• Anytime
    Application Deadline
  • 6 months
This Thinking strategically: systems tools for managing change module from The Open University UK is about managing complex situations. Managing is ultimately about taking action in complex interconnected situations, where others involved may have contrasting understandings, motivations and interests, and where conflicts inevitably arise.


You will develop your understanding of complex situations using robust tools from the traditions of systems practice to think strategically about change and uncertainty. The situations that you choose to work with in the module to develop your practice with systems tools can either derive from your existing, or aspiring, professional capacity or simply be of general interest to you. Although most of the work for this Thinking strategically: systems tools for managing change module from The Open University UK can be done either online or offline, part of the module is presented exclusively online. You’ll be encouraged to use online forums to interact with other students in appreciating multiple perspectives, including your own.

Vocational relevance

By studying the module you will be able to examine current issues in your own working life, make sense of them using a range of innovative ideas, tools and techniques, and extend your competence as a professional. In our modern world where all organisations face increasing uncertainty and complexity, the experience of our students is that successfully completing our ‘systems’ modules not only benefits them personally, but is of great benefit to the organisation where they are employed.

This module is ideal for those people who are in situations such as:

  • positions where you have to work across boundaries (internal or external)
  • those where you and others are uncertain about the nature of the problem and thus what would constitute a solution (i.e. dealing with wicked problems or 'messes')
  • interdepartmental working parties, groups, committees
  • managing change of some form or another
  • having to engage others in what you are doing (i.e. building stakeholding) either within or external to your organisation or project
  • providing leadership
  • policy development or implementation
  • tasks involving professionals with different perspectives on issues e.g. policy-makers and other practitioners in public sector agencies - business; government and NGOs; health services; project teams etc.
  • inspiring innovation and/or creativity
  • organisations where you have to work with others to get something done
  • developing new policies that will affect a wide range of people
  • project or programme development and/or delivery
  • participating in or managing multi, inter or trans-disciplinary research
  • managing a staff team
  • working more effectively with your colleagues.

This module will meet the needs of anyone engaged with taking action in situations that involve complex inter-connections, multiple stakeholder interests, and have problematic boundaries, by providing practical and conceptual foundations for managing in the broadest sense.

Detailed Programme Facts

  • Programme intensity Full-time
    • Full-time duration 6 months
  • Credits
    30 alternative credits
  • Languages
    • English
  • Delivery mode
  • More information Go to the programme website

Programme Structure

Tools stream

The Tools stream teaches five systems approaches. In each case you examine the ideas behind it, how to apply it and examples of its use combined with opportunities for you to practice hands-on experience in using it.

The five key approaches for systems practice are drawn from three philosophical traditions underpinning systems thinking - feedback, perspectives, and boundaries. The systems approaches are:

  • System Dynamics and the Viable Systems Model, primarily dealing with feedback, interrelationships and interdependencies 
  • Soft Systems Methodology and Strategic Options Development and Analysis with Cognitive Mapping, primarily dealing with multiple perspectives 
  • Critical Systems Heuristics, primarily dealing with ethics and politics.

These five cover the fundamental concepts of systems thinking and the essential elements of the different perspectives across the main theoretical strands of systems thinking.

English Language Requirements

You need the following IELTS score:

  • Minimum required score:


    The IELTS – or the International English Language Test System – tests your English-language abilities (writing, listening, speaking, and reading) on a scale of 1.00–9.00. The minimum IELTS score requirement refers to which Overall Band Score you received, which is your combined average score. Read more about IELTS.

    Schedule IELTS

    StudyPortals Tip: The UK government has confirmed new English-language testing requirements for visa and immigration purposes. Learn more

Academic Requirements

  • There are no entry requirements, but we do assume that you have already done some study up to HNC, HND or bachelors degree level, or have equivalent experience from your employment.
  • Some basic prior awareness and knowledge of systems thinking would be advantageous, though the module website does have links to some extra resources for those completely fresh to systems thinking. 
  • If English is not your first language, we recommend that you will need a minimum overall score of 6 and minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Tuition Fee

  • EU/EEA Applies to you

    1920 GBP/full
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the original amount of 1920 GBP for the full programme and a duration of 6 months.
We've labeled the tuition fee that applies to you because we think you are from and prefer over other currencies.


Check the programme website for information about funding options.

StudyPortals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.

The Global Study Awards: get funded with up to £10,000 to study abroad

Together with the ISIC Association and British Council IELTS, StudyPortals offers you the chance to receive up to £10000 to expand your horizon and study abroad. We want to ultimately encourage you to study abroad in order to experience and explore new countries, cultures and languages.