Assessment – Section A: Strategic Practice: Systems thinking essentially seeks to understand phenomena as a whole formed by the interaction of parts
The assessment for this element of the module is an essay-based piece of coursework worth 50% of the
overall module grade.
Task: “Systems thinking essentially seeks to understand phenomena as a whole formed by the
interaction of parts.” (Stacey, 2011)
Critically appraise the above statement in relation to changing ideas of strategic thinking and explain
how it exists within YOUR company’s approach to strategic management.
A strong essay must use the key themes addressed in the first part of the module to develop the
Approaches to Strategic Thinking
Complexity Perspective: New Ways of Thinking About Strategy?
Complex Adaptive Systems: Modelling Complexity
The Practice Perspective:
Organisational examples can be used to illustrate the themes covered in the essay. However, the essay
is not a case study, it is a theoretical paper.
Remember that a critical study aims to provide a balanced analysis of differing perspectives, and points
of view, before drawing the argument to a coherent conclusion
Required: A word processed essay with referencing to literature. The essay will be 3,000 (+/- 10%)
words (inclusive of appendices, NOT inclusive of references).
In order to complete this activity you need to undertake three principal tasks:
(1) Utilise academic research using literature from journals, books, etc.
(2) Undertake a critical evaluation making effective use of evidence and sources
(3) Present findings in an appropriate format (ensure that Harvard referencing is used)
70+ A confident and well written essay that answers the question and relates the ideas well. Good case
studies are used and there is awareness of key authors to illustrate points
60-69 A good essay that looks to answer the question and uses cases and authors to strengthen the
discussion. The main themes are clearly addressed but there are some gaps in the answer and a little
less comfort in the way that the themes are discussed
50-59 A solid essay that recognises the question but does not use it as a thread all the way through. The
main themes are covered clearly but in a more descriptive way and the links between ideas are less
explored. There are examples and authors included to expand the points
40-49 The essay does not address the question directly but does provide the main aspects of the
themes, but in a more ‘information dump’ manner; taking a more general approach to the topics.
lower end of this band there are likely to be essays that do not cover all of the main points but do look
to explain the ideas covered to a degree; these are bare passes as there is an attempt to do more than
just list a series of bullet points.
30-39 A weak essay that lists points related to the theme but there is no attempt at the question. Also,
at the lower end there may be essays that touch on general ideas of strategy and source them but do
not provide an analysis that develops the relevant themes Less than
30 There is no clear understanding of the ideas covered in the essay and the questions is not considered
at all. Examples at this level are likely to have written very general material that is very descriptive
showing no sign of analysis.
(i) Introduction to the assignment describing scope, objectives, methods of investigation
a. Clear structure to the essay providing the course of the analysis
b. The essay should display a coherent introduction; analysis & conclusion
(ii) Identification of key areas
a. The main themes Approaches to Straetgy, Systems Thinking, Complexity,
Adaptive systems and Strategy as Practice principles need to be clearly addressed
within the structure of the essay
b. Establishing the traditional ideas of strategy as a basis to work from can help
structure the analysis. Impacts of systems thinking should be brought in to
illustrate the themes covered, notably Adaptive Systems and The Practice
c. The links between the main themes must be explored and critically understood in
the stronger pieces of work
d. The shift from thinking of individual actions to systems as a collective activity
must be addressed in order to answer the set question
e. Essays should avoid unnecessary description of the themes, particularly the
activities covered in Soft Systems Methodology and Strategy as Practice thinking
(iii) Application of theory
a. Clear awareness of the relevant authors in developing the analysis of the main
themes e.g. Checkland, Whittington, Jarzabkowski, Mintzberg, Wilson, etc.
(iv) Structured analysis
a. The essay needs to display a coherent analysis drawing the themes together in
order to explore the question in a relevant way
b. The essay is not meant to be separate sections that should be left to the conclusion
to link. Weaker essays will fall into this pattern
(v) Creativity of thought
a. The essay needs to display a clear analysis drawing on the main theory being
explored to display the comfort with the ideas being covered
b. Examples from organisations can be effective in illustrating the thought of the
(vi) Presentation of document including clarity of expression and referencing.
a. The essay must be clearly set out and well written
b. Avoidance of confusing arguments and messy content e.g. overly long sentences
c. Consistent Harvard referencing is essential to support the analysis