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PMGT1711: Systems Thinking in Projects (2020 - Semester 2)

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Unit: PMGT1711: Systems Thinking in Projects (6 CP)
Mode: Normal-Day
On Offer: Yes
Level: Junior
Faculty/School: Project Management
Unit Coordinator/s: Pollack, Julien
Session options: Semester 2
Versions for this Unit:
Campus: Camperdown/Darlington
Pre-Requisites: None.
Brief Handbook Description: Projects exist as and within complex systems of human activity. Systems thinking enables us to understand the patterns of interconnection both within projects and their dependencies to contextual forces. This Unit introduces students to a variety of systems thinking techniques which will help in responding to the interconnectedness of all things and taking action in face of uncertainty and ambiguity.

Upon completion of the course, the students will learn to think and question critically, while building skills to deliver projects that align with organisational strategic objectives. This unit will help student understand how to manage change while exercising empathy and learn to listen effectively.
Assumed Knowledge: None.
Lecturer/s: Buhagiar, Michael
Tutor/s: Tue: Alireza Mersad (

Wed: Ye-ryung (Claire) Kim-chung (

Thur: Sheryl Chang (
Timetable: PMGT1711 Timetable

Learning outcomes are the key abilities and knowledge that will be assessed in this unit. They are listed according to the course goal supported by each. See Assessment Tab for details how each outcome is assessed.

Strategic Perspective (Level 1)
1. Differentiate between selected key ‘control’ systems thinking models
2. Differentiate between selected key ‘soft’ systems thinking models
3. Critique the limitations of different approaches to systems thinking
4. Select from appropriate systems thinking models according to context
5. Apply systemic conceptual and analytic thinking to understand situations, cultures and strategies
People, Roles and Relationships (Level 1)
6. Explore fallacies of judgement
7. Explain the impact of mental models on personal and stakeholder perspectives
8. Apply systems thinking approaches to develop and evaluate options with potential to meet needs of all parties
Assessment Methods:
# Name Group Weight Due Week Outcomes
1 Multiple choice quiz No 10.00 Week 6 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,
2 Multiple choice quiz No 10.00 Week 11 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,
3 Group Presentation Yes 30.00 Multiple Weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,
4 Final exam No 50.00 Exam Period 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,
Assessment Description: 1) Multiple choice quiz. To comprise 20 multiple choice questions covering the topics studied in weeks 1 to 5. Each question wto have four possible answers, with one correct answer. Worth 10% of final mark.

2) Multiple choice quiz. To comprise 20 multiple choice questions covering the topics studied in weeks 6 to 10. Each question to have four possible answers, with one correct answer. Worth 10% of final mark

3) Group presentation. Groups to redesign a system of human activity using any tools and models covered in the unit. Members to select a topic they care about as a group. Possibilities for topics could include an aspect of social planning or government policy, or even local scenarios such as the way the university prepares graduates for the workforce - there are many possibilities. To be delivered in weeks 12 and 13, in teams of no more than five. Worth 30% of final mark. .

4) Final exam. To comprise several extended project scenarios, to which students will have to apply the tools, techniques, methods and approaches covered during the course. Worth 50% of final mark.
Assessment Feedback: Assessments 1 and 2: Feedback on questions that proved problematic for the class will be given in a subsequent session.
Assessment 3: Brief feedback will be given by Michael and Claire/Ali after each presentation. More detailed feedback will be given after the last presentation in week 13.
Grade Type Description
Standards Based Assessment Final grades in this unit are awarded at levels of HD for High Distinction, DI (previously D) for Distinction, CR for Credit, PS (previously P) for Pass and FA (previously F) for Fail as defined by University of Sydney Assessment Policy. Details of the Assessment Policy are available on the Policies website at . Standards for grades in individual assessment tasks and the summative method for obtaining a final mark in the unit will be set out in a marking guide supplied by the unit coordinator.
Recommended Reference/s: Note: References are provided for guidance purposes only. Students are advised to consult these books in the university library. Purchase is not required.
  • Critical Systems Thinking and the Management of Complexity
  • Images of Projects
  • The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization
  • Tools for Complex Projects

Note that the "Weeks" referred to in this Schedule are those of the official university semester calendar

Week Description
Week 1 Introduction to unit. History of systems thinking. Types of systems.
Week 2 Hard and soft systems thinking. Mental models. Laws of the Fifth Discipline.
Week 3 Types of complex projects. Structural complexity I. System Dynamics.
Week 4 Structural complexity II: Leverage points. The power of paradigms. The Risk Interdependencies tool.
Week 5 Directional complexity I. Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing.
Week 6 Directional complexity II. Multimethodology in Series. Soft Systems Methodology.
Assessment Due: Multiple choice quiz
Week 7 Images of projects
Week 8 Critical System Heuristics
Week 9 Technical complexity. Jazz (Time-Linked Semi-Structures).
Week 10 Temporal complexity
Week 11 Agile projects
Assessment Due: Multiple choice quiz
Exam Period Assessment Due: Final exam

Course Relations

The following is a list of courses which have added this Unit to their structure.

Course Year(s) Offered
Aeronautical/ Project Management 2019, 2020
Biomedical/ Project Management 2019, 2020
Chemical & Biomolecular/ Project Management 2019, 2020
Civil/ Project Management 2019, 2020
Electrical/ Project Management 2019, 2020
Mechanical/ Project Management 2019, 2020
Mechatronic/ Project Management 2019, 2020
Software/ Project Management 2019, 2020
Bachelor of Project Management- Built Environment Major (Table A) 2019, 2020
Bachelor of Project Management- Construction Major (Table A) 2019, 2020
Bachelor of Project Management- Table S Major 2019, 2020

Course Goals

This unit contributes to the achievement of the following course goals:

Attribute Practiced Assessed
Strategic Perspective (Level 1) No 50%
People, Roles and Relationships (Level 1) No 50%
Technical Expertise (Level 1) No 0%

These goals are selected from Project Management Learning Progression Table 2019 which defines overall goals for courses where this unit is primarily offered. See Project Management Learning Progression Table 2019 for details of the attributes and levels to be developed in the course as a whole. Percentage figures alongside each course goal provide a rough indication of their relative weighting in assessment for this unit. Note that not all goals are necessarily part of assessment. Some may be more about practice activity. See Learning outcomes for details of what is assessed in relation to each goal and Assessment for details of how the outcome is assessed. See Attributes for details of practice provided for each goal.