APM Systems Thinking SIG chair interview
20TH DECEMBER 2018
Why is systems thinking important to you?
Systems thinking helps me get to grips with challenging problems. Having too narrow a focus leads to solutions that aren’t effective in the long term. I’ve learnt this from my project work, from teaching and from research.
How is systems thinking relevant to the project managers of today?
To some extent, systems thinking is part of project management’s DNA. Projects are systems of activities with critical inter-dependencies and ‘hard’ systems thinking can help to optimise projects to minimise use of resources for example. But systems thinking really adds value when you realise that the world of projects is imperfect and uncertain, not deterministic, and has a significant human dimension where ’soft’ systems thinking comes into play. Not only do tasks often take longer to complete than anticipated due to unforeseen events and re-work, but we often start projects without a clear understanding of what the project’s objectives are. Systems thinking gives us the tools to attempt both complicated projects (with many interfaces and distributed supply chains – such as building a new aircraft) and complex projects (where stakeholders don’t agree on the fundamental objectives – such as building a new runway for London or using IT to deliver improved healthcare services). Ultimately, systems thinking helps us to do a better job of managing risk and project scope.
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