Complexity in Systems Approach

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Complexity in Systems Approach
Paul Tonks, Member
Complexity exists due to a multitude of worldviews held by organisational members and external stakeholders and the cultural influences, individual experiences and organisational makeup i.e. rituals, myths, procedures etc., each affect the overall considerations of any decisions managers take.
Part of the systems approach is to construct conceptual models of how the organisation 'should work' (in the ideal world) and then compare these models with 'what really happens'.

Complexity in Systems Approach
Peter Bond, Member
Paul, you're correct about the systems approach modelling 'as is' and then 'as should be' is standard. However, complexity exists due to the presence of nonlinear dynamic relations somewhere. My view, especially if we are promoting a systems approach to performance improvement, is that the term 'complexity' should refer to these type of systems. Human social systems are complex, even if they consist of just two people, but not for the reasons you suggest.

Complexity in Systems Practice
Paul Tonks, Member
@Peter Bond: Peter, you are taking my comments out of context; especially given the brief 'snap-shot' nature in which they are written.
It is not the systems methodology that is complex it is the nature of the issues we are exploring (using such method or not). The complexity is thus found in the problem area and explored using systems practice.
SSM generally deals with problems that are considered a 'mess' this normally infers we are uncertain of the root cause of the issue or even exactly what the issues are, they generally involve people and this adds to the complexity due to a myrid of reasons inclusive of those I have meantion; though not limited to only these types of interactions, politics etc.
I will therefore agree to disagree with your comments, as complexity exists free of systems practice; systems identified using systems practice are a result of our interpretations and are designed to provide insights into problem areas whether complex of not. Regards, Paul.

Complexity in Systems Approach
Ivan Kohlinsky, Member
From practice and application to me it is precisely the holistic systems approach that is meant to cut through complexity.
Consulting for large scale companies over the years has made me conclude that rolling up simple problems into large ones is often what hinders CEOs from getting to grips with situations.
Weltanschauung does not mean looking at everything at the same time - more getting a what is important - what is happening from taking a high level 'world' view.
In fact decomposing a problem and having completely different levels of detail for the main area under study and the rest of the 'wider system' can in my view bring faster and better resolution/improvement.

Complexity in Systems - no Understanding
Daniel J. McElroy, Member
Russell Ackoff said managers do not understand their current mode of thought or understand complexity or their own system. "Because most managers donít have the knowledge and understanding required to deal with complexity, they attempt to reduce complex situations to simple ones. As a result, they tend to look for simple, if not simple-minded, solutions to problems" (link).

Complexity in Systems Approach
Ivan Kohlinsky, Member
I always have to remind myself that I (as forming my view/doing my work) am part of 'the system'. It is impossible to be completely objective, just as in Quantum Mechanics, Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty shows that we alter things by even trying to measure them, and of course there is always Schrodinger's cat to think about. Nevertheless we aim to do our best!


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