal Loop Diagram’, Accepted for the 2005 ARCOM Conference, London, UK, Sep 5-7.

Zawadzki, T 2009, ‘Applying system dynamics modeling to IT project management’, IFAC Proceedings Volumes, 42(13), pp. 152–157. doi: 10.3182/20090819-3-PL-3002.00027.