Overview of the role
Support decision-makers in strategic and leadership roles to understand and address complex and sometimes even ‘wicked’ problems through provision of expert systemic analysis, advice and facilitation.
Details of standard
This occupation is found in arenas where complex problems exist that cannot be addressed by any one organisation or person, but which require cross-boundary collaboration within and between organisations. Examples of likely Systems Thinking Practitioner (STP) employers include: central and local government, multilaterals, defence, education and innovation/ research, and the health service; globalised corporations with complex supply chain and partner relationships; international banks and financial services; NGOs and social enterprises addressing social challenges; consultancy service providers working with any of the above. The broad purpose of the occupation is to support decision-makers in strategic and leadership roles to understand and address complex and sometimes even ‘wicked’ problems through provision of expert systemic analysis, advice and facilitation.
Examples include: providing joined-up health and social services, reducing plastics use in the bottled drinks industry, developing sustainable international food production and supply systems, developing combined diplomatic and military options for unstable regions, and addressing climate change. These problems have no single ‘owner’ or cause, and no simple solution; they require multi-disciplinary, multi-organisational responses with sensitive attention to diverse viewpoints, behaviour, culture and politics.
The particular complexity of such challenges or opportunities make them unsuitable for more traditional organisational change approaches. They require instead a skillset that includes collaborative enquiry and analysis using systemic models, tools and ways of working, gathering and synthesizing of diverse evidence types, development of options for intervention and investment, facilitation of dialogue, and empathetic navigation of power dynamics and politics.
Although the underlying purpose is to address highly complex problems (involving multiple organisations, sectors, communities and even countries) and develop sustainable solutions, the Systems Thinking Practitioner does not take direct responsibility for this. Instead, they achieve this goal by facilitating collaboration between actors (both organisations and individuals) and by bringing specialist systemic knowledge, skills and mindset to bear to help decision-makers make sense of the challenges and co-develop effective interventions.
In their daily work, an employee in this occupation interacts with decision-makers, strategists and policy-makers, often in senior roles in private or public sector organisations; individuals and groups (internal and external) with a stake in the defined system, currently or in the future; peers, change agents and consultants working on similar challenges or in similar fields. They typically have high levels of autonomy, enabling them to engage widely with individuals and groups around the system they operate in.
An employee in this occupation will be responsible for
• Delivering expert problem-solving and solutions for multi-layer/multi-organisation/multi-government problems.
• Engaging with colleagues, peers, stakeholders and decision-makers, to facilitate the creation of shared methods of defining, interpreting and understanding the system of interest (e.g. models, pictures, stories, maps).
• Identifying patterns, dynamics, power and inter-relationships within and affecting the system, using systems thinking methodologies; applying appropriate tools, techniques and drawing on relevant theory (e.g. systems science, complexity science, social psychology, action research) with rigour to yield new insights and alternative perspectives.
• Engaging with key actors to co-design suitable experiments and interventions – activities, policies, new products or services, new governance, structures, or processes – to address the challenges; evaluating relative fitness and efficacy.
• Exploring outcomes, consequences and facilitating learning with others.
• Ensuring intervention and engagement methods are ethical and legal.
• Taking the role of co-learner and participant within the system under scrutiny; acting as a ‘reflexive practitioner’ aware that they are engaged in iterative work, and also that their own activity will influence the system they are working in..
Typical job titles include:
System change lead Systemic designer Systems thinking practitioner Transformation lead.
Typical duration: 30 months
For more details, please visit: