Books Resources

Systems Approaches to Making Change: A Practical Guide

Martin Reynolds and Sue Holwell (Editors)
2020, 2nd edition
Springer, London
DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4471-7472-1
324 pages

Book description

The five approaches outlined in this book offers the systems thinking practitioner a range of interchangeable tools for pro-actively making systemic improvements amidst complex situations of change and uncertainty.  Practitioners from all professional domains are increasingly confronted with incidences of systemic failure, yet poorly equipped with appropriate tools and know-how for understanding such failure, and the making of systemic improvement.  In our fragile Anthropocene world where ‘systems change’ is often invoked as the rallying call for purposeful alternative action, this book provides a toolkit to help constructively make systems that can change situations for the better.

Systems Approaches offers an excellent introduction for those seeking to understand systems thinking and to enact systems thinking in practice.  The book helps practitioners from all professions to better understand inter-relationships, engage with multiple perspectives, and reflect on boundary judgements that can inhibit or enhance improved purposeful change.  After an editorial introduction to these systems thinking in practice capabilities, successive chapters illustrate five systems approaches, each chosen for having a rigorous though adaptable framework, and a robust long pedigree of application in complex situations.  Each chapter illustrates what the approach is about, followed by invaluable tips and insights from experience regarding how the tools might be practiced.  Amongst updates from originating authors for this 2nd edition, each approach has an accompanying postscript on some developments since the 1st edition.

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter Pages
    pp.i-xix PDF
  2. Introducing Systems Approaches
    Martin Reynolds, Sue Holwell
  3. System Dynamics
    John Morecroft
  4. The Viable System Model
    Patrick Hoverstadt
  5. Strategic Options Development and Analysis
    Fran Ackermann, Colin Eden
  6. Soft Systems Methodology
    Peter Checkland, John Poulter
  7. Critical Systems Heuristics: The Idea and Practice of Boundary Critique
    Werner Ulrich, Martin Reynolds
  8. Epilogue: Systems Approaches and Systems Practice
    Martin Reynolds, Sue Holwell
  9. Back Matter


Sue Holwell joined Cranfield University in 1998 and taught on the MSc in the Design of Information Systems and MBA at the Royal Military College of Science. In April 2002 she joined the Systems Department at the Open University. She is currently Senior Lecturer in Information Systems, Centre for Complexity and Change, Technology Faculty, Open University.

Dr Martin Reynolds joined OU in 2000. He previously worked with Gerald Midgley at Hull University co-authoring Operational Research and Environmental Management with support from the Operational Research Society. His interest in critical systems came through PhD work on participatory natural resource-use appraisal in Botswana, based at the Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM).

Leave a Reply