Aspen trees are one of the largest biological organisms in the world. Each tree is genetically identical to the next and actually connected through their roots underground. One stand of trees can cover acres of land. A stand in Utah that covers over 100 acres is considered one of the largest biological masses in the world.
Interconnectedness is Long Standing Leadership Concept
The concept of interconnectedness has long been a part of human organizational development as well. Changes made to one part of a company can have an impact or unintended consequence on another part. Similarly, acting on the effect of a situation may not impact the cause. For example, it’s common for people to tell us that the biggest problem they have in their organization is “communication”. In reality, poor communication (the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing), may be the result of conflicting priorities, lack of trust, ineffective systems or a host of other issues.
“Whole Systems” Leadership Development
The idea of considering interconnectedness or “whole systems” applies to individual management development as well as to organizations. Many leaders approach improving performance for managers through the efficiency mindset. This method is focused on installing skills and habits in the areas in which the individual is deemed “deficient”. It assumes that the deficiency is clearly defined; that it is the sole source of the problem and that other characteristics are operating sufficiently to support the desired change. This efficiency model is a very mechanistic approach, often attacking the symptom rather than the problem. It is akin to quieting a dashboard rattle with a cardboard wedge when the real problem is wheel alignment.
For example, a leader might focus on an individual’s need to improve their skill in communicating not realizing that they have significant challenges managing priorities. In their day-to-day firefighting efforts, they are unable to invest the time required to communicate effectively. Addressing the communication skill without also focusing on priority management is a waste of development resources.
Transform Leadership Development with Whole Systems Approach
We believe that people are complex systems comprised of characteristics and traits that are connected and interdependent. True transformational improvements or real change for individuals can only come from a whole system, or more specifically, whole person approach. This approach allows the individual to evaluate their specific improvement needs in the context of all characteristics and then implement an appropriate and effective action plan to realize the desired changes.