© 2019

Systems Thinking for Management Consultants

Introducing Holistic Flexibility


Part of the Flexible Systems Management book series (FLEXSYS)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxxiii
  2. Theoretical Deliberations

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Rajneesh Chowdhury
      Pages 3-28
    3. Rajneesh Chowdhury
      Pages 29-55
  3. Case Narratives

  4. Consulting Considerations

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 401-401
    2. Rajneesh Chowdhury
      Pages 403-426
    3. Rajneesh Chowdhury
      Pages 427-456
    4. Rajneesh Chowdhury
      Pages 457-484

About this book


This book discusses how systems thinking and approaches can aid management consultants in navigating the complexities of client advisory in current realities. It thereby brings to the forefront aspects of holism, flexibility and responsibility - the keys to success in today’s world.

Management consultants are called in to offer an independent expert view of an organisation/ a situation and are expected to address some of the most pressing problems businesses face. The client does not exist in a silo, but in a complex environment that lies at the intersection of a range of internal and external factors that are often unseen and unpredictable. The organisation itself presents an alien territory that the consultant is expected to acclimatise to within a very short period of time, and come up with solutions that “insiders” would not have been able to visualise.

The book presents a range of ideas, concepts and reference cases that are relevant and topical for consultants in their daily work. It argues that systems thinking allows holism and flexibility in management consulting – while holism is about the ability to encompass the environmental and organisational complexity, flexibility is about the ability to think creatively and adopt different approaches to accommodate this complexity.

With commentaries, case studies, conceptual models and perspectives that cut across multiple industries, sectors and countries, this book is a valuable resource for academics and professionals alike. The book’s inner pages and its page on contain additional comments providing perspectives of clients, industry experts and academia.


Healthcare Knowledge Management Project management Organizational Collaboration Technology Management Flexibility Systems Thinking

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.New DelhiIndia

About the authors

Rajneesh Chowdhury is a management researcher and consultant with focus on organisational development, social impact and corporate reputation. He applies systems thinking in human centred design and change management. He has advised and worked with some of the foremost organisations in India, Canada, USA, UK and Japan. Rajneesh has published widely in several peer-reviewed journals and books; his work brings to the surface the power of critical systems thinking in practice.

Rajneesh currently serves as member of the Editorial Board of Systems Research and Behavioral Science, the official journal of the International Federation for Systems Research. He is also Visiting Fellow at the Faculty of Business & Law at the Open University (UK). In the past, he has been part of several international research and teaching groups.     

Rajneesh has completed his MSc in Management Systems from the Centre for Systems Studies (University of Hull, UK) and MA in Sociology from the Centre for the Study of Social Systems (Jawaharlal Nehru University, India).

Bibliographic information

Industry Sectors
Chemical Manufacturing
Consumer Packaged Goods
Materials & Steel
Finance, Business & Banking


“This book is a unique contribution to systems thinking where Rajneesh Chowdhury presents a wide range of case narratives culminating in his idea of 'holistic flexibility'. Through the discussions, the author convincingly argues for the case of 'responsible outcomes' for management interventions that is much needed for corporations, not-for-profits and governments operating in the current day. Insights presented in this book can have far-reaching impact in the areas presented, and beyond.” (Zenia Tata, Chief Impact Officer, XPRIZE Foundation (USA)) 

“Rajneesh Chowdhury's book brings to the forefront some of the most critical aspects required to build organisations that are meaningful, responsible and sustainable. I am convinced of his abilities to navigate complex situations and his capacity of advisory on responsible outcomes for businesses. It is this first-hand experience that Rajneesh leverages that makes his arguments in the book convincing and exciting to read.” (Dr. P Mohamed Ali, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, GALFAR (Oman))

“Rajneesh Chowdhury touches upon a range of exciting case studies in the field of organisational development, employee engagement and change management. Particularly exciting is the 'Systemic OD matrix' that he arrives at as a result of his experiences and learnings.  His insights will be greatly beneficial for consultants and managers working in this field.” (Sanjay Mitra, Organisational Development Consultant and Past Global Head of Human Resources, GlobalLogic (India))    

“This book addresses key issues on how organisations can and should operate responsibly to build and safeguard their corporate reputation. Having worked with consultants for several years and having myself provided consulting services extensively, I can say that the ideas proposed in this book will serve as a strong reckoner for the consultancy industry.” (Pierre Cardinal, President, Axel Strategies (Canada)) 

“Rajneesh Chowdhury takes the reader through a comprehensive journey of understanding the relevance of systems thinking for consultants and change makers. Rajneesh's argument on building 'responsible outcomes' for change interventions brings in an onus to systems consultants to work towards solutions that are meaningful and sustainable. This is especially so at a time when we are moving to agile methods of driving change. This book is a significant addition in the literature of management consulting, for students and practitioners of this science.” (Gopal N Sarma, Partner, Bain & Company (India))

“In his book, Rajneesh Chowdhury bridges his academic background in systems thinking with his professional career in management consulting. An eye-opening journey through a wide spectrum of cases and systems thinking approaches, finally introducing his own theory. This book is going to change the way we think about improving social structures. A must-read for any management consultant or any change agent.” (Dr. Nihar Jangle, Advisor, Climate Risk Insurance, GIZ (Germany)) 

“Rajneesh's perspective as a global executive with a vast background of applied consulting expertise makes this book a must read. His viewpoint on interconnectedness is a reminder that one can't just solve complex problems using a single blunt instrument or line of thinking. He lays out a practical framework for learning systems thinking and then applying it across different scenarios and industries. Working with Rajneesh over a number of years has given me the chance to apply his leading edge perspective to what I thought were our client's unique problems. He always has great new ideas and you will get many by following him along his journey of continuous learning.” (Justin Greeves,Executive Vice President, Global Research & Services, Porter Novelli, Omnicom Group (USA))  

“Cobra effect alludes to the adverse counter intuitive outcomes of policy decisions adopted in and for societal entities. The latter are characterised by a plethora of inter- and intra-connections that are determinants of the outcome, but are often missed out in the solution design. A perspective that combines systems approach, which mandates holism, and a flexible mind set is, perhaps, the only check against such contrarian eventuality. Rajneesh, through an eclectic mix of real life assignments, presents such problem situations and solutions developed, with systems perspective. An interesting read for professionals entrusted the task on managing societal entities.” (Prashun Dutta, Author and Past Chief Information Officer, Tata Power (India)) 

“In this illuminating book I see the story of an extraordinary journey the author has undertaken. Through a series of case studies enriched by participatory engagement, the central argument the author has made is pretty convincing: 'systems' is a 'state of mind', and it requires 'the ability to see interconnections and the capacity to constantly critique our own boundaries'. Here is a book - written with clarity and conviction - that is bound to make the students of management realise the need for cherishing 'flexibility' to adapt to the changing reality.” (Avijit Pathak, Professor, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University (India)) 

“A compelling book on using systems thinking in managing complex problems told through the author’s personal work experiences. Managers in many areas – healthcare, finance, smart cities, community development, and others – should have this information and will be well served by the examples in this book.” (Piyushimita Thakuriah, Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University, and Dean, Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy (USA)) 

“In Systems Thinking for Management Consultants: Introducing Holistic Flexibility, Chowdhury provides a comprehensive insight into the world of systems thinking. Practitioners will appreciate the accessibility of managerially-relevant ideas with their potential to inform business practice while academics will find this volume very useful in undertaking an initial foray into the world of systems thinking. A welcome addition to the world of systems thinking.” (Vishal Kashyap, Professor, School of Business Economics & Social Sciences, University of Graz (Austria)) 

“A much needed book that shows a journey in systems thinking and provides lots of practical insights informed by rigorous thinking and methodology in a diverse set of situations.  It will appeal do many researchers and consultants in applied systems thinking and all the different areas covered.” (José-Rodrigo Córdoba-Pachón, Associate Professor, School of Management, Royal Holloway University of London (UK))  

“This is a valuable practitioner-oriented book pinned on the strong theoretical foundations of systems thinking and flexibility. The author presents highly engaging narratives of his consulting journey by presenting a range of valuable case studies and touching upon pertinent topics. This book is highly recommended for systems thinkers and practitioners.” (Norma Romm, Professor, School of Educational Studies, University of South Africa (South Africa))