What you will study
The module is structured as two parallel streams. Both streams enhance your capacity to engage with and improve complex situations in any domain. The strategies for improving situations may range from local domestic strategies for improving education or employment opportunities, towards international strategies associated with environmental decision making, economic planning, and improving social justice. You will learn to work with others across organisational ‘silos’ and different service providers. You will gain specific practical skills, an understanding of their application in different contexts, and you will become aware how your practice is shaped by the nature of individual processes of thinking.
The Tools stream teaches five systems approaches. In each case you examine the ideas behind it, how to apply it and examples of its use combined with opportunities for you to practice hands-on experience in using it.
The five key approaches for systems practice are drawn from three philosophical traditions underpinning systems thinking - feedback, perspectives, and boundaries. The systems approaches are:
System Dynamics and the Viable Systems Model, primarily dealing with feedback, interrelationships and interdependancies
Soft Systems Methodology and Strategic Options Development and Analysis with Cognitive Mapping, primarily dealing with multiple perspectives
Critical Systems Heuristics, primarily dealing with ethics and politics.
These five cover the fundamental concepts of systems thinking and the essential elements of the different perspectives across the main theoretical strands of systems thinking.
This stream provides a complementary light-touch series of five separate topics, each of which focuses on a particular theme that is designed to enrich and illuminate systems approaches and their use. From this you will appreciate systems (and other approaches) as psychological aids as well as logical processes, and appreciate how inter-personal differences are likely to affect how they are used.
Two books, written specifically for this module, provide the core subject matter: Systems Approaches to Managing Change: a practical guide (Reynolds, M. and Holwell, S., eds (2010)) and Systems Thinkers (Ramage, M. and Shipp, K. (2009)). You will receive these books as part of the study material.
You will gain from this module practical and theoretical underpinning for your management and leadership practice. You will also gain practical competence in a range of systems approaches linked with awareness of the role and impact of cognitive processing on practice. This combination will equip you to develop your own current capacities and your ongoing learning. When you finish you should be able to think and act differently, not only as an individual but in your working with others. In addition to appreciating systems approaches to engaging with complex situations, you will acquire practical skills in the techniques of these approaches. Your ability to work with others will be developed by understanding how your cognitive processes influence and shape your individual practice, and how others’ cognitive processes influence their reactions and so influence your practice.
The module aims to help you engage with and improve complex situations in all areas of work and personal life where there are other individuals, groups and organisations also interested in the actions taken.