SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT WORKSHOPS DESCRIPTION:                                                                                        BACK


In the Systems Management series of workshops, we examine and present the application of systems thinking to a number of topics of direct interest to business.


Broadly speaking these themes are:

·                     problem solving,

·                     planning and scenario planning

·                     strategy development

·                     organisation design



 Whilst many management workshops address these fields, this series of workshop distinguishes itself in its use of a well founded, theoretically sound and practically proven approach, the systems approach. Participants will gain a basic understanding of and the ability to apply a systems approach to the selected topic. An important component of the learning is the application of the material to real organisation situations by participants outside of the workshops themselves.


Specific workshops in this series are:

·       Problem solving: Organisational problems, involving people issues and organisational performance issues.

·       Planning: Long term, strategic planning, making use of the same principles as for problem solving.

·       Organisational Design: How should the enterprise divided into parts, and how should they interact?

·       Strategy Development: Understanding strategy as purposeful whole system behaviour, constant re-positioning against a changing backdrop. Managing strategically requires thinking systemically about long term future of the whole.


Workshop 1: Problem Solving.

Problem Solving: What should we do?

This seminar introduces organisational problem solving using system approaches. Systems thinking is used as basis for understanding problem solving as a process of group inquiry. Practical system methods, which help to define what should be done in a particular situation, are introduced. This by presenting a method for building a shared understanding of the underlying causal factors and their interactions determining outcomes in a situation. This approach has proven very powerful in practice to anticipate the effect of changes and interrelationships over time. The methods are all designed to support a process of participative group learning where ‘problem solving’ itself facilitates the group to define for itself what should be done. The workshop starts with an overview of principles for problem solving and creates a common problem experience in the form of a management game. It illustrates the use of this systems approach to the particular problem by leading participants through the technique on problems which different groups choose to work on. The workshop is of an introductory nature; in depth understanding of these approaches requires a hands-on experience beyond the scope workshop, which participants are required to complete before the second workshop in the series, on planning.



Workshop 2: Planning.

Planning: Implementing learning

This seminar deals with the process of long term, strategic planning. It gives a model or checklist against which one can evaluate whether the appropriate planning components are in place. It examines the role of planning in organisations and provides more detail about some of the organisation design issues raised in the previous unit. It specifically gives details about some of the major activities an organisation requires to become more of a learning organisation and stresses the importance of viewing planning as a process. Guidelines for carrying out the major planning activities are given (except scenario planning; see below).


Scenario planning has become an important vehicle for developing long term strategic insights. Its role and content are examined in the context of planning as an overall process. Specific scenario development approaches and techniques are dealt with; participants are guided through the use of these techniques by themselves. Guidelines for the appropriate use of the different approaches, are given. Placing scenario planning in a wider planning process that scenario planning is not a fad.



Workshop 3: Enterprise Design.

Designing and managing appropriate organisations

This workshop deals with how organisations may be structured, and how the parts interact. Be warned! If your interest is drawing organograms this unit is not for you; if your interest is in improving the organisation of your organisation, read on. The material covers a fundamental rethink of the way organisations are designed, structured and managed. It creates a new way of thinking about organisational structure that is a basis for a coherent approach to organisational design. This way, referred to as Modular Enterprise Design, of understanding and analysing structure is crucial to designing wholes that are more than the sum of their parts.


Purpose of Modular Enterprise Design:

The Modular Enterprise Design (MED) reflects the result of research and practical application on organisational design, using systems thinking. The underlying question in organisational design is: How should the whole be put together? (What are the parts? How do they interrelate?). MED looks at this question from a systems approach perspective and applies the systems thinking tools and methods to particularly business organisations. The result is both a template against which one can measure and evaluate existing or desired organisational designs, as well as a process for taking people through a participative design of an enterprise. The end result is a “design” (model, ideal, or image) of how an organisation should look like, which has been considered from a very wide range of viewpoints, including virtually every aspect of an organisation. The process and underlying template is systemic, and participants typically gain a far more systemic view of the organisation.


Purpose of Enterprise Design Workshop:

·       To deepen participants’ appreciation of complexity and possibility for managing the evolution of organisational form as a source of competitiveness;

·       To introduce some of the systemic tools for inquiry into organisational forms;

·       To create a conceptual basis for an organisational design process.

The workshop is itself a joint learning process, where we use the available material to build up an appreciation of the topic.



            Workshop 4: Strategy Design

Positioning for thrival.

Most institutions and enterprises cannot assume that there will be a role for them in the future. Many forces at work in the environment of these institutions require fundamental changes to the character, nature, the very essence of these institutions if they are to remain viable in the future. Strategy has to be seen as the process of learning and positioning the whole to exploit changes (surf the waves) as opposed to be baffled by changes (dumped under the waves). This workshop uses a framework of strategy principles to study case studies, and then applies that to the enterprise. It instils principles of learning and critical reflection on strategy decisions and actions. It uses a systems thinking framework to position current ideas and practices in strategy. The approach is to view strategy as purposeful whole system behaviour, and constant re-positioning against a changing backdrop. Managing strategically requires thinking systemically about long term future of the whole.

Who are we? The person:-



Dr Johan Strümpfer is a Principal Researcher at the University of Cape Town and Director of the Programme for Systems Management. Previously he was a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Futures Research, and Senior Project Scientist the Institute for Maritime Technology. He has a Masters degree and a doctorate in Operations Research, both from the University of Cape Town.  He has been involved in technical and organisational problem solving for 20 years. The very large number of projects have ranged from basic engineering design issues to organisational design.  Consulting clients have ranged from technical work groups to political organisations, and includes a large number of private companies. During sabbatical leave in 1984/85 he held the position of Busch Center Research Fellow in the Department of Social Systems Sciences of the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. During that time he was engaged in research on systems thinking, approaches to problem solving in a social context, and social systems thinking. Amongst his numerous practical applications was responsibility for the search planning for the SAA  Boeing 747 ‘Helderberg’. His fields of interest are systems thinking and the systems approach, strategic planning and organisational renewal.