systems inquiry

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Systems inquiry --
Systems inquiry is inquiry to understand systems, especially the whole of complex systems. The methods used to conduct systems inquiry are referred to as inquiring systems, processes to ascertain the truth of the whole. Traditionally there have been three basic methods of systems inquiry, each with their own focus and limitations --

  • analytical thinking -- analytical thinking focuses on the structure of the system, assuming the whole is nothing more than the sum of the parts, and thus the structure is both necessary and sufficient to understanding the whole. This method of inquiry is associated with the classical school of management.
  • synthetic thinking -- synthetic thinking focuses on the function of the system, defining a system by its outcomes. Synthesis puts the subject in the context of the larger system of which it is part, and then studies the effects it produces in its environment. This method of inquiry is associated with the neo-classical school of management with its focus on management by objectives.
  • process orientation -- the process orientation approach to inquiry focuses on the processes of the system. This approach seeks an understanding of the whole by knowing the sequence of activities and the know-how embodied in those activities. This approach's heritage comes from biological and behavioral sciences heritage. It manifests itself in the process control schools of management such as six-sigma, lean, and total quality management.

BAi systems inquiry for strategy formation --
The BAi inquiry's structure and the process are based on the systems nature of the business organization, being tailored to tackle the complexity and scope of social systems. This inquiry is a systems thinking approach which incorporates and integrates the methods above. See iterative inquiry The basic steps of this approach include establishing the objectives of the inquiry, defining the boundaries of the inquiry, and defining the aspects (perspectives) of the thing to be inquired upon. The initial inquiry approach is subject to modification as the inquiry proceeds and second loop learning takes place.

See inquiry and iterative inquiry for the method. See aspects, system aspects, and business organization aspects for the framework. The BAi inquiry process is based on the iterative inquiry presented by Jamshid Gharajedaghi in Systems Thinking (2006).