Yet coaches understand that a team’s performance depends on a range of supporting systems: A system of playing on the field that optimises players and team capability and opponent weaknesses; a system of selecting, training, and developing players; a system that engages and commits players to do their best, and so on.
While leaders and managers understand their organisations similarly perform, learn, and improve based on underpinning systems, a conscious approach to managing change and achieving high performance through systems – a Systems Thinking (ST) approach - seems less discussed.
A system can be described as having a purpose and made up of various interrelated or interdependent factors, such as activities and interactions. The arrangement and performance of these system’s factors affect the performance of the overall system, as does its ability to receive and use feedback.
There are three approaches to organisational systems, some you may recognise immediately and others you may not:
1. Functional Systems Approach
Functional systems are found everywhere in organisations, and provide the basis for developing standards of repeatable best practice and outcomes.
They are mainly recognised as “management systems” that include policies, procedures, and plans. For example, manufacturing production systems; project management systems; financial management systems; information management systems; employee performance management systems; and corporate performance management systems.
Sometimes these are built into even bigger systems – frameworks- such as IT Enterprise Architectures involving Portfolio and Project Management (PPM), Information Technical Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and ISO Standards.
- System audits e.g. ISO Standards auditing by second or third parties. Sample explanation at http://bit.ly/fFgCQ
- Process activity “waste” reduction e.g. “Lean” and Six Sigma in services (e.g. 30% to 50% of the cost in service organisations relates to slow speed or rework). Sample explanation at http://bit.ly/u4PnhM
- Customer relationship health & satisfaction e.g. Service Blueprinting. Sample explanation at http://bit.ly/u2RTak
- Enterprise Health (organisation, process, and job level) e.g. Human Performance Systems of Rummler & Brach, IPSI. Sample explanation at http://slidesha.re/vrfI8Z
- Integrated process improvement models e.g. Capability Maturity Models such as CMMI, P3M3. Sample explanation at http://bit.ly/uLckCn
For example, repeating patterns where “quick fixes” continually back fire causing delay and distress, yet remain repeated by management; where the obvious (repeated) “fix” results in subsequent unintended severe consequences due to unforeseen circumstances; where there is entrenched deep conflict between individuals or their issues; where crucial and important advice in decision making is continually left out; and where organisations remain in continual crisis and don’t improve because key elements underpinning and affecting their viability remain overlooked and not understood.
- “Archetypal” behaviour in decision patterns based on System Dynamics. Sample explanation at http://bit.ly/MryV0E
- Social Value Networks identifying patterns in employee and group value contribution (e.g. VNA). Sample explanation at http://bit.ly/hJkntF
- Viable Systems Model (VSM) based on the way an organisation needs to be designed to survive in a changing environment. Sample explanation at http://bit.ly/s4efwx
3. Interpretive Systems Approach
Interpretive systems can handle complex, or “messy”, problems or situations and look at both human designed systems (such as systems of work) and social systems (such as workplace relationships).
In doing so they can include characteristics of, for example, Functional systems but also, equally, include characteristics from the organisation’s social systems, like prevailing management and employee attitudes & behaviour.
In the process of developing such preferred Interpretive systems, the (subjective) views of the stakeholders and their issues in relationships with others and the “objective” organisational issues (such as problems with work systems) draw in full stakeholder involvement, and develop outcomes that resolve differences affecting performance.
This is an “emergent” process addressing system contradictions and participant expectations.
- Strategic Options Development and Analysis (SODA) for improved resolution of planning and policy issues. Sample explanation at http://bit.ly/SZiv3g
- Interactive Planning Methodology (Ackoff). Sample explanation at http://bit.ly/sZeFHi
- Social Systems Design (Churchman). Sample explanation at http://bit.ly/vYmSIS
- Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) of Peter Checkland. Sample explanation at http://bit.ly/umInEq
- Human Activity Systems (HAS). Human Activity System (HAS) modelling can be applied to a wide range of organisational performance issues. Sample explanation at http://slidesha.re/1g5HReB
4. A Systems Thinking Maturity Model
The three Systems Thinking Approaches may also be compared in other ways, refer to Figure 1 below:
- Simple refers to observable direct cause and effect relationships.
- Complicated refers to predictable but indirect cause and effect relationships; and
- Complex refers to unpredictable cause and effects, where causal relationships can only be seen retrospectively.
- Chaotic refers to where no system operates, resulting in crisis management and ad hoc decisions.
References:This blog is mainly based on an article by Professor Mike Jackson Fifty years of systems thinking for management found at http://bit.ly/rrLDBp
A more detailed supporting publication by Professor Mike Jackson is Systems Approaches to Management found at http://amzn.to/w5hpez