Systems

The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture

 

This book applies systems thinking to current world situations. Capra describes the evolution from mechanistic view (understand the pieces) to systems thinking (focus on the whole) in physics, health, and economics. The book is a philosophical application of systems thinking, and puts current societal issues into historic perspective.

General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications

 

This is the classic reference for the field of general systems theory. Bertalanffy was one of the first scientists to talk about systems theory. The book takes a broad view of systems and systems theory and focuses on the reorientation of science in general. The information in the book was developed over a thirty year period, so the development of this field can be appreciated. A 1945 paper introducing systems theory is included in
Chapter 3 of the book. General systems theory is a general science of wholeness which historically was considered a vague concept. The book includes extensive references to applications of the theory in physics, biology, psychology, and psychiatry, and offers systems theory as a way to unify all of the sciences.

Chaos and Fractals: New Frontiers of Science

 

This book is written in the popular scientific style to provide the details of chaos theory and fractal geometry. Fractal geometry provides a new language used to describe, model, and analyze the complexity of nature. The recent power of computers has allowed the linkages between fractal geometry and chaos theory. While the book includes many sophisticated mathematical arguments to explore the science of chaos, it also includes
many diagrams and pictures to help the reader along. Each chapter can be read independently of the other chapters.

Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space in the Organization Chart

 

This book approaches improvement from the view of the whole organization, rather than a department-by-department effort. The interactions between the departments is often just as important as the performance of the departments. Rummler and Brache deal with performance issues at three
different levels of an organization:
 

  • Strategies, structures, and management for the whole organization

  • Processes that get work done

  • individual job assignments

  • They use process maps to get a systems view of an organization. The emphasis in the book is managing the organization as a system. Chapters on measurement, organizational design, and the role of the human resource development function are included.

Common Cents: The ABC Performance Breakthrough

 

Peter Turney is one of the recognized authorities in Activity Based Costing (ABC). The book outlines methods for learning about cost structure by measuring the cost of running processes as opposed to departments. Turney explains why traditional cost systems based on direct labor and other crude measures yield useless, or even dangerous, information. ABC is presented as a useful tool to guide and direct quality improvement efforts. This book will be valuable for companies trying to understand their cost structure. Those wishing to use the ABC methods will be well advised to obtain some knowledge about variation and systems before applying these methods.

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization

 

Senge presents the five disciplines needed to create the "learning organization:" systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building shared vision, and team learning. The concept of a learning organization is explored and shown to be a powerful, and perhaps essential, idea for organizations that want to prosper over the long run. Senge presents the five disciplines individually, and in so doing often presents views that
challenge prevailing wisdom in regard to how organizations are best managed. Particular emphasis is placed on systems thinking, "The Fifth Discipline." This discipline teaches us "the seeing and understanding of the whole" as a counterpoint to trying to "understand the individual parts." Senge writes with an engaging style, making liberal use of stories, diagrams, and actual examples from his consulting experience.

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook

 

This book was developed to help answer the question, What do I do now that I understand systems thinking and the other four disciplines from Senge's 1990 book? The field book is a compendium of 146 articles by 70 different authors. The styles of writing and presentation vary all over the map. The articles are organized by the five disciplines, with philosophy, case studies, and exercises under each. The book contains many up-to-date references to other books and articles. The role of knowledge and learning is a central theme of the book.

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

 

This book is presented in the form of a short novel. Alex Rogo, the main character of the story, learns about the process of continuous improvement. Through experiences at home and work, Alex learns the importance of teamwork and relationships in improving a complex system. From the vantage of a systems perspective Alex also learns:

 

  • that all actions should be evaluated by what they contribute to "The Goal";

  • that to achieve the goal, three operational rules should be considered (concerning throughput, inventory, and operating expense); and

  • the importance of "dependent events" and "statistical fluctuations" in a system.

 

The book debunks many myths propagated by cost accounting methods and encourages a systems view of improvement. Many counter-intuitive ideas are presented in a light and easy-to-read fashion.

 

The Race

 

The Race is about our standard of living and how we can increase it. Today, we are facing a real threat in the Western World that the opposite will happen.  This companion book to Eli Goldratt and Jeff Cox’s underground bestseller, The Goal, is helping reverse this situation. These two books have given rise to Goal Circles and Race Circles – Excellent first steps in beginning a process of ongoing improvement.

Haystack Syndrome

 

This book extends Goldratt's ideas presented in The Goal. He compares the Theory of Constraints to TQM and JIT. The progress toward the goal of "making more money now and in the future" has to be measured in terms of money. Three questions: (How much money do we generate?, How much money do we capture?, and How much do we have to spend to operate?) can be answered by the three measures (defined in his book The
Goal): throughput, inventory, and operating expense.

"Data" is defined as any string of characters that describes anything about reality, while "information" is the answer to the questions asked. The book is about measurement, problems with cost accounting, and information systems. Chapter 11 summarizes the five steps to get focused:

 

  • Identify the system's constraint,

  • Decide how to exploit the constraint,

  • Subordinate everything else to the decisions in the second step,

  • Elevate the system's constraint(s), and

  • If a constraint has been broken, go back to step one, but do not allow inertia to cause a system's constraint.

Bionomics: Economy As Business Ecosystem

 

The subtitle of this book is "The Inevitability of Capitalism." The premise of the book is that capitalism (free-market economics) is a naturally occurring phenomenon -- the way human society has and will organize itself for survival. Using biology as a basis, the author offers a view of historical forces that are propelling the world toward free-market economics. He presents ways to use these natural economic forces to solve
problems of poverty, homelessness, and education. He describes Japan's "secret weapon" as a strong commitment to organizational learning through kaizen.

Principles of Systems

 

Jay Forester, often referred to as the father of systems thinking, carefully defines the terms of systems thinking, such as open systems, feedback loops, first order behavior, etc. Students of engineering process control will recognize the mathematical descriptions. The examples carry the principles into management practices and problems of society at large. Many different system types are presented in graphical format, as well as in mathematical expressions. The book includes the computer algorithms used to generate the graphics, making this a useful book for those interested in modeling systems. Forester includes numerous practical problems followed by question-and-answer summaries which help to sharpen the reader's understanding of the subject.

Creating the Corporate Future: Plan or be Planned For

Russell Ackoff is a respected thought leader in the area of systems thinking and leadership. In this book, he takes us on a journey through the way in which we view our world. After an interesting historical perspective, he focuses us on the transformation from machine age thinking to the systems thinking age. With this platform he then discusses the whys and hows of interactive planning for an organization.