System Thinking And Problem Solving Essay

Length: 8 pages Sources: 8 Subject: Business - Management Type: Essay Paper: #28354991 Related Topics: Systems Analysis, Problem Solving, Decision Support System, Learning System
Excerpt from Essay :

Systems Thinking

The key constructs of systems thinking were constituted in the first half of the 20th century in fields such as psychology, ecology, organismal biology, and cybernetics (Capra 1997). They include: sub-systems/parts/wholes, environment/system/boundary, process/structure, emerging properties, hierarchy of organizations, negative and positive feedback, data and control, open systems, holism, and the observer. The practical application of these constructs in many fields was discovered by von Bertalanffy (1950). He referred to these concepts as general systems theory (GST). These concepts were adapted in Organizational research and Management science (OR/MS) and were referred to as management cybernetics (Beer 1967), systems engineering (Hall 1962), system four dynamics (Forrester 1968), and finally, in what we might refer to as the systems approach (Churchman 1968; Klir 1969; Weinberg 1975) (Mingers & White, 2009).

The systems thinking/systems approach, has been closely linked to the growth of organizational research and management science. At the start it was intimately associated to work by its proponents such as Ackoff and Churchman and later through innovations such as soft systems. Systems thinking can be rightfully regarded as a complete field with many methodological and theoretical innovations. However, systems thinking is applicable to such a wide variety of problem areas due to its generalization. Therefore a review of systems thinking should always be a selective one.

The significance of systems thinking for OR / MS was noted from the start by pioneers in this field including Ackoff and Churchman, cyberneticists including Beer, and systems engineers such as Hall. However, the growth of OR led to some sort of differences. OR evolved to focus on the computer and mathematical modeling approaches, tithe detriment of systems thinking. System dynamics and cybernetics grew separately and in isolation, while systems engineering was later to be mainly utilized in the United States public sector. These differences in growth led to a crisis in Organizational research, resulting in the formation of soft systems (Critical and/or systems). The latest theories that emerged from the crisis include chaos and complexity theory (Mingers & White, 2009).

Question 1: Clear Description of the problem situation.

Milling areas are often characterized by the challenges that come about due to the involvement of many stakeholders in the sugarcane supply chain; these stakeholders have different values, goals, mentalities, expectations, and strategies (Bezuidenhout & Bodhanya, 2010). This could result in competing interests, creating conflicts and tension in the supply chain (Gerwel, et al., 2011).

The problems posed by hard technical issues in supply chains in the sugarcane industry are all key components in the development of any mill area. These include: the quality of the cane and supply, the efficiency of the mill, and finally division/distribution of proceeds. There are also problems of managing other components, separate from the hard technical issues, such as objectives, values, leadership, communication, and trust when aiming to enhance a sugarcane supply chain (Bezuidenhout & Bodhanya, 2010)

Question 2- Justification for your choice of Systems Methodologies based on the use of Metaphor & the System of Systems Methodologies (SoSM)

SSM is a philosophy that takes into account intercession in unpredictable, real-life circumstances where there are problematic areas (Checkland, 1985). The emphasis is on making adaptations, through valuable discussions, in areas where relevant stakeholders mutually "surface" with perceptions, and deal with issues. The emphasis is on accommodation between the diverse partners, and on coming to an agreed upon way of action (Presley and Meade, 2002). The stages in SSM include: forming answers concerning problem situation(s); creating models that take debate and discussion into consideration, by contrasting the reality of situations with their potential; and settling on a strategy to realize change. Distinctive instruments are utilized, for example, the generation of 'rich pictures' which are utilized to recognize partners and their interests (Gerwel, et al., 2011).

Utilizing the System of Systems approach (SoSM), SSM was picked in light of the fact that the frameworks being depicted are Simple: comprised of only a couple of exceptionally organized connections that are generally steady and moderately unaffected by associations with the parts of the framework or external influences (Systemswiki, 2014). These interactions are those between hard technical issues and other components as described earlier. Additionally, in light of the fact that the members of the framework are Pluralist, i.e. basic interests are perfect, but members don't have the same qualities and convictions, space is needed for open deliberation,...


Thus, it is usually quite difficult for the sugar mill owners and management to choose the right place to start a systems thinking approach. This stage enables the definition of the problem and the problem situation within a sugar mill organization. The stage brings about an awareness of the complexity or difficulty of the situation at hand. The stage helps the sugar mill management to get support from the employees who are concerned or are involved in the problem situation. Getting support or assistance from the employees, in the form of ideas or problems facing the organization, is the initial step to allowing genuine participation of all stakeholders (Garza & Fernandez, 2012).

A lack of comprehension and appreciation of the variety of opinions from different stakeholders exists currently in the sugar mill industry. Some stakeholders were of the opinion that many individuals in the sugar mill industry had their own self-interest rather than a holistic view. Certain stakeholders also noted that they felt like small cogs in a big wheel. There were competing interests between the objectives of the stakeholders-some of whom thought the others' goals were just about making a profit, and there were also sugarcane farmers who would have liked more interaction with the management of the mill and assistance. The division of the profits among the different stakeholders led to further discord (Gerwel, et al., 2011).


One of the key elements in the utilization of soft system methodologies is the creation of the 'richest' possible visualization or picture of the problem situation. This entails the use of creativity so as to express or explain the problems that a particular organization is facing at a particular time. The above rich visualization or picture is basically a short summary of the whole situation; it is a visualization that defines the entire mixture of problems for the sugar mill; it creates a sort of panorama of the problem situation that is being investigated. Though this picture is a powerful tool, it can also be very dangerous. This is because, while on one hand it clearly defines the moment, on the other hand it shows reality; many sugar mill managers and owners do not like seeing reality. Still, the picture is a valuable tool for diagnosing or learning from the system. A picture/visualization is a systems approach for detailing a moment of any organization. The one problem that this kind of rich visualization brings about is that people always view it through filters of present and past experiences and expectations, and particularly through the glasses of their skill set/expertise.

Concerning the intention of the rich picture, capturing each and every moment of an organization/system, it therefore means that when we come up with a rich picture essentially we are creating a photo of a system according to the noted Gestalt psychology. Considering that each element captured in the rich picture will have emerged in a particular space and a particular time, Gestalt psychology argues that we can only study a given scenario in its "here and now." The past too can only be observed through a personal filter of "here and now." This therefore means that both realities only exist in the mind of the person who is thinking about them and are not within the reach of mere observation (Garza & Fernandez, 2012).

There are problems with transparency and communication. Many stakeholders in the sugar mill felt that even though there was primary and basic communication, it was only superficial. Many stakeholders were of the opinion that there was a need for a two-way communication between the sugarcane farmers/growers and the sugar mill workers. Apart from the communication problems, there was also an associated perception of mistrust of the sugarcane farmers/growers towards the sugar mill workers. In the end, there is need to have a unity of purpose between the farmers and workers as well as encouragement towards being more actively involved within all matters that concern them in the sugar mill area (Gerwel, et al., 2011).


SSG sustainability and operations present a very serious threat to the sugarcane industry, since their well-being directly affects the sugarcane supply chain. SSGs experienced many problems such as a lack of adequate financing, poor infrastructure and support, and limited or traditional methods of…

Sources Used in Documents:


Beer, S., 1967. Cybernetics and Management, English Universities Press: London.

Beer S (1984). The Viable System Model: Its Provenance, Development, Methodology and Pathology. Journal of the Operational Research Society 35(7): 25.

Bezuidenhout, C. & Bodhanya, S., 2010. Identifying opportunities in South African sugarcane supply-chain-systems: A synopsis, limitations and recommendations. Report to the South African Sugarcane Research Institute, Mount Edgecombe: s.n.

Burnett SM and Durant-Law GA (2008). Applying the RAAAKERS framework in an analysis of the command and control arrangements of the ADF Garrison Health Support. Journal of Military and Veterans' Health 17: 19-26.
Systemswiki. (2014, May 12). System of Systems Methodologies (SOSM). Retrieved from Systemswiki:
Available at: / [Accessed 8 July 2015].

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