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A systems thinking approach for project vulnerability management

Ludovic‐Alexandre Vidal (Laboratoire Genie Industriel, Ecole Centrale Paris, Malabry, France)
Franck Marle (Laboratoire Genie Industriel, Ecole Centrale Paris, Malabry, France)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 2 March 2012




The purpose of this paper is to develop the concept of project vulnerability in order to focus on the weaknesses of a project system, instead of focusing on risk evaluation only. The paper concentrates on a systems thinking‐based view to highlight the potentially endangered elements of a project, including its outcomes.


The paper gives a broad state of the art in many scientific domains; a definition of project vulnerability; a description of a project vulnerability management process, including identification, analysis and response plan; and a test on an industrial case study.


The author's project vulnerability management process permits one to concentrate directly on the existing weaknesses of a project system, which may create potential damages regarding the project values creation. By focusing on this system, response plans may be more adapted to the existing short comings of the project.

Research limitations/implications

Some aspects of the vulnerability definition should be refined, like the concepts of susceptibility or cruciality. Other promising works may focus on the evaluation of the non‐resistance and resilience, notably thanks to the introduction of interdependences which exist in complex projects.

Practical implications

A case study was done on a decision support system (FabACT) developed at Hôpital Européen Georges Pompidou Pharmacy department. The aim of this project was to achieve a better balance between the workload and the efficiency of the compounding unit.


The paper presents an innovative way to analyse a project's vulnerability by focusing on its existing weaknesses using a systems thinking‐based approach.



Vidal, L. and Marle, F. (2012), "A systems thinking approach for project vulnerability management", Kybernetes, Vol. 41 No. 1/2, pp. 206-228.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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