Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Is System Thinker a Slow Decision Maker

It’s critical to have an in-depth understanding (via ST) about the “speed of business.”

Digital is paradoxical: on one side, it seems everything in business is speeding up, the speed to learn, the speed to design, the speed to produce, the speed to market and the speed to adapt. On the other side, the business as a whole is becoming over-complex and hyper-connected with ambiguity and uncertainty, every opportunity has risks in it, and every solution might cause the new problem. Think fast, or think slow - Shall you take guts feeling to decide fast, or be a system thinker to decide “slowly”?




There are different situations calling for different modes: One should change modes according to circumstance, not try to shoehorn a particular mode into every circumstance. There are times when speed matters. There are times when it is necessary to act quickly. Surely this is why we have reflexes. There is the danger of becoming the rabbit staring into the headlights of the oncoming car. Sometimes it is necessary to do something just to collect more information about the system/environment we find ourselves in. Test the water before you dive in, Digital is about flow, the fluidity helps wash out and move forward.


It’s critical to have an in-depth understanding (via ST) about the “speed of business”: Everything has two sides, on one side, we all know the increasing speed of change; the other side of the coin is that perhaps too many things are done too quickly these days. Have we really considered the consequences of the "speed of business?" In many circumstances, perhaps not, it's been an instinctive response. You competition beats you to market; you respond by beating them to market next time. Who says there aren't other ways to beat the competition? System thinkers respond with speed that is relative to their experience and understanding of known global information; thus, reaction-to-action time would be enhanced by one's upwards learning curve or accumulation of such information, at the same time "speed" may be offset or enhanced by new problem-solving approaches/tools used.


Decision making is contextual and situational: It takes a unique individual to understand a situation and relate it to the present. Then, in a particular market, to understand the culture of how that system works. We become a more global community, but we also want to embrace our past. One must be cautious in implementing a system that does not fit the culture. Hence, is a "slow thinker" on demand? Generally speaking, strategic decision making takes more time to contemplate than making tactical or operational level decision, the goal is to have the right information to make the right decision at the right time. It was argued that even reactive - quick - behavior is systemic. People have a mix of reactive, adaptive and generative behavior, not in the same proportions, even for the same person. Quickly identifying a situation as -ST- archetype might help trigger high-speed ST actions. That capacity can be built over time through continuous practice path. The size of the archetypical "chunk" to be quickly spotted might also increase over time.


Technically, model building is "slow" and use of the model is "fast": The process of building a systems model takes time and resources. For example, properly modeling the key relationships and variables in company performance would require coordinated time and effort on the part of management and employees. Once these models are created, they tend to be robust, only require fine tuning and are very responsive to data input. So, the model build is "slow" and use of the model is "fast."


OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) would have been a good scenario to illustrate management systems; and the concept of feedback loops have systematic effects on decision making. We try to identify the parts of a system and how those parts are connected. We look at things from different angles. We think about how change over time has influenced the current situation. We also try to identify potential unintended consequences of our actions. This holistic examination of issues/problems takes time.

Decision making is both science and art, think fast and slow. Thinking fast doesn't mean to be rush up to make gut feeling decisions all the times, and deciding slowly also doesn't mean to be procrastinated to make timely decisions. The goal is to make effective decisions via leveraging both systems thinking and intuition accordingly.

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