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Unit information: Re-thinking Change, Systems and Organisation in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Re-thinking Change, Systems and Organisation
Unit code EFIMM0126
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Southerton
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Management
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit introduces perspectives on change, critically engages with how processes of change can be understood and examines the implications of change for organizations of various shapes, size and form. It does so by ‘zooming out’ from immediate organisational problems to locate them in their wider systems, enabling the design of more effective and enduring strategic responses. The unit will examine: how change is ‘framed’ as challenges, problems and opportunities; different ‘rates’ (or speed) and timeframes (short and long-term) of change; the unevenness of change across organisations, systems and groups (or different ‘actors’); incremental and radical change; change across multiple scales (e.g. global-local; macro-micro); unintended consequences of strategy; and, path dependencies (or lock-in). This unit identifies concepts, tools and strategies from ‘systems thinking’, ‘social practice theories’ and ‘multi-level perspectives’ and applies them through a range of case studies drawn from public and private sector organisations.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to:

1. Understand and critically engage with perspectives on change processes.

2. Identify how these perspectives can be applied to different forms of organisation and organisational challenges.

3. Apply insights from systems thinking, multi-level perspectives and social practice theories to develop strategic responses to complex problems.

Teaching details

Lectures supported by interactive workshops, case studies and small group seminars

Assessment Details

An individual written assignment of approximately 4,000 words (including tables, appendices and references) based on the application of transitions perspectives to a practical case study of a complex organisational problem. All ILOs are assessed by the 4,000 word assignment.

Reading and References

Arnold, R. & Wade, J., (2015) A Definition of Systems Thinking: A Systems Approach, Procedia Computer Science, 44: 669-678.

Dominici, G., (2012), Why Does Systems Thinking Matter? Business Systems Review, 1 (1): 1-2.

Geels, F., McMeekin, A., Mylan, J. & Southerton, D. (2015), “A critical appraisal of Sustainable Consumption and Production research: The reformist, revolutionary and reconfiguration agendas”, Global Environmental Change, 34: 1-12

Hempen, E. (2017), How To Use Systems Thinking To Solve Tough Problems And Get Stuff

Done, govloop (

McMeekin, A. and Southerton, D. (2012) “Sustainability transitions and final consumption: practices and socio-technical systems” Technology Analysis and Strategic Management 24 (4): 27–330.

Schot, J. and Steinmueller, E. 2018 “Three frames for innovation policy: R&D, systems of innovation and transformative change” Research Policy 47(9): 1554-1567.

Shove, E., Pantzar, M., and Watson, M. (2012), The Dynamics of Social Practice: Everyday Life and how it Changes, London: Sage.

Voß, J., and B. Bornemann (2011) “The politics of reflexive governance: challenges for designing adaptive management and transition management” Ecology and Society, 16(2)