Solving Complex Management Problems - CANCELLED

Course content

This course is for you who want to learn approaches to manage processes for solving complex multidimensional, managerial problems in uncertain situations. It will prepare you to dig out the real problem in a ‘difficult-to-understand’ situation and help you solve the real problem – and not only deal with the symptoms, or even worse – solve the wrong problem.

In your core education you learn to deal with specific problems within your own discipline; this course will give you unique insight into approaches useful to understand, analyze and solve complex and uncertain real-life problems. The course will train you in how to take the lead and manage joint problem solving in multidisciplinary teams. Problem solving has been identified as the most important leadership skill – this course prepares you for a future management role by providing a number of basic skills that enable you to  tackle managerial decision making within any type of societal context.  

Organizations and society face complex and uncertain problem situations, for instance, in identifying and implementing strategies to adapt to climate change, as well as enhance food security; efficiently using natural resources while reducing CO2 emissions; driving processes to support the establishment and development of sustainable, local initiatives (e.g. green communities and food networks); and ensuring that nature and its richness are used in a sustainable balance between ecology, economy and society. Managers, experts and consultants know that action is needed to solve such problem situations and make progress, but are often not able to clearly define the problem and identify how to tackle it.

A number of qualitative approaches for dealing with complex and uncertain problem situations have been developed within the discipline of Systems Thinking, specifically known as Problem Structuring Methods (e.g. Soft Systems Methodology, Strategic Choice Approach, and Strategic Options Development and Analysis). Adopting those approaches implies the use of graphical representations (e.g. models) that illustrate the problem situation and help groups of stakeholders engage in collaborative dialogue about and analysis of that situation. Through dialogue and analysis stakeholders are able to ask the right questions, challenge underlying assumptions, generate collective understanding, and achieve agreement on and commitment to a way forward. Systems Thinking approaches have, for example, been used to: improve agribusiness value chains; support public participation and decision making in natural resource management; develop sustainable cities through improved participation and encouragement; formulate strategies for dealing with water shortages in coastal areas; and implement new organizational structures within eco-villages and local food networks.

This course equips future managers, experts and consultants with knowledge, approaches and skills to tackle complex and uncertain problem situations, specifically to:

-understand and define complex and uncertain problem situations (i.e. understand and define ‘what the problem is’)

-explore and identify feasible options for changing the situations (i.e. evaluate ‘how to possibly solve the problem situations’)

-tackle a complex and uncertain problem situation by designing and managing group dialogue with stakeholders (typically in a workshop format)

This course is an opportunity to enhance your ability to use your professional knowledge in complex settings. If you are interested in developing your ability to manage group decision making further you may benefit from combining this course with the courses Introduction to Consultancy (LOJK10291) or Project Management (LFKK10278).

Learning outcome

On completion of the course you will be able to:


  • list and describe a range of approaches useful to tackle complex and uncertain problem situations based on Systems Thinking

  • identify and describe the characteristics of complex and uncertain problem situations from a Systems Thinking perspective

  • describe and explain the importance of adopting a holistic view in defining, understanding and addressing complex and uncertain problem situations

  • explain the theory of Systems Thinking

  • describe and explain the basic techniques for managing group processes


  • analyze complex and uncertain problem situations from a holistic perspective

  • identify suitable approaches to address particular problem situations

  • master Systems Thinking terminology related to the theory and practice of addressing complex and uncertain problem situations

  • manage group interaction by actively listening to and sharing different perspectives and achieving agreement through dialogue


  • communicate (written and orally) and discuss the importance of addressing complex and uncertain problem situations from a holistic perspective

  • communicate (written and orally) and discuss the characteristics, complexity and uncertainty of problem situations

  • evaluate and select suitable approaches to address particular problem situations

  • apply approaches to manage multidisciplinary group processes (e.g. workshops) to address and make progress with complex and uncertain problem situations

Teaching and learning methods will include a mix of class lectures, as well as supervised group discussions and group exercises to activate students’ participation and interaction, and supervised group projects on addressing selected problem situations (selected by the students in agreement with the teachers) through Systems Thinking approaches. The group projects are to be submitted in a written format before the exams.

Feedback on group exercises and the project work will be given by the teachers and students during class and through online communication. Feedback will aim at aligning your performance with the expected performance; helping you assess, reflect on and improve your performance; and learning from interaction with your colleagues and teachers.

Pre-readings for the introduction to the course:

Reynolds, M and Holwell, S (2010). Introducing Systems Appraoches. In Reynolds, M & S Holwell, S (Eds.) Systems Approaches to Managing Change: A practical guide. London: Springer, pp 1-23.

Rosenhead, J & Mingers, J (2001). A New Paradigm of Analysis. In Rosenhead, J & Mingers, J (Eds.) Rational Analysis for a Problematic World Revisited: problem structuring methods for complexity, uncertainty and conflict. Chichester: Wiley, pp 21-41.

Selected articles will be uploaded on Absalon

No prerequisites are required

No prerequisites are required

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
The examination will depart from the group project reports and comprise individual, oral reflection on the group project by the students and questions from examiners on topics related to the project and course material. The final grade is calculated based on the oral exam (100%).
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
two internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

Fullfilment of Learning Outcome is required to obtain the grade 12

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 30
  • Practical exercises
  • 30
  • Project work
  • 84
  • Preparation
  • 62
  • English
  • 206