Leverage Systems Thinking

This year, the Pandemic arrived in a dramatic way. Most of us were not prepared for the size and scope of its impact. Many organizations and teams may find that they are operating in an unfamiliar world, a “new normal” that requires a different approach to work, and even life as we know it. As a leader, how do you navigate a landscape in which you may not be prepared to guide your team or workgroup in a positive direction? It may require your team not only to adjust but to transform their ways of working. In an unknown space and time, it’s often helpful to apply known methodologies to make sense of what’s happening and to create a shared understanding of the current circumstances so you can make educated decisions about strategies, tactics, and next steps.

In all walks of life, people employ established methods to make improvements and achieve better outcomes. For example, the Suzuki method is a way of helping children learn the piano at a very early age. Developed over 50 years ago by Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki, it is still one of the most popular teaching methods today. Over the years, there have been various commercial methods that teach a second or foreign language, yet they all use some of the same basic steps to achieve their objectives. In organizational development, there is the concept of systems thinking that can help guide an organization to assess where they are and isolate key initiatives to transform the organization in an intentional, positive way.

The premise of systems thinking is that organizations are open systems that process the inputs of the environment to produce outputs or results. Those open systems that respond most effectively to the external environment to produce the desired results are the more successful ones. These open systems work to process the inputs (think fuel injection system, respiratory system, etc) and these factors must all work effectively and be in alignment for the outputs to be produced.

In organizations, some basic elements make up the internal systems that drive results, regardless of the goals of the organization. Those elements are:

  1. Strategy – what the organization is trying to accomplish

  2. Structure- how the organization is arranged

  3. Methods- how the organization get things done

  4. Process- the repeatable steps used to produce the desired results

  5. Culture- how the organization’s people collectively act and behave

All of these elements have detailed components that must work together to achieve the results of that element. Plus, each element must work in concert with the other elements to ensure that there is no wasted effort, big time lags, and/or lack of effectiveness.

You can use this model as a method to assess how your organization is performing. Each element can be evaluated to see what improvements can be made, and how each can work to create better alignment. This exercise can define a shared understanding that allows the organization to be more prepared for unknown obstacles down the road. When they are, the organization can improve its agility to respond to the current environment nimbly, increasing its outcomes and chances for long term success.

PS. For information about how ADEPT can help guide you and your team through this process, contact us in the comment section below.

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