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Systems Thinking #5- Common Leverage & Convergence

When we are trying to solve customer problems it is important that we do not ignore the fact that business outcomes will also rely on defining a great product that needs to be supported by a strong org design that helps align with the flow of the business.

The application of convergent thinking practice ( picked from the design thinking paradigm ) is helpful in such situations for selecting the optimal solution from a finite set of ideas collected from different sources that can solve a discrete challenge quickly and efficiently.

Apply the process of system thinking to identify a finite set of ideas. Then identify common leverage points.

Apply the methods of convergent thinking using the data and information you need to guide a decision or solution.

Leverage the knowledge of subject experts and relevant data to drive systems thinking and provide the team with analysis to bring that information together into an educated decision. Convergent thinking will typically call for speed and accuracy

A decision that drives us to find a common leverage that can lead us to define and commit on all the three axes of customer problem, product, and org becomes a well-informed decision.

Leadership Skills # 3: Establishing Trust

Often times you would encounter that your safe environment changes as there are changes to the teams you work with. It is important for us to keep the following points in mind approaching such changes to give a good chance for new equations to have trust and respect:-

  • Never label people. It is good in a positive sense but not in a negative tone
  • Respect the seat if not the person
  • Do not bring emotions into your communication style
  • Remain open-minded and give the relationship a chance to prove itself over a period of time
  • Construct bullets points if doing write-first, and then bring that together into a story
  • Move from self to larger purpose when focussing on such conversations

Leadership Skills # 2: Mind the Gap

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom”

Viktor Frankl

Instant reactions to situations always yield a different kind of result. The width of the gap between stimulus and response and our subsequent power to choose is dependent on our conscious awareness of it. How we respond, what we do, and how we behave then get governed by how wider that perceived gap is for us.

Create a ‘pause’

It is always great to slow down a bit and make decisions coming from a place of little more thought and awareness. It is necessary to detach oneself from impulsive thoughts and poorly thought-out actions.

One needs to STOP, BREATHE and NOTICE what you are experiencing in a non-judgemental way. For non-critical things, go back to them when you are ready. If something is stressful, give it time and space than you would have.

Honest Reflection

Start learning to recognize this space between stimulus and response. Learn to utilize his pause and to recognize what is really going on, as opposed to what you think is going on or perhaps becoming aware of something you had previously not even noticed. Increased awareness supports a decrease in stress.

It will be inevitable to avoid knee-jerk reactions but an honest reflection is more important. We can ask ourselves: What was going on for me at that moment? What did I do to contribute to that? What can I do now to improve the situation?

The more we’re willing to take an honest look at the circumstances, events, and conflicts in our lives, the greater our ability to widen the gap in the future. We need to empower ourselves to do that!

Leadership Skills # 1: Active Listening

  1. Understand the secrets of active listening
    1. Identify Key Points
    2. Consider the Source
    3. Slow Down
    4. Keep Yourself Honest
  2. What is not active listening
    1. Being Silent
    2. Demeaning self-esteem
    3. Listening is a Competition
    4. Not being Suggestive
  3. Active Listening Visual Cue Card

Understand the secrets of active listening

Identify Key Points

When in a conversation, it would be a good idea to create a mind map of notes by capturing detailed notes that can be used to ask questions. In addition to this note down key sights and issues via short-hand notes.

The approach compromises listening intently and focussing on follow-up questions on points that really matter. The direction of travel is to convey a probing, clarifying, and shaping of thoughts.

Consider the Source

This point is important when working with peers, in and across teams. The essence is in capturing the frame of reference and context [ where are they coming from ]. Try to truly understand the other person to drive productive solutions. the end outcome may not turn out to be from any one of the tabled options. A conversational environment will lead to more acceptable solutions.

Slow Down

It is important to slow down, and not act upon the information one already has. Replay thoughts back and ensure that both parties are clear on what was said.

Keep Yourself Honest

Try to find a mirror to reflect on your behavior, and find a colleague that can provide you with honest feedback. Importantly one needs to reflect on whether one understands what was said, the person’s point of view, the context, and emotion as well. Did you ensure that the person was heard and understood?

What is not active listening

Being Silent

Active listening is not being about silent but it is about periodically asking the right questions and gently challenging old assumptions. It is a two-way dialog rather than a one-way “speaker versus hearer” interaction.

Demeaning self-esteem

Do not through your conversations make people feel unsupported or perceived as having a negative experience. One needs to create a safe environment for things to be discussed openly.

Listening is a Competition

Poor listeners are seen as competitive and listen to identify errors in reasoning or logic. We are not looking for an excellent debater but to be perceived as a listener who is trying to help and not wanting to win an argument.

Not being Suggestive

It is important to be suggestive and identify the people who are active listeners as well as see how their suggestions can be put into action. Open alternative paths through conversations.

Active Listening Visual Cue Card

Yearly Round-up: 2022

I have picked a new habit of writing yearly round-ups as a journal( roundup-2021 ). Helps me to reflect on the year and how things have been. What kind of evolution has happened for me as a self, did I make an impact, and was I able to keep what I promised in my round-ups.

I did like to state like always I am Thankful to each and every individual around me alongside my family who supports me for what I am today!

One of the things that I have mentioned in my posts is that we should be spending as much time with friends and family as we can. It is about adjusting schedules and being accommodative. I am very happy that I have been able to spend a very good time this year with friends and family. Within your own timezone and location, they are your support system and we should always make sure that we are there for each other!

Fitness is another thing that one needs to keep in mind and that is very important for all of us to remain healthy, happy and fit! Although I ran less and walked more with my wife 🙂

It has been a year back into my old stable Cimpress working for Vista. It brought me back to travel, connects that I had had for a decade, and runs with the global crew. I love solving problems in diverse groups. It just works well for me, makes me more successful, and learn a lot! It was a year where I learned to execute and drive outcomes using leadership without authority and structured myself with aggressive write-first principles in a very distributed work environment.

Outside work, I was happy to contribute more to systems thinking through my blogs, work with kids regularly in our History Club & as well won some awards as well as a Hackathon !!

Another year 2023?

We surely will turn a dial on the year but how it will pan out will be squarely on us as individuals and teams personally or professionally.

  • Never forget to be thankful
  • Friends and family are important to bring social balance to your life
  • Respect what you have, and the people around you
  • Many small steps can bring great impact and therefore it is important that you find the right leverage points
  • Keep trying different things

I wish everyone reading this post a good year ahead! Stay safe & fit!

Systems Thinking Tips #4- Making of a Blueprint

If we were to bring the following tips together we can then help frame a blueprint that we can then use in practice to see if we are able to get outcomes different than traditional approaches. I am talking about the following :

Systems Thinking Tips #3- System Archetype Traps

Delays , nonlinearities , lack of firm boundaries and other properties of systems that surprise us are found in just about any system, Generally they are not properties that can or should be changed. The world is non-linear

Donella Meadows

Whilst dealing with systems there will be often many times that you will see them be non-linear in nature. Trying to solve them with linearity often as times is just an administrative convenience and nothing more.

System troubles are mostly unique in nature and such common problematic behaviors are known as archetypes. In context to management and system design, you will see two dominant archetypes that we should be aware of

  • Tragedy of Commons
  • Seeking the wrong goal
  • Drift to low performance
  • Escalation

Understanding archetypal problem-generating structures are not enough. Putting with them is impossible. They need to be changed. The destruction they caused is often blamed on particular actors or events although it is actually a consequence of system structure. Blaming, disciplining, firing, and making fevered changes to the policy framework will never fix this. This is what is described as archetype traps.

So what can we do about them?

In simple terms, when we start changing our approach to being systems thinkers, we will and should develop the look-ahead approach that helps us to see things in advance and not get caught by them. This is an important skill that can not be taught but only through experience and doing more, one hones it to make it effective. The more exposure you have to systems, and keep this in the back of your mind, you will see that every next move is following a reinforcing loop, making you better at identifying these traps.

When we talk in my upcoming post, we will get the concepts from Feedback tips and Solving problems creatively to converge with the identification of archetypes traps to create a blueprint of sorts for solving problems with a systems mindset.

Keep watching this space!

Systems Thinking Tips #2- Feedback Loops

The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back

Peter Senge – The Fifth Discipline

As the Senge quote implies, brute force does not scale well within the context of a system. One of the reasons for systems stability is feedback. Within the bounds of the system, actions lead to outcomes, which in turn affect future actions. This is a positive thing, as it is required to keep a complex operation on course.

The presence of feedback is an integral characteristic of a system. No feedback means no system.

There are two main types of feedback:

  • Reinforcing feedback: a change in system state which serves as a signal to enhance the initial change. In other words, the system provides a big difference in the same direction.
  • Balancing feedback: a change in a system state that serves as a signal to start moving in the opposite direction to restore the lost balance.

Things to consider are as follows

  • How you are accepting and executing feedback signals?
  • How the feedback relationship with your investors is evolving, in terms of your product direction?
  • How the feedback relationship with your users is evolving, in terms of both operational criteria and product direction?

Feedback loops are a powerful tool in the manager’s hands. The initial change in the variable (process, etc) stimulates its further change in the original direction. Thus, if we succeed in changing the variable in the direction we need (reinforcing loop), we can start the process throughout the whole context, and since the variables enter several contexts (aka contours) at once, we can launch the same series of cascade effects that will now work for us. All systems are endowed with a balancing feedback mechanism that ensures their stability. But — in order for balancing feedback to work, measurement is necessary (f.e., to define when should we switch to a balancing loop). This measurement must be accurate enough for the feedback to work adequately.

Leadership Insights Primer

Employees are looking for more effective patterns that can drive

  • More Communication
  • Greater Flexibility
  • Broader Representation
  • Stronger Vision articulation

As leaders, it will become imperative to address the above points for us to have a successful workforce that can rally toward stronger business outcomes.

All of us have been feeling, observing & reading about great resignation, frantic conversations on crazy salaries, increased #attrition, and covid, but I believe these problems are cyclic in nature and if we try to solve at a point in time we are going to burn the candle too fast. Consider the following points whilst finding yourself a fitment

  • Problems you are going to solve
  • Relationships you will be able to build
  • Fundamentals the company has
  • The value you will be able to add
  • The influence you will be able to create

Help build stronger foundations that can help create a balance, we tend to swing the pendulum too hard always!

“Illusion is the first of all pleasures” !


Be realistic about what you are trying to achieve!

As a leader within an organization you’ll need to work with many constraints and limitations of resources but still need to complete the task well within time. One should dig deep within themselves through the network effect of strong peers and management teams that can help one to get comfortable with uncomfortable questions.

Our ability to demonstrate true leadership will rely on :
1. Identification of true scarce resources
2. Prevent underappreciation of the complexity of managing scarcity and the benefits that come from doing it just a little bit better

As leaders, we talk a lot about being focused and remain careful not to use this as a force function because it can hamper lateral thinking & our ability to develop a systems approach within the organization.

As leaders, we never have enough time. It also is true that as we grow in a given role we play, we tend to become busier, we are providing less attention to every aspect being thrown at us. Our ability to absorb has to be of higher order to process a well-informed decision. It is important therefore that we group things in a manner that we become more effective. Context switching is ineffective and as leaders, we should minimize its impact.

Uncertainty is the name of the game. a year back we talked about 5-year plans and a couple of years back did strategic offsite huddles to frame our strategy but now planomics can only be as good as long it survives the next moment! From Developed to Developing .. nobody is prepared enough to handle the current COVID crisis. We are all reacting in the moment to take us farther than what we are today!

Systems Thinking is an evermore important skill to have in order to create better viewport of the solution we may have in mind! Events like COVID require systems-level thinking to see through challenges that create better feedback loops and broad-spectrum solution design!

Systems Thinking Tips #1- Help solve problems creatively

A systems thinking perspective and approach is key to effective roadmap integration and action. We should think in terms location and type of system ‘Leverage Points’ when we think of sustainable intervention and action.

For solving problems creatviely using systems thinking approach following three points are important to consider and keep in mind

Identify Points of Change

The first step is to understand the system you’re working with, and then identify its “leverage points”—in other words, the points in a system where “a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything,” as Thinking in Systems Meadows puts it.

Changing mindsets and paradigms is also a leverage point. Meadows believes it is the highest one:

“There’s nothing necessarily physical, expensive, or even slow in the process of paradigm change,” she said. “In a single individual, it can happen in a millisecond—all it takes is a click in the mind, an epiphany, a new way of seeing.”

Finding Patterns

Every system has patterns that will emerge. By identifying them, it’s possible to figure out which parts of the system need adjusting.

These patterns can be identified from three perspectives:

The “event perspective” is reactionary—for example, by asking, “What happened?” In order to get the most out of this perspective, try telling a story. Seeing beyond each event helps you see patterns and trends, which facilitates anticipating, predicting, and planning.

The “pattern perspective” is to ask, “What has been happening?” This relates to Ernest Hemingway’s “iceberg theory,” so-called because his writing explicitly stated only a small part of the larger story. It’s usually hard to see the underlying structures that cause events; the part of the iceberg hidden beneath the water line. A systems thinker does not assume the visible part of the iceberg is all there is to it.

The “structure perspective” asks, “What is causing the issue?” For instance, if you’re stuck in traffic, you don’t blame the person directly in front of you; you ask, “What’s causing the traffic jam?” Usually, the answer is construction or a crash. Systems thinkers make deductions based on internal structures to arrive at a conclusion.

Clarify the Issue

There’s a difference between “people problems” and “systems problems.” A bad hire that’s gossiping and distracting your team from work is a people problem. Therefore, replacing that person is a leverage point. But that doesn’t mean your people problem is not still related to a system, somehow. Maybe there’s a flaw in your interview process that allowed the bad hire to be made. In that case, the leverage point would be tweaking your hiring process.

Thinking back to the traffic jam, a potential system-based solution might be installing traffic lights, better enforcing traffic laws, or changing construction hours to a time when less people are commuting.

Getting to the core of a problem before making a decision will not only make you a better thinker, it will make you a more productive leader, too. We need to ensure that today’s solution does not become tomorrow’s problem