February 22, 2024

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Heriot-Watt and University of Edinburgh academics launch new book on improving business performance – Heriot-Watt University

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Notes on a board
The different parts of a system are all connected. Photo – Patrick Perkins, Unsplash.

A new book about the importance of looking at the big picture in the world of business is being published by business performance experts at Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh.

Systems Thinking for Business and Management is published by Kogan Page on 3 November 2023 and is designed to be a practical guide for managers on how to solve problems in their organisations – and a handbook to help address wider interconnected problems, like climate change.

Systems thinking is a life skill that helps us to see the bigger picture and to understand why organisations or people behave the way they do.

Professor Umit Bititci, Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University

The book is the culmination of 20 years’ of learning and teaching in systems thinking by Umit Bititci, a Professor of Business Performance at Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh Business School and Agnessa Spanellis, a Senior Lecturer at The University of Edinburgh Business School, where she teaches modules on Systems Approaches to Sustainability and Business Thinking.

Professor Bititci said: “Everything in the world is connected – nothing exists in isolation. Yet often in our lives, we’ll look at things in isolation. Systems thinking is a life skill that helps us to see the bigger picture and to understand why organisations or people behave the way they do.”

Managers in business often make the wrong decision and improve the wrong thing, Professor Bititci added. “You look at small part of the system and make it work well,” he said. “But by making a small part of the system right, you might make the wider system worse.”

Examples in the book include the case study of an energy supplier whose system to measure company performance was negatively impacting customer service. When Professor Bititci and his team implemented a new system to resolve every enquiry on the customers’ first call, the old performance management system had to be switched off before the new system would work.

Dr Spanellis said: “This book isn’t only about business problems, but also understanding complexity in an increasingly interconnected world and addressing grand challenges, for example in the area of sustainable development. To tackle global challenges like this, we need to understand the big picture and how all the different parts link together. We hope our book gives managers and students a really expert understanding of how to approach and tackle these challenges.”

Systems Thinking for Business and Management includes a wide range of global cases and examples from business, showing how systems thinking can be applied in real-world organisational contexts.

Readers will learn to apply their knowledge to solve business system problems, to analyse organisational systems and design solutions to address complex organisational problems. They will build valuable skills in systems analysis, business process modelling, problem solving and decision making. Online resources with the book include customisable PowerPoint slides and video links.

Professor Bititci is an engineer with a Masters degree in Computer Integrated Manufacturing. He has a background in manufacturing and over 30 years of research and development experience working with organisations in understanding what makes high performing companies different. He joined Heriot-Watt University in 2014.

Dr Spanellis has Masters degrees in High Tech Management and Global Innovation Management and a PhD in Management Science. Her areas of expertise include operations management and using gamification to transform working practices in organisations, including making better decisions around sustainability.

Edinburgh Business School is the Graduate School of Business at Heriot-Watt University.

It has 49,000 alumni across 158 countries and offers postgraduate business degrees including Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Science (MSc) and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degrees.

University of Edinburgh Business School offers undergraduate, postgraduate, and executive education programmes in business and management and represents more than 74 countries in its international student body.

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