Total Systems Intervention

Reflections on Achieving Sustainability in a Complex Situation
  • Lorraine Warren
  • R. Keith Ellis


This paper is based on the use of Critical Systems Thinking in a large public sector service organisation, namely West Yorkshire Police (WYP). Both authors were involved in a project which commenced with the expressed need of WYP to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Occupational Health Unit (OHU) situated at the Force Headquarters in Wakefield. This need was initially expressed by WYP senior management (who were identified as the problem owners) although it was confirmed by the medical managers of the OHU. More specifically, Total Systems Intervention (TSI) was used to derive a design for the future development and operation of the OHU within WYP. Throughout the application of TSI discussed in this paper, it was necessary to continually be aware of the difficulties associated with achieving sustainable improvement in a problem situation exhibiting a high degree of complexity due to the large number of elements and resulting inter-relationships existing within the system. Although the observed relationships were pluralist (Jackson, 1991) the cultural differences between WYP management and the OHU added to the complexity of the problem situation. Therefore this paper will go on to provide critical reflections on the contribution of TSI to achieving sustainability which may assist with the development of the methodology.


Problem Situation System Methodology Soft System Methodology Viable System Model Wide System 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorraine Warren
    • 1
  • R. Keith Ellis
    • 1
  1. 1.School of ManagementLincoln University CampusBrayford Pool, LincolnUK

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