Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to describe how the application of systems thinking to designing, managing and improving business processes has resulted in a new and unique holonic-based process modeling methodology know as process orientated holonic modeling. Design/methodology/approach: The paper describes key systems thinking axioms that are built upon in an overview of the methodology; the techniques are described using an example taken from a large organization designing and manufacturing capital goods equipment operating within a complex and dynamic environment. These were produced in an 18 month project, using an action research approach, to improve quality and process efficiency. Findings: The findings of this research show that this new methodology can support process depiction and improvement in industrial sectors which are characterized by environments of high variety and low volume (e.g. projects; such as the design and manufacture of a radar system or a hybrid production process) which do not provide repetitive learning opportunities. In such circumstances, the methodology has not only been able to deliver holonic-based process diagrams but also been able to transfer strategic vision from top management to middle and operational levels without being reductionistic. Originality/value: This paper will be of interest to organizational analysts looking at large complex projects whom require a methodology that does not confine them to thinking reductionistically in "task-breakdown" based approaches. The novel ideas in this paper have great impact on the way analysts should perceive organizational processes. Future research is applying the methodology in similar environments in other industries. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
- business process re-engineering
- operations management
- systems theory