Managing change with systems thinking in practice

This module (TB872) is about effecting whole-system change. It views change as inescapable in managing everyday situations ranging from personal to workplace to society in general. Rather than passively accepting change, this module will equip you with skills to shape the nature and direction of change. It will develop your abilities to manage change with others to avoid systemic failures and improve joined-up actions amongst stakeholders along supply chains, in projects, or even in social activism. It’s about learning to use systems thinking in practice to help you engage with and make change, and act accordingly in recognising the interconnected nature of organisations and environments.

Vocational relevance

By studying this module, you’ll be able to take stock of your past experience; examine issues in your own working life; make sense of them using a range of innovative ideas, tools and techniques; and extend your competence as a professional. In our contemporary world, where all organisations face increasing uncertainty and complexity, the experience of our students is that successfully completing our systems modules not only benefits them personally, but is of great benefit to the organisation in which they’re employed.

The module will meet the needs of anyone engaged with taking action in situations that involve complex inter-connections, multiple stakeholder interests and have problematic boundaries. It will meet these needs by providing practical and conceptual foundations for managing in the broadest sense.

This module is ideal for those people who are in situations such as:

  • inspiring innovation and/or creativity
  • providing leadership – especially system-change leadership
  • having to work with others to get something done – particularly where you want to feel good about working together
  • having to work across boundaries (internal or external)
  • undertaking tasks that involve professionals with different perspectives on issues (e.g. groups of policymakers and other practitioners; public sector agencies; groups including business, government and NGOs; health services; scientists and non-scientists; project teams, etc.)
  • having to engage others in what you are doing (i.e. building stake holding) either within or external to your organisation or project
  • those where you and others are uncertain about the nature of the problem and thus what would constitute a solution (i.e. dealing with wicked problems)
  • developing new policies that will affect a wide range of people
  • managing change of some form or another but being able to go beyond first-order change to enacting second-order change (change that changes whole systems)
  • project or programme development and/or delivery
  • participating in or managing multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary research
  • interdepartmental working parties, groups, committees
  • managing a staff team
  • policy development or implementation
  • working more effectively with your colleagues and communities in developing your practice
  • governance reform and innovation.

From the module, you will begin to appreciate the limitations of many current ways of thinking and learn how they can exacerbate complexity, creating unintended consequences that can lead to systemic failure. When you finish you should be able to think and act differently, not only as an individual but in your working with others. Your ability to work with others will develop by understanding what social learning and communities of practice are, and how you can participate in, and contribute to, both.


TB872 is a compulsory module in:

TB872 is an optional module in:

This module can also count towards M03, which is no longer open to new students.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.

Further information

For further information, see TB872 | Managing change with systems thinking in practice | Open University.

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