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Systems Thinking for Safety/Systems Maps

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Systems maps (Open University, 2014a, b) [1][2] describe the structure of a system under consideration from a particular perspective and for a particular purpose. The elements of systems maps may include anything, for instance people, equipment, rules and procedures, information, operational environment and training. Each of elements may have sub-elements, some of which may have further sub-elements.

The systems map, including the components and the boundary, is defined by the purpose of the system that you define. Systems maps are a snapshot of the current situation (the system-as-found).

The process of drawing systems maps generates insights and understanding. This comes from having to decide what to include and what to exclude; deciding where components are located; redefining boundaries; and sometimes starting again. It is useful, however, to pay attention to both the process and the product.


  1. ^ Open University. (2014a). System maps and influence diagrams (basic tutorial).
  2. ^ Open University. (2014b). Systems maps: searching for system.