Systemic Business Community

A salon discussing research into systemics and business

At ISSS Brisbane 2009, the Special Integration Group on Systems Applications in Business and Industry has scheduled four sessions:  three paper sessions, and one conversation panel.

The sessions will be held in the parallel streams on the third and fourth day of the conference.

  • Session 1 will be held on Wednesday, July 15, 13:30 to 15:30
  • Session 2 will continue on Wednesday, July 15, 16:00 to 18:00
  • Session 3 will be held on Thursday, July 16, 13:30 to 15:30
  • Session 4 will be held on Thursday, July 16, 16:00 to 18:00

All sessions have been scheduled in the Gordon Greenwood Building, Room 213.

July 5th, 2009

Posted In: hierarchy theory, ISSS

The first of four sessions of the Special Integration Group on Systems Applications in Business and Industry will center on research into service systems.  The discussion will begin with two papers, and then segue into a conversation that will extend over the break into Session 2.

Wendy J. Gregory, Graeme Nicholas, Mark Anderson, Jeff Foote, Gerald Midgley, Alistair Sheat and David Wood, “Serving the Public Sector: a New Approach for Co-Created Value”

July 5th, 2009

Posted In: ISSS

The second of four sessions of the Special Integration Group on Systems Applications in Business and Industry is a special format, in a conversation supported by (and hopefully not limited) by technology support.

This first Conversation on an Emerging Science of Service Systems is an initial meeting to discuss a prospectus on a year-long knowledge development activity.  Core group members include Kyoichi Jim Kijima, Gary Metcalf, Allenna Leonard and Jennifer Wilby, facilitated by David Ing.

July 5th, 2009

Posted In: ISSS

The third of four sessions of the Special Integration Group on Systems Applications in Business and Industry is centered on topics around initiatives involving organizational change and methods.

John Molineux, “Macro-Cycles of Change – Learning from An Organisation’s History”

The paper reviews the macro-political and economic cycles impacting a large government agency in Australia and its change processes using the theory of punctuated equilibrium. The paper extends original work published in 2002 to include the current global economic crisis and change in the Australian federal government. It analyses problems in the corporate support area of the organisation, which seemingly has not heeded lessons learnt from its history and earlier major change programs.

The paper reviews proposed changes in the light of systemic thinking, systems archetypes, and a causal loop diagram. Conclusions are drawn that the organisation did not take into account the macro-cycles of change, nor the unintended consequences arising from decisions to change. Recommendations for improvement are made.

[Abstract (1171) as text] [Paper (1171) as PDF]

Takafumi Nakamura, Kyoichi Kijima, “A Methodology to Prolong System Lifespan and Its Application to IT Systems”

A system failure model to prolong system lifespan is proposed, for the purpose of preventing further occurrence of these failures. The authors claim such a methodology should have three features.

First it should clarify the structure of failure factors, second it should surface hidden failure factors using statistic method especially corresponding analysis and finding the way to change.

The proposed methodology is fundamentally different from the one to identify the root cause of the system failures in the sense of that it encompasses system failures as a group not as a single event.

An understanding system failure correctly is crucial to preventing further occurrence of system failures. Quick fixes can even damage organizational performance to a level worse than the original state. In this sense the proposed methodology is applicable over the long time spans and therefore could be useful to confirm the effectiveness of the counter measures without introducing any side effects. Then an application example in IT engineering demonstrates that the proposed methodology proactively prolong system life learning from previous system failures.

Key words: system failure model, structuring methodology, double loop learning, ISM, risk management

[Abstract (1187) as text] [Paper (1187) as PDF]

Louis Klein and Ernst Daniel Röhrig, “Balancing Cross-Cultural Complex Project Management: Untying Gordian Knots of Social Complexity, Or Towards An Ecology of Paradigms”

Managing cross-cultural complex projects

Projects nowadays turn out to be cross-cultural and complex projects. Project management has to deal with increasingly different expectations and cultural perspectives of stakeholders, clients, project managers and team members. Cross-cultural complex project management tries to handle the connectivity between the different views and expectations inside and outside of projects. If it fails, communication goes havoc, expectations run out of balance and behaviours become peculiar. It is the familiar catastrophe: schedules collapse, costs are running and quality deteriorates. – Wouldn’t it be nice to just execute to the plans best? “Projects fail on the human side”, they say.

Balancing technical and social complexity

We are quite advanced to manage technical complexity, the scope, the scale, and the dynamics. We master engineering at its best, day by day. However, there is again this undecided client, this nagging NGO, this lousy project manager and this bean counting controller and all the others who sprout all kinds of peculiar behaviour. Handling the human side, managing social complexity is not our pride and joy. In fact we are used to look away, to avoid any kind of systematic approach. Yet, how long can we afford to continue? Balance is needed.

Towards an ecology of paradigms

And yet, social complexity is nothing new or special. It comes with the territory. It seems to be a Gordian knot. Dealing with it and managing social complexity shows up as a key competence for any successful project management. All these expectations and views within any complex projects cannot be untied technically or violently without causing more damage than benefit. Engineering is for technical systems; it is not an adequate paradigm for social systems. It is not a one size fits all kind of case. Additional models, methods and instruments are required refereeing to an alternative paradigmatic background. And it will never be an either or, it will always be a as well as. The next society’s practices will be based on an ecology of paradigms.

Tools to untie Gordian knots of social complexity

Models, methods and instruments referring to social sciences, or even Niklas Luhmann’s Theory of Social Systems, will create the practice of cross-cultural complex project management. The paper will give some examples like Stafford Beers Viable system model, Peter Checklands Soft Systems Methodologies and Noel Tichys GRPI instrument. They all provide successful approaches which can pay into a larger understanding of an ecology of paradigms that is able to meet cross-cultural complex project management requirements.


It is a shaky sea of change ahead. If we really want to improve on cross-cultural complex project management it will move us outside our comfort zone. Yet, the reward is tremendous: we will win commitment and contribution money cannot buy, cooperation and creativity will flow together into co-creation: and not only efficiency and effectiveness in cross-cultural complex projects will rise.

[Abstract (1119)]

Anson Li and Kambiz Maani, “Decision-making in Complex Systems – Learning and Mental Models”

Bounded by limited cognitive capabilities, decision-makers resort to using mental models (constructed  versions of real world dynamics) for decision-making and interventions, as studied notably, by Simon (1957, 1979, 1987), Morecroft (1983, 1985), Senge (1990), and Sterman (1989, 2000). Mental models are constantly updated with new experience and knowledge acquired, facilitating a learning process. Through this learning process, mental models can be refined to better represent real world dynamics.

Systems theory suggests that updates of mental models happen in continuous cycles involving conceptualisation, experimentation, and reflection (C-E-R) (Maani & Cavana, 2007), where decision-makers investigate problems and develop interventions (C), and then carry out the interventions (E). They then contemplate on outcomes of interventions and evaluate the appropriateness and effectiveness of their interventions (R). This forms the theoretical foundation and practice base of Learning Laboratory technology (Maani & Cavana, 2007). It is through the reflection step that mental models get updated for forthcoming decision cycles. This C-E-R cycle closely resembles a dynamic decision-making (DDM) process where decision-makers are constantly informed by feedbacks from outcomes of previous decision tasks.

This study investigates the learning process of decision-makers in DDM tasks in an experimental setting. Participants involved in simulated environments (Management Flight Simulators and Microworlds) are observed, with proceedings of their DDM tasks recorded and analysed to trace and identify patterns of learning. Updates of mental models are recognized in changes of participants’ performance, measured by their dynamic performance indicators and systems behaviour, before and after the decision tasks.

Findings of this research, drawing from over 220 experiments, show significant changes in mental models after participation in DDM tasks. However, the level of learning varies for different tasks and across different performance measures. Implications of these findings to other application and domains especially the learning laboratory technology will be discussed.

These authors will lead discussions following the style of the Singerian Inquiring System as practiced in the SIG on Systems Applications in Business and Industry.

July 5th, 2009

Posted In: ISSS

The fourth of four sessions of the Special Integration Group on Systems Applications in Business and Industry is centered on topics on practical, everyday business issues.

Teresa Ann Daniel, “Workplace Bullying in American Organizations: the Path from Recognition to Prohibition”

Incidents of workplace bullying are on the rise in the American workplace. Researchers have compared recent concerns about bullying to those expressed about sexual harassment twenty years ago. Statistically, though, bullying occurs far more often than does sexual harassment; in fact, the U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey (2007) reported that bullying is four times as prevalent as illegal, discriminatory harassment.

This paper explores the evolution of employee legal rights in American organizations, with a specific focus on parallels between the serious organizational problems of workplace bullying and sexual harassment. It also examines the legal, legislative and policy protections currently available to employees both in the United States and internationally, proposed systemic changes, as well as likely prospects for change in the immediate future.

Keywords: workplace bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination, legal protection, legislation, policies

[Abstract (1209) as text] [Paper (1209) as PDF]

Ximing Sun and Ray Collins, “Systems Thinking, Relationship Management and Supply Chains”

Managed supply chain systems typically begin from business-to-business relationships which over time expand to encompass more and more parts of the chain. Harland (1996) first classified supply chains in terms of four sequential levels of management and integration: a firm’s internal integration (level 1); buyer – supplier integration (level 2); through – chain integration (level 3); and network integration (level 4).

Globalization has spawned cross hemisphere and cross country supply chains that operate in a far more dynamic and influential external environment than ever before. Evidence is accumulating that this external environment significantly impacts on supply chain performance at all four levels of integration, but in different ways at each level. It impacts least at level 1, and most at level 4. This paper shows that in level 2 and 3 China-Australia agrifood supply chains, the influence on whole-of-chain performance of the external environment of the country itself is more powerful than the influence of within-chain relationships.

This finding suggests that firms engaging in relationship management at the chain level need to take a more holistic approach. Managing within-chain relationships is necessary but insufficient unless it is done in the context of the chain and its external environment as a dynamic system.

Keywords: system performance; supply chain management; external environment; agrifood chains; relationship management.

[Abstract (1185) as text] [Paper (1185) as PDF)]

Thanh Van Mai and O.J.H. Bosch, “System Thinking Approach as a Tool for Sustainable Tourism Development”

Tourism is not simply an industry, but is an open, dynamic, and complex system. It includes many interacting components, and involves many different stakeholders. The development sustainable tourism impinges on and is subjected to many different factors. The limitation of traditional approaches in tourism research are now becoming apparent as they often only explore particular parts of the bigger tourism picture.

This is a conceptual paper that will provide an overview of using a systems thinking approach in dealing with the dynamic and complex nature of the tourism industry on the Cat Ba Islands Biosphere in Vietnam. An overview will be given of the interdependencies and interactions between the constituent parts, focusing on the causes of complexity and dynamic behaviour of the system. The way in which systems thinking has radically chanced the way in which research problems are addressed, and its usefulness as scientific method in defining problems and formulating and testing potential solutions will be described.

[Abstract 1146]

Yong Pan, “Improving the ‘Cyber Lemons’ Problem With the Counteracting Mechanism in Chinese E-Commerce Market: Based on the Data from Taobao.Com (China)”

As the e-commerce of the limit of space and bring up the virtual reality in the e-commerce market, the ‘cyber lemons’ problem resulting from the informational asymmetry of the qualitative uncertainty is getting worse, which is restricting the useful and profitable business.

Based on the data from, this paper demonstratively analyzes the characteristics of ‘cyber lemons’ problem in Chinese e-commerce market and discuss the function of counteracting mechanism such as credit evaluation system , quality-intermediary and reputation. Finally, this paper offers some strategic thought for eliminating the cyber ‘lemons’ problem with the counteracting mechanism.

Keywords: cyber ‘lemons’ problem, counteracting mechanism, credit evaluation system, reputation, quality-intermediary

[Abstract (1109) as text] [Paper (1109) as PDF]

These authors will lead discussions following the style of the Singerian Inquiring System as practiced in the SIG on Systems Applications in Business and Industry.

July 5th, 2009

Posted In: ISSS

The program for ISSS Tokyo 2007 has scheduled three 90-minute sessions for the Special Integration Group on Systems Applications in Business and Industry:

  • Session 1 will be held on Thursday, August 9, 09:00 to 10:30;
  • Session 2 will be on the same day, 14:30 to 16:00; and
  • Session 3 will be held on Friday, August 10, 09:00 to 10:30.

These sessions are to be held in room W932.

As described in the Tokyo 2007 Calls for Papers, online discussion is encouraged in advance of the conference (and possibly even after the conference has long since passed).

August 1st, 2007

Posted In: ISSS