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Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is an approach to problem solving that views problems as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to specific parts. It recognizes that the world is a set of highly interconnected technical and social entities which are hierarchically organized, producing emergent behavior. Systems thinking is not one thing but a set of habits or practice within a framework that is based on the belief that the component parts of a system can best be understood in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. Systems thinking focuses on cyclical rather than linear cause and effect.


Participants will learn to:

  • Apply the language and concepts of systems, systems thinking, and complexity, and understand their implications for systems development;
  • Identify specific classes of systems and system organization inherent within complex problems;
  • Relate systems to their environment and other interfacing systems and personnel;
  • Understand complex problem situations and maximize the outcomes achieved;
  • Avoid or minimize the impact of unintended consequences;
  • Employ systems thinking in strategic planning, change management, decision making, and problem solving;
  • Align teams, disciplines, specialties and interest groups against system goals;
  • Understand the role of performance measurement, and select quantitative and qualitative measures that communicate a historical and forward view of performance.


  • Introduction to Systems: Basic Principles
  • Types of Systems
  • Hierarchy of Complexity
  • System Viewpoints
  • Synthesis, Analysis, and Inquiry
  • Concepts, Principles, Patterns
  • Systems Thinking in Product Development

Who should attend

Professionals who design, develop, and maintain complex products and systems, systems engineers, chief engineers, project managers, and program managers.


Tony Freeman, PhD; Rick Hefner, PhD; Jim Hines; Rob Renner