Project Management Applying Systems Thinking


A successful organization consists of many systems.  In a large organization there are many systems.  These systems can be computer systems, processes or even the cultural environment of the organization.     One of the roles I play as a project manager is to ensure that the projects or systems that we implement are a good fit in the organization.  My role in Project Management to work on Applying Systems Thinking. We want to be sure the system fits into the larger system.    As a project manager my main focus is on what many people think of as project management.  My job is to make sure that we deliver the project on time, within budget and the product has high quality.   Today I will be explaining a more systemic approach to project management that will allow you to focus on the bigger picture where project management is just one of three key systems that need be managed.

Systemic Project Management

Many companies today have effective programs to manage projects and manage change.  Another component that should be added to your organization is the “Systems Stream”.  The Systems Stream will allow you to manage the integration of the corporate strategy with the programs that you are managing.   The systems stream will help you with the strategic success of your organization. The following diagram depicts the three streams that are needed to more effectively manage your organization.

Benefits of Adding Systems Stream

The addition of the Systems Stream will allow your company to have a competitive advantage over your competitors because your products/programs will fit your strategic plan.  When a project has all three streams in place then the project will have a competitive advantage as depicted below:

The following issues will be identified if you are missing one of the three components of Systemic Project Management:

  • Missing Project Stream – this will lead to frustration amongst the team.  The frustration will exist because the team will not know who is doing what when.  The team will be trying to work without a plan.
  • Missing Change Stream – this will lead to resistance amongst the team.  The resistance will exist because the team will not be able to understand or accept the reasons for the change. See blog entry “Planned Change” for information on introducing change to an organization.
  • Missing Systems Stream – this will lead to confusion amongst the team.  The confusion will exist because the team will not be able to figure out why we are doing this project.  They may feel the timing is wrong or that another project should be the focus of their efforts.

The following diagram depicts the issues found when one of the three streams is missing:


I have found that since our company has taken into consideration the big picture that our project portfolio has been more successful and easier to get the support of the team members.