Systems Thinking: Understanding the Complexity of Our World

Systems Thinking is based on the field of system dynamics, founded  by MIT professor Jay Forrester in 1956. The idea behind systems thinking is to be used when analyzing change, interventions and solutions to consider how the component being under study is interacting with other components in the system.

So for example, if we’re trying to introduce new roles in the organization or solve a social issue or introduce new projects and initiatives in the community or organization…we need to consider how those interact with other parts of the system. Many of the traditional methods take a sequential approach to analyzing issues, systems think
This leads us to actually ask, what is a system? Well in a nutshell, a system is a group related, interdependent, bound and related components that interact together. So the computer you’re using is a system, organization you work in is a system, the city you’re in is a system, the country you’re in is a system. In this context, systems can be a “component” of a bigger system. Thus our world is constantly interconnected and has multiple influences from the broader system on the smaller ones, and vice versa.ing on the other hand focuses on the big picture and how are it’s components interacting thus a more complex and iterative approach.

For example, the company’s “system” is made up of:

  • Policies & Procedures
  • Human Capital
  • Facilities & Equipment

So to introduce a change in one of those 3 elements, whether it’s team performance or overall cost reduction, there will be an impact on the other 2 elements and thus in many organizations instilling some change in one element will end up leading to un-expected changes in the other and thus the “original” problem would be resolved, but other problems would’ve popped up.

The key benefit of Systems Thinking is that it provides a better way for analysis and for solving most complex problems that are plaguing our world from governments to communities to business and so on.

Systems Thinking is being used in very wide spectrum of fields today and this proves that the people are becoming aware of it’s value. Some of the fields where it is being utilized are:

  • Engineering & Construction
  • Management & Consultancy
  • Environment
  • Health & Medical Services
  • Manufacturing & Industry
  • Business Analysis
  • Project Management
  • Policy Making & Governance
  • Community Development
  • Computing & Information Technology
  • Sustainable Development

In conclusion, with the increasing complexity of our world today it becoming a necessity to be able to see the “big picture” and understand the systems we are working with or else our proposed solutions and improvements will fail to reach the impact expected with long lasting sustainability.

Project Management for NGOs: Lecture Given to PMI Lebanon Chapter

Last month I’ve given a lecture/session titled “Project Management for NGOs” to the PMI Lebanon Chapter as part of their monthly lectures.

In this context, I thought of sharing it with you. So below you’ll find the session description, learning outcomes and the link to download the presentation for your own knowledge and entertainment…. let me know what you think! 🙂

Session Description/Summary:

The world today has hundreds of thousands of active NGOs majority of which are project and program based and depend on ongoing grants and funding to secure resources for their projects. With grants and funding summing up to hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the amounts being lost on failed projects, unmet objectives and re-work is counting up to tens of millions of dollars.

Many leaders of NGOs consider this as a reasonable and un-escapable price to pay due to the fact that it is hard to recruit enough qualified project and program managers in the NGO field due to the short period of engagement, low wages with respect to private sector and lack of well identified project management training, tools and techniques.

With thousands of program managers, program coordinators, project managers, project coordinators, assistant program and project managers and so on and so forth, there is a huge gap to be filled for both the organizations and the individuals working in them.

What many don’t realize is that PMP standard can apply to NGOs by simply matching many of the terminology that is used by PMP with those present in NGOs. This lecture will help you understand how.

Lecture Learning Objectives:

  • Understand and Define an NGO
  • Identify the Numerous Types and Fields of Work of NGOs
  • Understand the NGO Project Life Cycle in Most NGOs
  • Map NGO Project Related Terminology with PMI’s Terminology

Link to Presentation in PDF: PMI Leb Chapter – PM for NGOs Presentation by Afif Tabsh – April 2012

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