Improving the accessibility of modelling for management learning : a systems thinking approach using ithink
This thesis describes research aimed at increasing the accessibility of modelling to the general manager as a tool to promote organisational learning and improve managerial performance. An exploratory approach was adopted and a wide-ranging investigation of the whole process of modelling and its relevance to learning was carried out. A review of individual learning, organisational learning and modelling techniques in management, led to the identification of system thinking as a modelling methodology whose role in promoting learning warranted further research. Two major pieces of fieldwork were conducted. Firstly, the process of training managers in systems thinking was studied. Secondly, a case study of the adoption of systems thinking by a large manufacturing company was carried out. During the course of this work, a number of training case studies and a supply chain management training workshop, based upon the use of a generic supply chain model, were developed. This fieldwork identified model conceptualisation as a major area of difficulty for novice modellers. In order to provide assistance in this area, a new framework for model conceptualisation, based upon the use of archetypes and generic models, was developed. During the course of this work an exploration of the relationship between qualitative and quantitative modelling was carried out. This resulted in the development of simulation models of a number of the system archetypes. Additionally, a computerised Delphi-based knowledge acquisition tool was developed. The purpose of this tool was to allow a large group of geographically dispersed people to become directly involved in the modeffing process. In conclusion, this thesis has suggested that there are substantial benefits to be gained from encouraging managers to become modellers. It has also confirmed the potential of systems thinking to support modelling for learning.