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Unit of study_

PMGT1711: Systems Thinking in Projects

Semester 2, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Projects exist as and within complex systems of human activity. Systems thinking enables us to understand the patterns of interconnection both within projects and their dependencies to contextual forces. This Unit introduces students to a variety of systems thinking techniques which will help in responding to the interconnectedness of all things and taking action in face of uncertainty and ambiguity. Upon completion of the course, the students will learn to think and question critically, while building skills to deliver projects that align with organisational strategic objectives. This unit will help student understand how to manage change while exercising empathy and learn to listen effectively.

Unit details and rules

Unit code PMGT1711
Academic unit Project Management
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Michael Buhagiar,
Lecturer(s) Michael Buhagiar,
Tutor(s) Claire Kim,
Boris Jin,
Jafar Hamra,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Supervised exam
Final paper
Pen-and-paper assessment conducted in exam period
40% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Online task Focus questions
Questions to be answered before Weeks 2-6 workshops
5% Multiple weeks 150 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Participation Workshops participation
Workshop activities and discussions
5% Ongoing All semester
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Tutorial quiz Week 6 quiz
In-class MCQ quiz, pen and paper, closed book
10% Week 06 28 mins
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Assignment group assignment Team Charter
Presentation teams to complete a charter outlining key aspects of teamwork
5% Week 08
Due date: 24 Sep 2023 at 23:59
4-5 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Tutorial quiz Week 11 quiz
In-class MCQ quiz, pen-and-paper, closed book
10% Week 11 28 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Presentation group assignment Group presentation
A 15 min in-class team presentation on nominated topic
25% Week 12 15 mins
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

  • Focus Questions: Answers to five focus questions on topics to be covered in the next week’s workshop, to be submitted online in Weeks 2 – 6. Due 9 am on day of workshop. Each worth 1% of final mark, total 5 marks.
  • Participation: Contribution to workshop activities and discussions throught semester. Worth 5% of final mark. 
  • Quizzes: Two quizzes in multiple choice question format, each comprising 20 questions to be answered in 28 mins. Week 6 quiz will cover the topics studied in weeks 1 to 5. Week 11 quiz will cover the topics studied in weeks 6 to 10. Each question to have four possible answers, with one correct answer. These will be closed book assessments, to be completed in class in workshop time. Each quiz worth 10% of final mark.
  • Team charter: Presentation teams to complete the charter template, including contact details, performance expectations and penalties, meetings schedule. Students must sign their team  charter to gain 5 marks for assessment. Due Sun Week 8.
  • Group presentation: Teams to redesign a system of human activity using any tools and models covered in the unit. Members to select a topic they care about as a group. Possibilities for topics could include an aspect of social planning or government policy, or even local scenarios such as the way the university prepares graduates for the workforce - there are many possibilities. To be delivered by teams of no more than five in class in workshop time. Worth 25% of final mark.
  • Final paper: To be completed in formal exam period. The paper will comprise four (4) questions, each with a project scenario and a number of short answer questions. All questions worth equal marks. Worth 40% of final mark.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

For every calendar day up to and including ten calendar days after the due date, a penalty of 5% of the maximum awardable marks will be applied to late work. The penalty will be calculated by first marking the work, and then subtracting 5% of the maximum awardable mark for each calendar day after the due date. Example: Consider an assignment's maximum awardable mark is 10; the assignment is submitted 2 days late; and the assignment is marked as 7/10. After applying the penalty, marks will be: 7 - (0.5 x 2) = 6/10. For work submitted more than ten calendar days after the due date a mark of zero will be awarded. The marker may elect to, but is not required to, provide feedback on such work. Refer to section 7A of Assessment procedures policy available at:

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction to unit. History of systems thinking. Types of systems. Workshop (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 02 Hard and soft systems thinking. Mental models. Laws of the Fifth Discipline. Workshop (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6 LO7
Week 03 Types of complex projects. Structural complexity. 1. System dynamics Workshop (2 hr) LO1 LO4 LO5 LO8
Week 04 Structural complexity 2: Leverage points. The power of paradigms. The risk inter-dependencies tool Workshop (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5 LO8
Week 05 Directional complexity 1. Viable Systems Model. Workshop (2 hr) LO2 LO5 LO8
Week 06 Directional complexity 2. Multi-methodology in series. Soft systems methodology. Workshop (1.5 hr) LO2 LO5 LO8
Week 07 Images of projects Workshop (2 hr) LO7 LO8
Week 08 Critical system heuristics Workshop (2 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6 LO8
Week 09 Technical complexity. Jazz (time-linked semi-structures). Workshop (2 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6 LO8
Week 10 Temporal complexity Workshop (2 hr) LO3 LO5 LO7 LO8
Week 11 Capstone activity Workshop (1.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 12 Presentations Workshop (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 13 Presentations Workshop (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. differentiate between selected key ‘control’ systems thinking models
  • LO2. differentiate between selected key ‘soft’ systems thinking models
  • LO3. critique the limitations of different approaches to systems thinking
  • LO4. select from appropriate systems thinking models according to context
  • LO5. apply systemic conceptual and analytic thinking to understand situations, cultures and strategies
  • LO6. explore fallacies of judgement
  • LO7. explain the impact of mental models on personal and stakeholder perspectives
  • LO8. apply systems thinking approaches to develop and evaluate options with potential to meet needs of all parties.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Updates to this unit for 2023 reflect the return to entirely in-class delivery. Assessment changes include returning to pen-and-paper mode for the quizzes, the removal of the essay, and the addition of a final paper.
  • Study Commitment: Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.
  • Text-matching software for Assignment Submission: As part of the assessment process, text matching software such as Turnitin will be used to identify plagiarism and/or be used for providing feedback.
  • Confidential Peer Evaluation: As part of the group contribution assessment process, collaborative & self-peer evaluation tools (e.g. SparkPlus, CATME, etc.) may be used, either on a confidential or non-confidential basis, to understand contributions and interactions amongst group members. Marks may be adjusted for an individual team member, following on from the peer evaluation process.
  • Mark Moderation: Mark moderation: There may be statistically defensible moderation when combining the marks from each component to ensure consistency of marking between markers, and alignment of final grades with unit outcomes.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.