Management Improvement Dictionary: Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking - a focus on study of the whole system as contrasted with analytic study by taking apart the pieces and studying the individual components. Systems thinking focuses on the interdependence of the parts. Optimizing each of the parts may not (in fact most likely will not) optimize the overall performance of a system. Sub-opitmizing certain components of the system to maximize the overall performance is a concept from systems thinking. The performance of components are not important in isolation the importance is how those components interact. Related Terms:
  • Emergence - properties that the system as a whole that are not possible for individual parts of the system to produce.
  • Feedback Loops - processes in a system wherein the result of that process then influences the overall system. A reinforcing loop encourage the system to continue in that direction (e.g. a damn starting to leak, as water flows over the damn wall it will further erode the wall which leads to more water flowing over causing more erosion). Balancing loops will encourage the system to stay in balance (e.g. eating will cause you to feel full and stop eating while not eating will cause you to feel hungry and start eating).
  • Deming's System of Profound Knowledge
  • Takt Time
Related Online Resources:

Management Dictionary: Affinity Diagram, Kaizen, PDSA, Poka-Yoke, Six Sigma, Statistical Process Control (SPC), Variation

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