Systems thinking is an approach to solving complex problems that seeks to understand the system as a whole, recognizing patterns and considering connections.
Systems thinking recognizes that complex systems are made up of not just parts, but also of interactions and rules. These rules are important decisions that guide the behavior of the system.
Systems thinking also recognizes relationships between parts and that relationships between parts influence each other.
A systems thinking approach focuses on a system’s properties, such as its relationship to other elements in the system, and the relationships among these elements and behavior of the system as a whole.
An excellent reference on Systems Thinking is the book 'The Fifth Discipline' by Peter Senge. In it, Peter describes 11 laws:
- Today’s problems come from yesterday’s ‘solutions.’
- The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back.
- Behavior will grow worse before it grows better.
- The easy way out usually leads back in.
- The cure can be worse than the disease.
- Faster is slower.
- Cause and effect are not closely related in time and space.
- Small changes can produce big results…but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious.
- You can have your cake and eat it too—but not all at once.
- Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants.
- There is no blame.
Developing Systems Thinking improves the ability of leaders, coaches, Product Owners and Scrum Masters to holistically solve the problems at hand, rather than solving the symptoms.