Thursday, May 14, 2015

How to Leverage System Thinking in Management Practice?

 Systems Thinking advocate the "whole greater than the sum of its parts" concept. 

A system; is dynamic series of processes whose relative nature defines the emergent behavior we see; the "whole greater than the sum of its parts" concept. It is the emergent behavior of subsystems within super systems that define the nature of the gestalt processes we see: consciousness, social behaviors, business connectivity...etc. Systems Thinking (ST), while a representation of how we see patterns in life, is also an emergent property of the basic aspects of nature, starting from the quantum to the Newtonian, layer on layer of systems, each with their own emergent behavior, coming together to create super systems we interact with daily. From business management perspective, how do you leverage Systems Thinking in either strategy management, change management, talent management, or overall corporate management practices:

Systems Thinking does not create change per se. Leaders and influencers create change. System thinking is just a tool at their disposition to try to evaluate beforehand what will happen as they start the process. As a social construction, System Thinking is positive because it helps understand the links between one action, a solution, and the different behaviors it might influence, which could worsen the situation instead of helping it. By comparing different actions, solutions, together, gives you a better understanding of the potential impact of each action and helps you identify the one that will have a better chance of success overall. Hence, what is more important is identifying the right goals, because you can use system thinking to achieve whatever goals you wish. So ST is positive, but for the approach to be positive in the social world, you need to stay away from thinking that a system is a "thing," you need to remember it is only a tool, in implementing the goal, you need to understand humans and how they change.

Systems Thinking is to understand how the “part” interconnected with the”whole”: This is always a good start when working to build collaboration: understanding where each is coming from and having some trust from them. This is something that you should work towards. And organizations arise when the scale of the interrelations, interactions, or interrelational interactions surpasses our brain's capacity to be able to do whatever it does with smaller scales. It's important to leverage ST to understand the variety of business relationship:
-Interrelational: management processes being developed that help to reduce the tensions, frictions, and conflicts that arise.
-Interactional: management processes being developed that help to communicate objects and concepts.
-Interrelational interactions: management processes being developed that help to communicate objects and concepts that are being used, or that are wanted by at least one other person.
-Organizational - management processes being developed that help to live together despite the disjunction process that took place as the size of the group exceeded your brain's threshold.

Systems Thinking advocates holism, interdisciplinarity, and versatility: From a business management perspective, Systems Thinking advocates the concept of “business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces.” In terms of how to break down silos between cultures, shared goals are useful. These goals should include the needs of all different cultures. For example, when coming up with new innovations, engineers should not only be responsible for technical performance, but also for ensuring that their ideas can be made and that they will be profitable for the company. This can involve training for each group in areas where they are weak - teaching engineers how to build the financial case for a new product. Shared goals should also be reinforced by shared KPIs so that each culture is incentivized to think beyond their silo.

Systems Thinking is more as a tool, not an object. Social constructions are by their very nature created views of reality, more for what we don't know than do. Systems Thinking, much like the scientific method, is an approach, to how we view nature. Do not view Systems Thinking as a social convention or construction, but more a tool, maybe even an algorithm of how the businesses or even the universe actually works. Filling in the details of course and understanding them may take lifetimes. One of the negative impacts of system thinking is associated with the reification process. If you start thinking that a system is an object, you might take away the responsibility in the creation of the social environment you live in. But humans with all the technology have grown used to putting names to widgets, more than seeing the patterns inherent in growth to a given goal of understanding, for example, the constructionist view vs. reductionist view, everything is a social convention, as if the only reality is in how we look at things, rather than discovering the nature of things in what we study. And this is an extension of the ancient argument of reality being continuous versus discontinuous.

Systems Thinking is neither positive nor negative. Systems Thinking is more as a tool, not an object. If system thinking is "effective," its effect can be positive or negative in any given value system. Whether that effect was intended might be a result of the system thinker's ability. If an effect is both intended and negative, that would be the result of an able system thinker's ill intent (according to the given value system). Systems thinking involves identifying systems and studying their dynamics. Understanding what is going on is one positive result, and it satisfies curiosity. When a system produces "bad" side-effects, we may wish to intervene. Understanding a system is a necessary precondition for an effective intervention. Anything else is a shot in the dark.


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