By Stephen Haines
With Systems Thinking as your “thinking guide,” your journey through work and life will be more clear, simple, and quick. Systems, like ourselves, are made up of a set of components that work together for the overall objectives of the whole. We are all living, human systems and so are our teams, organizations, communities, and societies.
When life becomes bogged down in analytic thinking, piecemeal and either/or thinking, we lose any far-reaching vision or goals beyond making current problems disappear. This shortsighted approach hinders us with its many unintended negative consequences.
In Systems Thinking, the whole is primary and the parts are secondary. Systems Thinking approaches problems proactively and holistically, asking five questions in logical sequence:
This approach to life requires “backwards thinking”—from your ideal future vision and goals to the present day—to realize the actions necessary to “close the gap” to achieve desired outcomes. It also involves seeing the inter-connectedness and integration of the components of the living, human or organizational system—with each other, the desired outcomes, and all the key stakeholders. Therefore, Systems Thinking is Destination Thinking. Utilizing its ABCDE principles as a guide to thinking yields superior and sustainable results.
Many Uses of Systems Thinking
There are many practical and powerful applications of the ABC model, the core, universal thinking technology of Systems Thinking. The Haines Centre has divided these ABC applications into four levels. It is a simple system to learn and universally apply because it uses the same ABC framework on all levels.
Level 1: Enterprise-Wide Strategic Planning—The first step is to develop a strategic plan and management system for the entire organization using the simple ABC technology.
Level 2: Business Unit/Department Planning—You have specific business units within your organization that should have three-year business plans. A suite of consistent planning techniques using the ABCs can be developed in departments such as HR, Training, IS, and Marketing.
Level 3: Strategic Change—Systems Thinking can be applied to ensure the needed cultural change for the organization, units, and departments, via traditional OD and training interventions, to deliver business excellence and superior results.
Level 4: Daily Leadership—Systems Thinking also can establish a suite of specific, consistent, and practical leadership development, HR practices, project management, decision-making, and organizational effectiveness applications on a daily basis.
With Systems Thinking as your core thinking framework, you will have numerous practical, simple, and effective ABC applications at your fingertips. By combining a consistent cascade of execution through the four levels, you will lead your organization in enterprise-wide change. The result is business excellence that creates customer value and greater return on investment.
And that’s a destination worth traveling to.
Stephen Haines is a 2011 inductee of the Association for Strategic Planning Hall of Fame, and founder and CEO of the Haines Centre for Strategic Management, which has offices in more than 25 countries and focuses on strategy management powered by Systems Thinking. For articles, models, or assessments on the Rollercoaster of Change, call 619.276.9015 or visit www.Systems ThinkingPress.com.