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John P. Reiling, PMP: Systems Thinking in Project Management

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One of the most profound and ubiquitous management concepts over the past 30 years is “systems thinking”.  Systems thinking is all around us.  One example is that project management has in essence been “systematized” by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide!

The PMBOK Guide is a great example of systems thinking.  Lots of experienced project managers got together and drew on their collective project management expertise and applied systems thinking to project management!

Other examples of systems thinking abound in the professional certification arena.  For example, ITIL, PRINCE2, Program Management, Six Sigma, Business Analysis, Human Resources… all are examples of systems thinking about their respective subjects.

“Systems thinking” applies today in many clear and impactful ways and is useful to managers, supervisors, team leaders, and employees of all types.  It can even apply in personal situations.

Here are a number of areas in and around project management where systems thinking can provide an effective approache:

  1. Understanding organizational structure better (the project environment), for more big picture perspective in project management work…which may influence decisions and capture the attention of upper management.
  2. Bolstering ability to contribute ideas for organizational improvements.
  3. Directly relating systematic improvement ideas to project stakeholders.
  4. Understanding the “system implications” of projects, how a roject might effect the organization’s system.
  5. Improve ability to develop systems for getting work done more effectively and efficiently within a given environment.
  6. Building skill to scale a smaller or entrepreneurial organization.

Systems thinking expands capacity to think more deeply and broadly…whether pursuing a certification, or learning about new management techniques, new skills for communication, or even leadership skills.  Each of these relates in an important way to systems thinking.

Training in strategic systems thinking takes it a step further…and provides the opportunity to “think about the thinking” – to consider become of new possibilities for making a positive impact – and earn PDUs at the same time.

John Reiling, PMP

Project Management Training Online

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