Systems Thinking – Theory & Practice

Systems’ Thinking Theory & Practice

Table of Contents Question 1…………………………………………………………………………………….3

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  1. Spray diagram………………………………………………………………………3
  2. Closed loop control model diagram……………………………………….4
  3. 1. Learning disabilities………………………………………………………….5

2. How a split between espoused theory and theory in use can affect organizational learning…………………………………………………………..7

3. Five disciplines discussed by Taggart for overcoming the learning disabilities………..…………………………………………….……………………8

4. Principles of Systems thinking, its role and effectiveness in Problem Solving and Decision Making………………………………………………..9


Question 1 (A)

Spray Diagram

Fig1: Spray Diagram of learning organizations. According to Jim Taggart, this spray diagram has been drawn which explains main system which is the learning organization. Two of their subsystem is also explained which the learning disabilities that hinder in organizational are learning. These disabilities are individual goal and personal position/status, blaming others for the consequences of the decisions, focus on the dramatic events rather on the subtle events which need more focus, resistance to change and lack of communication system. These disabilities are the ones causing problems in organizational learning. These learning disabilities can seriously affect organizational learning and can create gap between employees and management which can be detrimental for organizations. Management should focus on decreasing or overcoming these disabilities which can increase organizational learning and performance of organizations. Second learning subsystem is the learning disciplines which are used to overcome these disabilities. These disciplines are personal mastery, shared vision, team learning, mental models and systems approach. These disciplines can increase organizational learning and can also improve performance of the organizations. These disciplines when implemented can increase Mutual Corporation among staff and can create better organizational culture.


Closed loop control model diagram

Team Learning Learning Disability Personal Mastery Shared Vision Systems Approach Mental Models Creating a learning Organization Employees/Management Fig2b:Closed loop control model diagram. Control loop model diagram is about the input/output, transformation and controls of the system. These controls are sensor, actuator and comparator. The purpose of this diagram is to understand organizational learning in more depth by understanding the input and output of the system through transformational processes. Here the inputs are the learning disciplines such as personal mastery, team learning, mental models, systems thinking and shared vision. Sensor of the system is the organizational culture that can be affected through transformational process. Actuator is about the learning disabilities .Input of the system is controlled by comparators. Here feedback is considered important through which input are sent by comparator to actuator. Through this diagram it can be understood that how learning organizations work through input and output process.


1. Learning Disabilities

According to Senge (1990), seven learning disabilities have been identified in learning organization system. These disabilities can affect behavior of employees and can influence culture of the organizations.

  1. First disability is known as I am my position which is about the natural behavior of people about their status and position. Most of the people regard their status and position as the only source of power to take decisions about the organization. Employees only work their part and accept responsibilities associated with it and they don’t accept responsibilities of the organization. They only consider their position for their responsibility and pay less attention to collective and team work.
  2. Second disability is known as The Enemy is Out There which is about the blame game of the people. This learning disability seriously affects organizational learning and is associated with nature of people. People blame others when something went wrong and do not consider themselves as the responsible one. This disability greatly hinders in organizational learning and team work is seriously affected.
  3. Third learning disability is the The Illusion of Taking Charge which is about the pro-activation of the organizations. To achieve a certain goal, organizations should be proactive to solve the problems that are happening in the organizations. People should have ability to analyze the problem in pro-active way rather than letting things go wrong and increasing problems. Most of the organizations are not pro-active in nature and requires strong work relationships among employees to contribute in organizational learning.
  4. Fourth learning disability is about the The Fixation on Events which is about the environment of organization. There are two types of business events such as daily activities and long term business. Most of the organizations focus on the daily business activities and do not work on the long term business planning. This is the reason that there are problems seen in organizations. Strong planning of long term business can help in establishing successful culture inside organizations. Therefore organizations should avoid short term plans and focus on long term business plans.
  5. Fifth learning disability is the The Boiled Frog which is the limitation of thinking. In this type of situation, we do not plan for the subtle events rather keep working on the dramatic events which look more appealing to us. In organizations, it should be consider that non dramatic events are more important and need immediate attention. Therefore, organizations should react to events which are more important rather than the dramatic ones.
  6. Next learning disability is the The Delusion of Learning from Experience which affects structure of the organizations and is one of the elements hindering in the learning organization. Communication problems are seen as information doesn’t flow from one department to other and this lack of communication can influence the decisions. This also affects organizations as people are not able to learn from experience of others.
  7. Last learning disability is the The Myth of the Management Team which causes problems in culture of the organizations. Here the management team is stressing on the employees using their power and position which causes problems in behavior and performance of the employees. In this type of situation, manager is forcing their employees to follow their decision without considering the consequences. This increase problem in oganiztional culture and also hinders organizational learning.

2. How a split between espoused theory and theory in use can affect organizational learning

Mental models are set of opinions, perceptions and views about certain things or situation. These mental models are important as these can influence interaction among people and work relationships among employees of the organizations. These mental models are actually assumptions which affect our activities and thus can be detrimental if not implemented correctly. According to Jim Taggart, split between espoused theory and the theory in use can cause problems in organization culture and the work relationships among employees. Espoused theory is about what we say (our words) and theory in use is about what we perceive and mental models. If what we say and what we do are different then this can increase problems of the organizations and can be detrimental for the organization. Most of the organizations implement mental models with self sealing impact which can cause problems in relationships and decisions are made according to a single perspective about the situation or thing. Manager if develop a single perspective about their employee then there can be disturbance seen in behavior of the employee. Organizations should develop mental models with self fulfilling impact which can increase performance of the management as well as employees. This type of the mental models work on the basis of multiple perspectives rather on the basis of single perspective about something. Thus, these types of mental models can increase performance of the organization and can improve organizational culture where people are working together and learning from experiences of others. System approach is considered as important approach while analyzing problem situation of organizations. This can help in developing mental models which are consistent in espoused as well as theory in use. This increases organizational learning and people are more connected to each other. Managers should have understanding of the system thinking so that they can analyze already available mental models and can develop a consistent mental model having espoused as well as theory in use.

3. Five disciplines discussed by Taggart for overcoming the learning disabilities

Jim Taggart has explained five learning disciplines which are used to overcome learning disabilities. These disciplines are systems thinking, shared vision, team learning, mental models and personal mastery.

  1. Systems thinking

Systems’ thinking is an approach to analyze complex problems in more depth. This approach can give important information on the causes of the problems. Systems thinking approach examines interacting components of the system and their interaction with each other. It can also be said that system is studied as a whole rather than studying interacting components of the system individually. Managers can use this approach for the understanding of organizational problems and complex situations. Through this approach they can idea of the underlying reasons which are affecting organizational structure or culture. There are two types of feedback seen in systems thinking which are reinforcing and balancing. Balancing is about the resistant to change in workplace and reinforcing increases perceptions on the basis of expectations. Thus, management should use systems thinking to tackle problems in organizations.

  1. Shared vision

Having a shared vision in organization can greatly improve its productivity and growth. Manager should stress on the development and implementation of the shared vision instead of individual vision. They should consider individual visions and then transform it into shared vision of the team where goals and objectives are same for all the members. This increases unity among the employees and management which can improve culture of the organizations.

  1. Team learning

This discipline is considered as important in organizational learning. This is about learning from others experiences. Although growth and development of individuals is necessary but organization should focus on the learning strategies that are based on team development. Managers should develop strategies which can create opportunities for employees to work together and deal complex situations as a team. So that individuals can learn from experience, knowledge and skills of others and can also improve their performance and experiences. Working as team also improves communication among the employees. Feedback from teams should be given so that it can help others to learn more effectively which can improve learning organization.

  1. Mental Models

Mental models are about the preconceived assumption of certain situation. In other words, mental models are set of perceptions, opinions and views about something or someone. If there is split between espoused and theory in use than problems are seen in work relationship among employees. Managers should develop mental models based on self fulfillment which are about the multiple perspective rather than single perspective about some situation. This mental model can help managers to improve interactions and social behavior of the subordinates.

  1. Personal mastery

Personal mastery is about learning and improving development of individuals. People who are willing to learn to develop and improve their performance are important for the success of the organizations. Personal mastery can help individuals to promote themselves through their work and can increase organizational culture. Managers should be encouraging their subordinates to improve themselves and increase work relationships among them.

4. Principles of Systems thinking, its role and effectiveness in Problem Solving and Decision Making

Unlike the traditional breakdown approach, systems’ thinking is more effective as this helps in solving complex problems by identification of interacting components. In this approach system is analyzed as whole rather than studying individual components. Special attention is given to interrelations among the components. Thus analysis of complex problem through systems thinking approach is through the identification of interaction between components which can help in decision making and solving problems. Systems thinking approach also improves management of the organizations which can increase organizational growth. Through this approach behavior of the employee can be understood in better way and company goals can be achieved smoothly (Jim Taggart, pp.3). This approach can also help in developing mental models with self fulfillment impact rather than self sealing impact. Self fulfilling mental models are based on multiple perspectives of something and thus are important to improve organization. Using this approach, managers can understand behavior of their employee in more effective way. Communication and interaction between subordinates and management is also improved using mental models with self fulfillment impact. Systems thinking approach can help in making effective decision as this helps in identification of causes of problems by studying system as a whole. Organizations which utilize this approach can tackle with problem situations in more effective way. Therefore manager should use this approach to face and solve problem situation. They should develop plans to increase communication, improve organizational culture and encourage employees to work for the growth of organizations. Systems thinking approach also help in improving work relationships among management and their subordinate as multiple perspectives are being taken into account. Thus, systems approach help in improving management and their capability of decision making. References: Infed, 2014. Peter Senge and the learning organization. [online] Infed 2014. Available from: <>. [Accessed 21 March 2014]. Peter Senge, 1990. The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Currency Doubleday. Solonline, 2014. Organizational Learning: The Five Disciplines for Building the Learning Organizations. [online] Available from: <>. [Accessed 21 March 2014] Jim Taggart. The Five Learning Discipline: From Individual to Organizational Learning , pp.1-8. 1

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Systems Thinking - Theory &amp; Practice. (2017, Jun 26). Retrieved February 1, 2023 , from

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