February 15, 2024

Interactive Planning

Interactive Planning
a: @John Pourdehnad
a: Visiting Professor at IESE Business School
Associate and Principal Consultant, Systems Wisdom, LLC
@: [email protected]

Interactive planning rests on the premise that despite the nature of their environment, organizations are
usually affected by a host of interrelated problems, few of which can be solved in isolation [1,2].
Organizations that use interactive planning, normally, experience improved performance and accelerated
development [3]. Interactive planning is the brainchild of Russell L. Ackoff. Ackoff, often called the
father of operations research, had a distinguished career in operational research (OR) both as an academic
and practitioner [4]. His influence on the early development of the discipline both in the U.S. and Britain
in the 1950s and 1960s is hard to overstate. Interactive planning, an evocatively innovative process,
engages a carefully selected group of stakeholders (requisite minds) in a facilitated creative (re) design
effort [5,6].

Within the constructs of interactive planning, problems are no longer discrete, and that they do
not occur in additive sets that can be disaggregated. Instead, they are systems of problems, termed by
Ackoff as ‘messes.’ [7,8]. Notwithstanding his pioneering role in OR, by the 1970s Ackoff’s
disillusionment with its technique-dominated focus was evident. Ackoff had come to realize the inherent
inadequacy of OR’s traditional paradigm; it relies on existing knowledge -- knowledge gained by studying
traditional approaches. Instead, Ackoff advocated more participative approaches. “These criticisms have
had limited resonance within the USA, but were picked up both in Britain, where they helped to stimulate
the growth of Problem Structuring Methods and in the systems community world-wide.” [9]
The essence of Ackoff’s philosophical turn is this: the creative way to approach a "mess" is not to
tackle the problems individually and try to solve them separately. Such solutions are generally short-lived
when successful, and very often unsuccessful long term because each of these solutions creates new
problems which stand in the way of a solution to the others. This is the foundation of Interactive Planning.
Interactive Planning displays a fundamental shift in the "worldview" toward a systemic vision of reality
[1]. As Ramirez [10] suggested, problems, even as abstract mental constructs, do not exist in isolation,
although we isolate them conceptually. Appraising the direction of human development and the
contribution of the discipline he had founded, Ackoff did something unthinkable; at the pinnacle of his
field, he opted to change course, charting a new way forward that has marked the path of systems theory
for decades since [11].

Twenty years into a new century, traditional organizational forms, planning methodologies and
response strategies are proving inadequate. Emerging conditions have increased volatility, increased
uncertainty, increased complexity and increased ambiguity (VUCA world) [12]. Creating sustainable
competitive advantage through innovation became a centerpiece of strategy development. Economies are
increasingly knowledge-based and an organization’s value thus derived from their intellectual assets. As
such, creating value through the engagement of all stakeholders is paramount. Creating business
opportunities and value using the knowledge that resides within individuals and organizations is what
Interactive Planning is about.

Ackoff’s shift away from traditional OR gave birth to Interactive Planning as a construct flexible
enough to hold its value in a changing world [11]. This chapter presents the theoretical and
methodological background of Interactive planning in detail, including the philosophy of idealized design.
Systems thinking, which provides a useful starting point for understanding the methodological
requirements of such an approach, is reviewed. Also, the three components of the systems approach to
planning - treatment of an interactive problematical situation (mess), design as an approach to dealing
with complex problems, and intervention and ways of bringing about the desired future -- are discussed in
depth along with an explanation of the concept of organizational development.

Interactive Planning

Posted by ACASA on February 15, 2024 at 10:35 PM in Systems Articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 28, 2024

A Definition of Systems Thinking: A Systems Approach

Ross D. Arnold*, Jon P. Wade
Stevens Institute, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken, NJ 07030,USA

Abstract and Figures

This paper proposes a definition of systems thinking for use in various disciplines, with particular emphasis on developing and assessing systems thinking educational efforts. The definition was derived from a review of the systems thinking literature combined with the application of systems thinking to itself. Many definitions of systems thinking can be found throughout the systems community, but critical components of a singular definition can be distilled from the literature. This researcher considered these components individually and holistically and then proposed a new definition of systems thinking that integrates these components. The definition was tested for fidelity against a System Test and against three widely accepted system archetypes. Systems thinking is widely believed to be critical in handling the world's complexity in the coming decades; however, it still resides in the educational margins. A complete definition is required for this essential skill to receive mainstream educational attention. Such a definition has not yet been established. This research attempts to rectify this deficiency by providing such a definition.
The System Test
The System Test
Comparison of Systems Thinking Definitions
Comparison of Systems Thinking Definitions

Posted by ACASA on January 28, 2024 at 07:09 PM in Systems Articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 30, 2023

Human-Centered Systems Thinking

A holistic approach to problem-solving starts with people.

People are at the heart of every complex human system--but they’re often the most overlooked. Effective problem solvers today know how to visualize the larger dynamics of the system while staying grounded in the needs of people. In this course, you’ll learn to combine the analytical tools of systems thinking with the creative mindsets of human-centered design to make sense of complex systems challenges. Explore mapping tools to identify the right places to focus, surface insights about your stakeholders, and pick the most impactful solutions to experiment with so you can go beyond the obvious and design lasting solutions.

Course Outcomes
  • Gain techniques for mapping complex systems and identifying the root causes of a problem.
  • Establish a shared view of the system and reframe problems from different perspectives to uncover new solutions.
  • Find the right problems to solve and pick the best solutions to experiment with.
  • Deepen your understanding of your organizational systems by taking an iterative approach to testing solutions and gaining insights.

A holistic approach to problem-solving starts with people.

Posted by ACASA on June 30, 2023 at 10:27 PM in Systems Articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 15, 2018

An Evaluation of R.L. Ackoff’s Interactive Planning: A Case-based Approach

Darek M. Hafton, Stockholm University School of Business Stockholm Sweden

Russell L. Ackoff developed the Interactive Planning (IP) methodology as a conceptual tool to guide systematic and systemic development of organizations. One of its unique features is that such development should be ideal-oriented. IP has been well received
within the Systems Thinking community in particular; where more than 300 applications of IP are mentioned. However, it has not been easy to answer the question:‘‘does the use of IP enable that which it is proposing to enable?’’ as there have been no systematic, empirically grounded, and critically oriented, evaluations of IP. This study attempts to offer such an evaluation. In this case, IP was employed to support a comprehensive development of a Department within a company. This IP application was evaluated using a set of predefined evaluation criteria derived from the IP as such and also from its critique. The results suggest that IP is indeed a powerful methodology to guide organizational development. While IP has several positive merits, a set of limitations were
identified and serve here as a basis for deriving recommendations for the practitioners of IP and also suggestions of areas that merit further IP research.

Download Evaluation of Interactive Planning

Posted by ACASA on March 15, 2018 at 03:31 PM in Systems Articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 19, 2008

How to sweep away a safety mess

In the current issue of ISHN, James E. Leemann, Ph.D. writes: " The safety and occupational health world is a total mess." He defines the "mess", and proposes the systems approach to dissolving the mess, based on the work of Russell Ackoff.
To read this article, please click on the following link: How to sweep away a safety mess

Posted by ACASA on September 19, 2008 at 12:40 PM in Systems Articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 02, 2007

Leadership and Systems Thinking

Col. George E. Reed, US Army
Defense AT&L

Leaders operate in the realm of bewildering uncertainty and staggering complexity. Today’s problems are rarely simple and clear-cut. If they were, they would likely already have been solved by someone else. If not well considered—and sometimes even when they are—today’s solutions become tomorrow’s problems.
Success in the contemporary operating environment requires different ways of thinking about problems and organizations. This article introduces some concepts of systems thinking and suggests that it is a framework that should be understood and applied by leaders at all levels, but especially those within the acquisition community. It is insufficient and often counterproductive for leaders merely to act as good cogs in the machine. Leaders perform a valuable service when they discern that a venerated system or process has outlived its usefulness, or that it is operating as originally designed but against the organization’s overall purpose. Sometimes we forget that systems are created by people, based on an idea about what should happen at a given point in time. A wise senior warrant officer referred to this phenomenon as a BOGSAT—a bunch of guys sitting around talking.
Systems Endure
To read the rest of this article, please click on the following URL: Leadership and Systems Thinking

Posted by ACASA on November 2, 2007 at 03:47 PM in Systems Articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 19, 2007

Terrorism: A Systemic View

Russell L. Ackoff1* and Johan P. Stru¨mpfer2
1The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
2Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Broadly speaking, ‘terrorism’ is regarded as extremely violent behavior by what is normally considered to be a minority subgroup of society. The value system in which terrorism is imbedded is not universally shared within the larger society from which it emanates. Terrorists form a movement that pursues a cause defined by its aims which, in turn, are defined within a value framework that may be political, religious, social or economic. Its objective is to obtain acceptance of its value system and its aims. In pursuit of this objective it applies violence aimed at creating terror and anxiety in one or more target societies.

To read this article, please download the pdf file: Download Terrorism.pdf

Also, if you wish to see the ppt presentation, please click on: http://www.infoamerica.org/documentos_pdf/ackoff01.pdf

Originally published in:
Systems Research and Behavioral Science
Syst. Res.20, 287^294 (2003)

Posted by ACASA on April 19, 2007 at 03:17 PM in Systems Articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 07, 2007

Why few organizations adopt systems thinking

BY: Russell L. Ackoff

I frequently talk to groups of managers on the nature of systems thinking and its radical implications to management. In doing so I use several case studies involving prominent American corporations. At the end of the presentation I am almost alwaysasked, "If this way of thinking is as good as you say it is, why don't more organizations use it?"
It is easy to reply by saying that organizations naturally resist change. This of course is a tautology. I once asked a vice president of marketing why consumers used his product. He answered, "Because they like it." I then asked him how he knew this. He answered, "Because the use it." Our answer to the question about failure of organizations to adopt systems thinking is seldom any better then this.
There be many reasons why any particular organization fails to adopt systems thinking but I believe there are two that are the most important, one general and one specific. By a general reason I mean one that is responsible for organizations failing to adopt any transforming idea, let alone systems thinking. By a specific reason I mean one responsible for the failure to adopt systems thinking in particular.

To read the rest of this article, please download the the pdf file: Download Why_few_aopt_ST.pdf

This article is also published in Systems Research and Behavioral Science. 23, 705-708 (2006).

Posted by ACASA on March 7, 2007 at 11:25 AM in Systems Articles | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 08, 2006

Consumer Idealized Design: Involving Consumers in The Product Development Process

by Susan Ciccantelli and Jason Magidson

A product or service is designed effectively if it provides consumers with what they want, rather than merely removing what they do not want. But determining what consumers need or will want is an effort that does not often meet with success. In fact, suppliers' beliefs about consumers' wants have led to more product failures than successes. The main reason for this is not hard to understand: Consumers' needs and desires are elusive because consumers themselves generally have not consciously formulated what they are or how to fulfill them.

Even when consumers are aware of what they want and are willing to reveal it, their wants are likely to be conditioned by what is available. And when the product or service available is basically unsatisfying to them, they are unlikely to reveal startling new desires or concepts. At best, the typical ways in which
consumers are involved in product design-focus groups, surveys and questionnaires-tend to elicit mostly information about what they do not want, rather than startling new insights about what they really want or need. This is due in part to the fact that people often attempt to provide answers that they think the inquirer wants, rather than probe for their own preferences.

So the search continues, and product developers continue to seek ways to help consumers (1) become more aware of what they need or want, and (2) reveal these wants as accurately as possible. One such way, developed by Russell L. Ackoff, is a process called Consumer Idealized Design (Consumer Design).

To read this article, click on the link: Consumer Idealized Design: Involving Consumers in The Product Development Process.

Posted by ACASA on March 8, 2006 at 01:14 PM in Systems Articles | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 01, 2006

A Major Mistake That Managers Make

By Russell L. Ackoff

All through school we are taught that making a mistake is a bad thing. We are downgraded for them. When we graduate and enter the real world and the organizations that occupy it, the aversion to mistakes continues. As a result one tries either to avoid them or, if one is made, to conceal it or transfer blame to another.

We pay a high price for this because one can only learn from mistakes; by identifying and correcting them.

… in business, if mistakes are made and laws are not broken, you rarely see any formal investigation. Even when the companies themselves look into what happened, they don’t do it in a structured and rigorous way. They don’t learn anything from the process. (Mittelstaedt, Jr., 2005)

One does not learn from doing something right; one already knows how to do it. By doing something right one gets confirmation of what one already knows but no new knowledge. The fact that schools are more interested in teaching than in learning is apparent from their failure to determine if students learn from their mistakes. Once they are graded based on the number of mistakes they make, the teacher presses on, does not check to determine whether the student has learned from the mistakes made.

Schools, including business schools, do not even reveal the fact that there are two kinds of mistakes.
To read this article, click on the link: A Major Mistake That Managers Make

Posted by ACASA on February 1, 2006 at 01:53 PM in Systems Articles | Permalink | Comments (2)