When things get complicated in organizations, we can be tempted to “break them up” to try and simplify. Divide and conquer. That just makes matters worse. Why? Because an organization is in fact a whole system. Everything inside is interconnected and interdependent, so when we try and manage them any differently we inevitably underperform.
By not seeing our organizations as systems we run into a constellation of problems. Some of the most obvious are:
- poor communication among managers and staff
- lack of shared understanding of goals
- poor planning
- lack of clear and authentic overall strategy
- lack of focus on a leverage point for the whole system (constraint)
- lack of clear ability to understand current reality – not able to join the dots
- lack of clarity on the outcome that decisions will have
- lack of clarity on true potential for growth
- underperformance through lack of ability to deliver projects on time and within budget
The knowledge gap for managers
Understanding an organization as a whole system is not a matter of faith, it’s a matter of science. This is what we now know thanks to the advances in our understanding of nature and networks. The problem is that many managers lag behind in their knowledge of what management needs to be today. They still manage organizations divided up into traditional functions and departments. This worked well a century ago but in today’s complex and interdependent world it is no way to improve performance. Indeed, it leads to consistent underperformance.
Systems based management for a better future
We believe that a systemic approach to management builds robust and resilient organizations through 3 major strands:
1. building interdependent processes managed through the control of variation
2. subordinating these interdependencies to a strategically chosen element of the system called constraint
3. designing the organization as a network of interdependent projects with a goal
This focus moves organizations beyond their current fragmentation and silos and towards a way of thinking and behaving that benefits not only themselves but their supply chain and community. It is a win-win practice for management and it build a better and more sustainable future for everyone involved, internally and externally.
The managers and leaders we need today
We need managers today that think systemically and understand how to improve continuously the entire system that they govern. This does not have to be an innate talent. People can learn to develop systemic understanding through the right methods and tools. We need to quit learning things that are no longer relevant and have the courage to embrace appropriate models and methods. It’s a transition, and it begins with recognizing the problem.
Sign up to our blog here and shift your thinking towards broader, systemic possibilities for yourself and your organization. Intelligent Management provides education and training on systemic management, W. Edwards Deming’s management philosophy and the Theory of Constraints (Decalogue methodology) in North America and Europe.
About the Blog Author and Editor
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management and author of the business novel+ website The Human Constraint that has sold in over 20 countries. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore, founder, and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York.