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.”
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
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