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System Thinking


Introduction: The problems in the business are becoming more and more complex in the todays' world. So, businesses are required to implement best tools to get solution of the complex problems. System thinking provides tools to get the solution of the complex problems in the business world. System thinking is the process of viewing the system as a whole rather than only its components. It makes us acquainted with not only components of the system but also how these components interact with each other in different situations which helps in determining the overall behavior of the system. It helps the administrators to know the cause of the problem and what can be consequences of the problem. With the help of determining cause of the problem we can design effective strategies to solve the problem. The visualization of the complex problem is provided by the tools contained in system thinking. The fundamental principles of the system thinking can be applied to project, portfolio and program management as well. System thinking helps the companies to determine better estimates of schedules and cost incurred in the project .We can develop better plans and strategies to get solution of the complex problems with the help of system thinking.

Question 1: Apply Fundamental principles of system thinking to project, program and portfolio management.

Answer: Summary: System thinking assists the project managers in viewing the essential characterstics of a project , program and portfolio such as cost of undertaking the project, critical activities involved in the project and time requires to complete the project with accuracy. it gives the holistic view of the project, programs and the portfolios as we study each system as a whole not in parts. it also determine which life cycle approach is to be followed for a particular project. It helps in developing better plans for management of project , portfolio and programs. It also determines scope and objectives of the project and the programmes. It helps in selection of what is to added in the portfolio and what is to deleted from the portfolio. We can also priortise various objectives to determine which are to accomplished first. With the usuage of system thinking the objectives of the project, programme and portfolio can be aligned easily with the organizational objectives. Identification of various stakeholders and how the undertaken project, portfolio and programme can impact the stakeholders goals can be determined with the usuage of system thinking. The leverage principle of system thinking helps in determining various leverage points of the projects , programmes and portfolios where the impact will be maximum.The assessment of the project, programme and portfolio after its execution can also be done with the help of system thinking to know what was done perfectly and where we lacked.

Evidence: The companies that has implemented system thinking in their project, programme and portfolio management has generated much more revenues than the companies who has not implemented system thinking. They are able to decrease their costs and increase their revenues .They have also been successful in optimal utilization of their resources. They are able to deliver their projects on time without any delay. The implementation of system thinking in project, programme and portfolio management has resulted in achievement of objectives of the company at faster pace than usual.The risks associated with these are also mitigated with the system thinking proactively (Michael Goodman (2007))

Question 2: Demonstrate use of system thinking tools and techniques to solve complex problems.

Answer: Summary: System thinking provides various tools to solve the complex problems such as fishbone diagrams, context diagrams, Trend maps, concept maps , casual loop diagrams and Actor maps. The fishbone diagrams helps to visualize the problem by segregating hard and soft variables. Context diagrams helps in studying the environment in relation to its environment. Concept maps presents graphical view of the system by presenting main topic and then, its sub topics. The relation between the main topic and sub topic is represented with the help of links. Actor maps helps to determine the key stakeholders of the organization and what important role they play in the system. It presents the key roles that affect the decision making process in a system .Trend maps helps to track the changes that has occurred in the system over a period of time. This also present a view of important activities of the system. Casual loop diagrams helps in presenting relationships between the different components of the system.

System Tools

Brain Storming Tools

Dynamic Thinking Tools

Structural Thinking Tools

Computer Based Tools

Fish bone diagram

Casual Loop Diagram

Graphical Function Diagram

Computer Model


Behavior over time  diagram

Structure behavior Pair

Management Flight simulator


System Archetype

Policy structure diagram

Learning Laboratory

Table 1: Showing Various System Thinking Tools To Solve The Complex Problems

Evidence: Figure 1 shows the context diagram of project management of billing project. The context diagram shows various entities present in the project like customer, warehouse, credit card company. The various processes of the system are shown with the help of arrows. The inputs going into the system and the outputs coming out of the system are shown with the help of arrows pointing either towards the entity or the system. The various things related to the system like order status, cash receipts ,payments and credit status are shown in the context diagram. The whole project of billing system can be easily visualized with the help of this context diagram.

Billing System.jpg

Figure 1: Showing Context Diagram Of Project Of Billing System


Question 3: Discuss contemporary developments and importance of project, program and portfolio application systems.

Answer: Summary: There are a number of inventions in the field of project, program and portfolio management such as project management maturity model is invented to ensure the higher performance of projects. There is great change in the methodologies undertaken to complete a project. There is continuous improvement in the project development life cycle models. Agile methodology is being used during the life cycle of a software product. Capacity planning is also done in advance and various competency tools are used to ensure that project meets all the requirements of the clients and also outperform in front of the competitors products. The project, program and portfolio applications are very important as they ensure portfolio address the problems which are aligned with organizational situations. They help in planning the transition of inputs from project, programmes and portfolios to stakeholders. They define the relationship between various projects, programmes and portfolios.After, defining the relationship, the relationship is also documented to avoid any conflicts.They also help in determining that if we make changes in any project and programme then ,how it affects the portfolio as a whole and how the objectives of the portfolio get affected by the changes made. These applications helps to sets priorities among the various objectives that a portfolio should address. The coming of new project or programme has great impact on the portfolio , the impact can be studied with the help of these applications.

Evidence: Project , programme and portfolio applications has helped the companies to align their portfolio with their business strategy. This has helped the companies to achieve their objectives at a faster pace than usual. They are capable of getting better understanding of the scope of the project with the help of these applications and also they can easily study the impact of the changes in the project and programme on the portfolio. This is very useful for the larger organizations. They also prevents the overlapping of the objectives and provide a competitive edge to the organization over others.

Question 4: Explain importance of project management application systems to enable knowledge management and decision making.

Answer: Summary: Project management applications assists to keep the project plan , schedules , estimates and objectives of the project. We can also study the change management with the usuage of project management applications. The project management applications. These applications integrate the information available regarding a specific project and at the time of decision making the project managers can access all the information at one point. These helps in taking better decisions by the project managers. Also, the objectives and scope of the project should be inline with the objectives of the organization. Project managers of the company are able to find the cost of the project, duration of the project and resources needed to complete the project with accuracy with the help of these applications. These applications also helps the project managers to determine the leverage points where the impact is highest. Project management applications helps in keeping the information related to one project at one place and this can be used at the time of decisions making by the project managers to make better decisions.

Evidence: These applications gives the graphical visualization of the system which helps in gaining deeper understanding of the system and its relationship with the external environment. The various objectives of the portfolio can be priortise with the help of project management applications. Hence, the project managers are able to determine which objectives are to achieved first and which can be achieved later. The decisions on the assignment of resources are also taken with the help of the information contained in the project management applications thus, it ensures optimal utilization f resources.


Question 5: Explain importance of project management application systems to monitor performance and manage change the project, program and portfolio.

Answer: Summary: Project management applications keeps track of money and time spent on each and every activity of the project. It also records which person is assigned to which activity of the project. Monitoring performance of the project includes that the project is completed on time and the project cost do not overrun the pre planned budget of the project . So, with the help of project management applications the project managers can ensure high performance of the project. If we make any changes in the project, these changes have great impact on the program and portfolio of the project as programs are made up of several projects only and portfolio consists of several programmes. The project management applications assists the project managers to analyze how the changes made in the project with impact the portfolio and programmes. These applications also helps project managers in adoption of proactive approach for the risk associated with the project. Applications of project management helps to keep record of all the stakeholders of the project and how small changes in project will impact the associated stakeholders.

Evidence: whenever a new project is adopted it also affects the programme and the portfolio of the project , the impact impact can be analysed with the help of these applications.They also help in follow up of the project after its completion as we can determine which methods and strategies were successful and which were not . Hence, we can find out areas of improvement for the future projects. Without project management applications the project managers fail to monitor performance of their projects and study the impact of changes on programme and portfolios.

Conclusion: System thinking helps to study the system as a whole rather than parts. With the help of system thinking we can study how the different components of the system interact with each other and how the system behaves in different situations .The principles of system thinking such as leverage, abstraction can also be applied to project , programme and portfolio management .A project consists of number of activities undertaken to achieve a particular objective. Two or more than projects makes a programme and a bunch of programmes makes a project . System thinking provides the users with a handful of tools such as fish bone diagram , context diagrams, trend maps and many more to visualize the complex problems. The project and portfolio management applications are very important because they help to align the objectives of the project or portfolio with the organizational objectives. They can be used for the process of management of knowledge and making various decisions by the project managers. These applications assists in analysing the performance of the project and assists in change management as every change in the project impacts the programme and programme affects the portfolio of the organization. The objectives of the organization can be priortised with the help of these applications.


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