The BPR model - Bryan Hopkins

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The B-P-R model

My professional practice draws heavily on the principles of systems thinking, but exactly what this means is often not clearly understood. It is sometimes easier to explain what systems thinking means by first describing what it is distinct from.

Most analytical thinking that we do is based on a reductionist scientific paradigm, where we break down a large or complicated situation into its constituent parts and then analyse each of these in isolation. So, for example, this is the principle of a root cause analysis, where we identify separate root causes and find solutions for each of these.
Systems thinking challenges the usefulness of this technique in situations which involve the dynamics of human behaviour. While reductionism works well when looking at inanimate, physical or mechanical systems, it has serious limitations where the components of a system interact with each other in different and unpredictable ways. Systems thinking, therefore, provides us with a set of tools we can use to look in more detail at the complexity of human behaviour systems, such as we find in organisational life.
Systems thinking draws on three principles: boundaries, perspectives and relationships.

Every situation we consider has boundaries, defining what we consider and do not consider, who is involved and who is not involved, what is important and what is not important.


Where we draw boundaries has major implications for how we interpret a situation of interest; for example, who we train, who decides the content and so on.
Human behaviour systems are complex, and it is impossible to have a single, agreed description of what is happening and what a problem might be. Each person involved or with an interest, will describe things differently.

Human behaviour systems are complex, and it is impossible to have a single, agreed description of what is happening and what a problem might be. Each person involved or with an interest, will describe things differently. Systems thinking recognises that each of these perspectives is valid, and looks to find ways to take these into consideration when identifying solutions to a perceived problem.
Using a systems approach to analyse a situation means constantly reflecting on the interaction between boundaries around the situation, considering different perspectives about it and examining the relationships between different elements within it.
Thirdly, human behaviour systems comprise varying numbers of people interacting with each other and processes, procedures and equipment in their workplace. The nature of these interrelationships and interactions has a profound effect on the way overall system operates. Unlike a mechanical device, the overall result of these relationships means that the behaviour of the system is unpredictable. Again, systems thinking looks at ways of taking these relationships into consideration.



Overall, we can therefore see that a systems-based approach to looking at what happens in the workplace requires us to look at boundaries, perspectives and relationships, and this is the basis of the B-P-R model.

I provide consultancy and training services on how to use the model to consider performance problems, and more detailed information is found in my book, "Performance and evaluation: a systems thinking approach".
 
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