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MGMT523 Systemic and Critical Thinking and Practice

Unit rationale, description and aim

Upon completion of this unit, students will be able to understand and apply different ways of thinking about complex challenges and opportunities faced by organisations practically, ethically and globally. Described by leading business consultants as a core competency for the 21st Century, systemic and critical thinking and practices enable students to explore and lever improvements in the complex challenges and opportunities organisations face daily. The Unit looks to create a seamless relationship between the learning environment and the workplace. Using principles evolved from the interaction of systems thinking, complexity and experiential learning, students learn techniques to scope the multi-dimensional nature of complexity, to make sense, within their own context, of complex issues and build strategic pathways to lever improvement opportunities. Students are invited to bring their current complex issues to the series of practice workshops that are incorporated in the Unit.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Analyse critically complex issues and promote participatory leadership in issues of change and development (GA4, GA5)

LO2 - Intentionally engage diverse perspectives and human diversity in management planning, implementation and their critical evaluation (GA1, GA5)

LO3 - Collectively set expectation, recognition and dependence on continuous dissemination, diagonally across the organisation, of everyone’s experimental learning (GA5, GA7)

LO4 - Apply systemic principles when auditing organisation as a way of managing complex issues and explore improvement opportunities (GA5, GA8)

LO5 - Critically manage the relationships between organisational functions using effective communications to most effectively and efficiently achieve the organisational purpose (GA5, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • What is systemic and critical thinking?
  • Making sense of organisational challenges
  • Assessing untapped knowledge in organisations from diverse perspectives
  • Systemic and critical approaches to organisational transformation
  • Systemic approaches to organisational coherence and resilience
  • Managing barriers to the use of systemic and critical thinking approaches to management
  • The role of communications in achieving organisational purpose
  • Being a Systemic Practitioner

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit takes an active learning approach to guide students in the analysis, synthesis, evaluation and application of the core aspects of value creation from systemic and critical thinking practices and their impact on organisations.

ACU’s teaching policy focuses on learning outcomes for students. Our teaching aims to engage students as active participants in the learning process while acknowledging that all learning must involve a complex interplay of active and receptive processes, the constructing of meaning for oneself, and learning from others. ACU promotes and facilitates learning that is autonomous and self-motivated, is characterised by the individual taking satisfaction in the mastering of content and skills and is critical, looking beneath the surface level of information for the meaning and significance of what is being studied.

Mode of Delivery: Lectures, seminars and workshops on campus or mixed mode

Pattern of attendance and duration: Intensive mode of delivery. Students should anticipate undertaking 150 hours of study for this unit, including class attendance, readings and assignment preparation.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Assessments are used primarily to foster learning. This unit adopts a constructivist approach to learning which seeks alignment between the fundamental purpose of each unit, the learning outcomes, teaching and learning strategy, assessment and the learning environment. To pass this unit, students are required to submit all pieces of assessment and achieve an overall score of at least 50%. Using constructive alignment, the assessment tasks are designed for students to demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome.

Each of these assessment pieces has been designed to empower students, lead to greater equity and deepen students’ skillsets by virtue of their design. They are assessments that are constructed to integrate the unit’s instruction and curriculum.  

The purpose of Assessment 1 is to enable students to demonstrate their broad understanding of systemic and critical thinking knowledge covered  in the unit. The purpose of Assessment 2 is to critically assess the understanding and ability to apply systemics principles in a  workplace. This form of assessment allows students to identify gaps in their learning. The final assessment requires students to demonstrate their understanding and implementation competency of the unit’s content by critically applying systemics thinking and practices to a complex issue faced by the student’s organisation currently. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Learning Journal and Synthesis of Unit

This assessment task consists of a 1000-word learning journal. This task requires students synthesises and analyses  their knowledge of the systemic and critical thinking  covered in the unit through effective communication and critical reflection in a learning journal.

Submission Type: Individual

Assessment Method: Learning Journal

Artefact: Written learning journal


LO1, LO5

GA4, GA5, GA9

Assessment Task 2: Critical Case Analysis

Working in groups, students are required to collectively critically analyse a case study and make a 15 minute presentation about their assessment and submit a script related to their analysis. This task requires students to apply systemic and critical thinking principles learned in the unit to a given case study and recommend interventions to manage complex issues. Students are required to complete a Peer Evaluation of other group members contribution to the group work worth 10% of this assessment.

Submission Type: Group

Assessment Method: Presentation / Written scripts

Artefact: Presentation/script 


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA5, GA7, GA8 

Assessment Task 3: Reflective Integrated Essay

This assessment task consists of a 1750-word essay. This task requires students to design an application of systemics and critical thinking techniques, principles, and practices to a nominated professional complex issue. It requires students to justify why the design will achieve its purpose and anticipated impact on the organisation using current academic literature and 21st century workplace practices.

Submission Type: Individual

Assessment Method: Reflective Essay

Artefact: Written essay


LO1, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA8

Representative texts and references

Bartlett, G and Bartlett, L 2017, Systemic Thinking,

Boulton, J.and Reyers, B 2019, Systemic change, complexity and development,

De Smet, A. , Smith, C. and Tofano, D 2019, Repositioning as an agile manager | McKinsey,

Howell, L 2017, Resilience: What is it and why is it needed,

Ison, R. and Blackmore, C. 2014, Designing and developing a reflective learning system for managing systemic change,

McKinsey Podcast, 2019, Inside the Strategy Room,

Open Learn, 2019, Mastering Systems Thinking in Practice, Week 2 Systems Thinking and Complexity, The Open University,

Oxenham, S 2016, A tool inspired by swarming insects is helping people predict the future - making groups of people smarter than their members are by themselves,

Paul, P.V. 2018 Critical Thinking in a Post-Postmodern Age: Noble Endeavor ... or Hopeless Cause?, in American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 163, Number 4, Fall 2018, pp. 417-423 viewed on 27 February 2020 at

Steven Aronowitz, S. De Smet, A and McGinty, D 2015, Getting organizational redesign right, McKinsey Quarterly

Ulrich, W. 2017. The concept of systemic triangulation: its intent and imagery. Ulrich's Bimonthly, March-April 2017 (12 June 2017).



Vanguard, 2018 Evolution of soft systems, Blog Post,

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