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Managing complexity: A systems approach – introduction
Managing complexity: A systems approach – introduction

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10 Part 2: 6 Review

In Part 2 of this unit, you have undertaken a major piece of work. In encountering the case study you were engaging with a set of events, issues, actors, stakeholders and intentions that was, by any standards, complex. In addition, you brought your own complexity to it, your own stakeholdings and understandings, your own reactions and feelings.

You used systems diagrams to structure the complexity you encountered in the case study. That then structured and clarified the situation in ways that helped you to see through the complexity, without, at the same time denying the complexity. You were able, I hope, to find ways of representing the complexity so that you could see how all the elements of it fitted. I hope you were able to glimpse a number of possible alternative ways of representing the complexity. There are potentially huge numbers of possible systems maps one could draw, lots of multiple-cause diagrams, dozens of influence diagrams. None of them is the right one. There is no right diagram, but there are lots of ways of gaining insights into how the complexity can be structured so that you can begin to comprehend it, and explore how the situation might be improved.

Throughout this section, I have been offering you ways of evaluating your own diagrams and developing them. It can be genuinely disconcerting not to have a single, best answer to aim for, especially for those of us with a technological or scientific background where right answers are an important indicator of learning.

Systems practice, as opposed to the simple appreciation of systems techniques, involves two levels of self-confidence. You need the confidence to use the techniques and approaches and you need the confidence that comes from knowing you are using them well. How are you to know you are using systems approaches well when each situation you encounter is unique? I now believe that skills in evaluating my own use of the approaches are as fundamental as the skills of using the approaches themselves.

Take about 30 minutes to complete the next activity.

Activity 30

Review what you have learned from Part 2 of this unit.

Look back through all the notes you made on all the activities. Make notes in your Learning Journal about the following:

  • The experience of engaging with a complex case study.

  • Your experience of drawing diagrams in order to structure complexity.

  • What you have learned about diagrams and diagramming.

  • Your evaluation of your own skills in diagramming. (What elements of your skills do you need to develop?)

  • What you have learned about evaluating your own diagrams.