A system is an entity which maintains its
existence and functioning as a whole for some purpose through the mutual interaction of its parts.
Systems thinking is your ability to things
as a whole (or holistically) including the many different types of
relationships between the many elements in a complex system. "Systems
thinking is a sensibility – for the subtle interconnectedness that gives
living systems their unique character."7
Growing Demand for
"End-to-end business processes are dynamic
systems, but today's business professionals are generally not trained in
general systems thinking. Too often constrained to a perspective limited by
ingrained business practices, rigid scripts and structured input-output
work, few professionals have a wide-angle view of, or experience dealing
with, end-to-end business processes."2
of Systems Thinking
The goal of systems thinking is to manage
the rapidly growing complexity of the worlds of business and technology.
The task of a
process manager is to create systems, within a sensibly structured
business, that empowers employees
and enables people to achieve higher productivity and greater
of Systems Thinking
Systems thinking "focuses on the whole,
not the parts, of a complex system. It concentrates on the interfaces and
boundaries of components, on their connections and arrangement, on the
potential for holistic systems to achieve
results that are greater than the sum
of the parts. Mastering systems thinking means overcoming the major
obstacles to building the
process-managed enterprise – for every business process is a whole
Systems thinking characterizes many of the
world's leading executives. It is a formal discipline of
management science that deals with the whole
business system and in terms of the
interconnections and interactions of its parts.
"Many managers fail to see the forest for
the trees. This is not an either/or problem. The trick is to see both the
forest and the trees. Systems thinking is a methodology for doing both
simultaneously. It's more than a methodology, it's like learning a new
language and takes nearly as long as learning a foreign language to achieve
maturity. The human mind is notoriously poor at predicting the performance
characteristics of multivariable systems. Systems thinking can help. What
you can train your mind to do is to look for counterintuitive leverage
points and to construct scenarios where results beyond the obvious are
possible," says Jim Botkin.8
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) teaches you to habitually take a systems
view of things – to look at the different elements in a situation as parts
of a system which functions for good or ill. This system involves people and
a sequence of events, thoughts, feelings, actions and interactions. Once you
understand how the system is working – for or against you – you have a means
of structuring things differently in the future...
Case in Point: 10 Strategic
strategic management concepts typically
dominate current thinking on strategy. These range from the early Design and
Planning schools to the more recent Learning, Cultural and Environmental
Schools.1 While academics and consultants keep focusing on these
narrow perspectives, business managers will be better served if they strive
to see the wider picture.2 Some of strategic management's
greatest failings, in fact, occurred when one of these concepts was taken too
Recall the story of the blind men
measuring an elephant - to one, the elephant seemed "very much like a wall",
and to another, grasping the elephant's trunk, it felt very much like a
snake. "We are all like the blind men and the strategy process is
our elephant", say Mintzberg, Ahlstrand and Lampel.3 "Everyone
has seized some part or other of the animal and ignored the rest.
Consultants have generally gone for the tusks, while academics have
preferred to take photo safaris, reducing the animal to a static two
dimensions. As a consequence, managers have been encouraged to embrace one
narrow perspective or another, like the glories of
planning or the wonders of
Unfortunately, the process will only work for them when they deal with the
entire beast, as a living organism."
The Power of Your
If you build broad
cross-functional expertise, no idea will be wasted! Your mind can accept
only those ideas that have a frame of reference with your existing
knowledge. It rejects everything else. If your knowledge is functionally
focused, you'll be open to new ideas related to your functional expertise
only and will miss all other learning and innovation opportunities. If you
develop a broad cross-functional expertise, no new idea will be wasted. It
will immediately connect with the existing knowledge and will inspire
you, energize you, and encourage your
The broader your net, the more fish you catch...
Case in Point The Value System
Your firm's value chain
links to the value chains of upstream suppliers and downstream buyers. The
result is a larger stream of activities known as the value system. The
development of a competitive advantage depends
not only on your firm's specific value chain, but also on the value system
of which your firm is a part.
Critical Thinking: Socratic Questions
Socratic questioning is at the heart of critical thinking
they enhance your critical thinking skills.
Socratic questions challenge
accuracy and completeness of thinking in a way that acts to move
people towards their ultimate goal...
Thinking Tests: Who owns the zebra?
There are five houses, each in
with a front door of a different color, and inhabited by people of
different nationalities, with different pets and drinks. Each person
eats a different kind of food.
The Australian lives in the
house with the red door.
The Italian owns the dog...