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Covid-19: Understanding the context using systems thinking techniques webinar

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One of perhaps the most complex global problems facing us today is the COVID-19 pandemic, with impacts on our global way of life.

Systems thinking is today a well-known and developed method of analysing and understanding complex problems. Its focus is not in solving the problem itself, but in better understanding the dynamics, complex relationships and potential causes and effects of the problem. Thus, allowing one to build models which emulate the problem and then can be used to develop and test possible solutions.

It also enables us to ask ‘what-if’ questions of the problem (e.g. the animations from specific nodes) and find patterns that we understand (e.g. system archetypes) in the problem.

The APM Systems Thinking Specific Interest Group, tried its hand at applying Causal Loop Diagrams, a technique in systems thinking, to see if they could better understand this complex COVID -19 pandemic. A working group within the SIG set about creating a COVID-19 Causal Loop Diagram model using the information of the events of COVID-19 in the UK. They then tried to identify some of the typical a systems archetypes which presented themselves in some of the loops within the overall model.

Their aim was to assess the speed and ease for non-experts to use a systems thinking tool, picking Causal Loop Diagrams, to get a better understanding of the complex COVID-19 problem. They found they needed to force themselves continually to look at the ‘big picture’ and not analyse any specific Cause-Effect loops. Their COVID-19 CLD is by no means comprehensive. It does however highlight some of the unforeseen consequences of the current actions taken.  

Panel members 

David Cole has over 30 years' experience of managing projects, programmes, and portfolios to deliver products, services, and business change in private and public sector organisations. As a management consultant he has also advised these organisations on the management of their programmes and portfolios. He is a Chartered Engineer, a PRINCE2 Practitioner and a founder member and former chair of the APM Systems Thinking SIG.

He runs the systems thinking in project management blog.

Andrew Wright has 30 years’ experience in managing innovative and complex projects and is a founder member of the APM System Thinking SIG. He has extensive experience of teaching project management to organisations including Rolls Royce, E-ON, AMEC and Sellafield Ltd, at the University of Manchester, the University of Cumbria, UCL and MMU in parallel to his consultancy practice, and recently published a book on project success.

He is a Fellow of the APM and a Chartered Project Professional. 


Cesar Rendora is a Chartered Civil Engineer (UK) and a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (FICE). He is a highly experienced engineering manager with proven track record of delivering major infrastructure projects. This includes programme, project, design and construction management for a broad range of business sectors both in the UK and overseas.

Cesar’s is a Member of the Association for Project Management (MAPM). He has a BSc Civil Engineering from Queen Mary College, University of London, an MSc/DIC Concrete Structures from Imperial College London and an MBA Business Administration from University of Warwick. Currently, Cesar is a Director of Operations at Jacobs. 


Brian Slaughter has 25+ years’ experience with proven successful results for project/programme management delivering system solutions across multiple sectors including finance, retail, online, service operations, aviation, engineering, and transport sectors. He loves a collaborative approach to system solutions roll-out with the business change. This has included management of complex systems integration with multiple stakeholders and subcontracts across UK, Europe and beyond. A chartered engineer with PRINCE2, SCRUM & Agile, with strong experience of applying best practice frameworks & methods. He has experience of driving change, business transformation, service transition, project strategies, technology roadmaps with onshore & offshore resources. He has been a full MAPM member for approaching twenty years.

Franco Curtolo is a Chartered Engineer, registered with the UK Engineering Council and on the Engineers Mobility Forum (EMF), South African Section, of the International Register of Engineers. He is both a systems engineer and project manager with a Masters degree in Nuclear Engineering from Queen Mary, University of London and over 35 years’ working experience

Frank currently specialises in integrating Systems Engineering with Project Management and using Systems Thinking to manage complex projects, programmes, and portfolios and managing the complexity of organisational change.

He currently works as Principal Consultant at Pcubed - Program Planning Professionals, UK Limited, who have won the prestigious APM Project Management Consultancy of the Year Award, twice.

Dania Issa is currently a lecturer in project management with background in construction and civil engineering. She is the module leader of risk management for complex projects within the MSc project management course. She also supports the teaching of project planning, International Project Management, and Project Management in Practice.

Dania has both academic and industry experience working as a project planner, assistant project manager, lecturer, researcher, both in the UK and abroad. Research interests include Public Private Partnership projects, complexity and chaos theories, system thinking, risk management and sustainability.


Phil Knight hasover 30 years of programme and project management experience spanning a wide range of business change projects in the UK and internationally. He is a committee member of the APM Systems Thinking SIG, a Scaled Agile (SAFe) practitioner and a member of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE).

Foundation training started as an engineering management apprentice in the MOD’s naval dockyards, followed by a career with tier 1 sub-system supply chain partners in support of platform prime contractors. This led to his current role at General Dynamics Mission Systems, which is a leading defence prime contractor and complex systems integrator and is the Transition Partner for the MOD’s MORPHEUS programme – for the next generation of Tactical Communications Information System.

Phil has progressively adopted systems (holistic) thinking as a core way of working, which is applied to all phases of the project life cycle along with the versatility to select the optimum agile, or hybrid, project management methodology and framework.

and Michael Emes

Webinar resources

David, Andrew, Michael, Cesar, Brian, Franco and Dania have very kindly allowed this presentation to be made available for viewing. The slides on Slideshare, and the webinar recording on YouTube are now available in our APM resources area and also embedded below for reference.

This webinar is suitable for professionals with an intermediate level of experience.

     #apmsystems   #apmwebinar




APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition reference

Section Description
Setting up for success
Shaping the early lifecycle
Engaging stakeholders
Risk management
Change control



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