Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine how holistic thinking and the use of systems methodologies can help organisations handle increased problem complexity. The paper provides a critical discussion of the development of applied systems thinking and examines how its main strands can deal with problem complexity, multiple perceptions of reality and the unequal access to power resources in organisations. Design/methodology/approach: The paper uses social theory and a systems meta-theoretical framework to examine the different ontological and epistemological assumptions that each strand of applied systems thinking makes about the nature of problems and the way in which an intervention will be made. Findings: Complex problems require joined-up thinking and the use of systems ideas. Viewing the problem situation from a holistic perspective and applying appropriate systems methodologies and tools can help managers handle the complexities that their organisations face. Originality/value: The paper makes a clear link between systems approaches and social theory and emphasises the need to understand the different assumptions that theories, methodologies or people make when they intervene in complex problem situations.
- Social theory
- Systems thinking