System Analysis
System Analysis
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What is System Analysis? SiteMap
Rather than think of systems analysis as something from electrical engineering or IT, this page focuses on system analysis from a systems thinking viewpoint.

Wikipedia defines:

"Systems thinking is the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole. In nature systems thinking examples include ecosystems in which various elements such as air, water, movement, plant and animals work together to survive or perish. In organizations, systems consist of people, structures, and processes that work together to make an organization healthy or unhealthy.

Systems thinking has been defined as an approach to problem solving, by viewing "problems" as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to specific part, outcomes or events and potentially contributing to further development of unintended consequences. Systems thinking is not one thing but a set of habits or practices within a framework that is based on the belief that component parts of a system can best be understood in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. Systems thinking focuses on cyclical rather than linear cause and effect.

In science systems, it is argued that the only way to fully understand why a problem or element occurs and persists is to understand the parts in relation to the whole. ... it proposes to view systems in a holistic manner. Consistent with systems philosophy, systems thinking concerns an understanding of a system by examining the linkages and interactions between the elements that compose the entirety of the system.

Science systems thinking attempts to illustrate that events are separated by distance and time and that small catalytic events can cause large changes in complex systems. Acknowledging that an improvement in one area of a system can adversely affect another area of the system, it promotes organizational communication at all levels in order to avoid the silo effect. Systems thinking techniques may be used to study any kind of system --natural, scientific, engineered, human, or conceptual.

The concept of a system

... systems thinkers consider that:

  • a system is a dynamic and complex whole, interacting as a structured functional unit;
  • energy, material, and information flow among the different elements that compose the system;
  • a system is a community situated within an environment;
  • energy, material and information flow from and to the surrounding environment via semi-permeable membranes or boundaries;
  • systems are often composed of entities seeking equilibrium but can exhibit oscillating, chaotic, or exponential behavior.

A holistic system is any set (group) of interdependent or temporally interacting parts. Parts are generally systems themselves and are composed of other parts, just as systems are generally parts or holons of other systems....

The systems approach

The systems thinking approach incorporates several tenets:

  • Interdependence of objects and their attributes - independent elements can never constitute a system
  • Holism - emergent properties not possible to detect by analysis should be possible to define by a holistic approach
  • Goal Seeking- systemic interaction must result in some goal or final state
  • Input and Outputs - in closed system inputs determined once and constant; in open system additional inputs are admitted from  environment
  • Transformation of inputs into outputs - this is the process by which the goals are obtained
  • Entropy amount of disorder or randomness present in any system
  • Regulation method of feedback is necessary for the system to operate predictably
  • Hierarchy: complex wholes are made up of smaller subsystems
  • Differentiation- specialized units perform specialized functions
  • Equifinality--alternative ways of attaining the same objectives (convergence)
  • Multi-finality - attaining alternative objectives from the same inputs (divergence)

Some examples:

  • Rather than trying to improve the braking system on a car by looking in great detail at the material composition of the brake pads (reductionist), the boundary of the braking system may be extended to include the interactions between the:
  • brake disks or drums
  • brake pedal sensors
  • hydraulics
  • driver reaction time
  • tires
  • road conditions
  • weather conditions
  • time of day
  • Using the tenet of "Multifinality", a supermarket could be considered to be:
  • a "profit making system" from the perspective of management and owners
  • a "distribution system" from the perspective of the suppliers
  • an "employment system" from the perspective of employees
  • a "materials supply system" from the perspective of customers
  • an "entertainment system" from the perspective of loiterers
  • a "social system" from the perspective of local residents
  • a "dating system" from the perspective of single customers

As a result of such thinking, new insights may be gained into how the supermarket works, why it has problems, how it can be improved or how changes made to one component of the system may impact the other components.


Science systems thinking is increasingly being used to tackle a wide variety of subjects...


Some thoughts as it relates to organizations:

  • Minor Processes are part of system
  • Major Processes are part of a system and are made up of minor processes
  • Systems include
    •  Major processes
    • Minor processes
    • Supporting processes
    • processes once the product or service leaves your organization
    • processes prior to reaching your organization
    • economy
    • population growth
    • weather
    • government
    • cultural changes
    • .
    • .
    • .
    • .
  • As organizations plan for future and work to improve their processes, they must think at the system level rather than just at the department level.

Email below or call John Antos, Maurice Greaver, or Steve Peacock at 972-980-7407 to find out how systems thinking can help you achieve your goals

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