Essential Tools | Systemic Thinking
A fairly pervasive approach to change defines a goal, then
sets out in as straight a tactical line as possible to get there. Such
an approach tries to ignore or run-over any intervening or obstructing
variables like the fact that several people don't want the goal to be
reached or don't appreciate the tactics being used. A systems
orientation to change management looks at human systems holistically.
It understands that any change within a system will reverberate
throughout the entire system and impact even seemingly unrelated parts
of the system.
Using a systems orientation we…
- Understand that systems are comprised of constellations of
forces that must be aligned for efficient and successful change
- Widen our perspective from our immediate goal to one that
considers the entire system.
- Orchestrate several coordinated change actions
- Develop feedback loops sufficient to staying in touch with
the impacts of our change strategies and their specific actions.
Here are some things to think about to help you think systemically:
- Universal Connectedness: everything is connected to
everything else-things, processes, thoughts, feelings, and actions.
There is nothing happening that isn't connected to everything else.
- Mutual Responsibility: for things to be the way they are
everything must be the way it is; therefore, responsibility is always
mutual. Those who see themselves as "doing nothing" are contributing to
the way things are by "doing nothing" just as much as what everybody
else is doing.
- Sufficient Sound and Current Data: needed to determine the
boundaries of the system that contains both the problem and the
solution. Look to a larger system definition when problems seem
- Leverage Points: that accessible point in the system that
will create the greatest impact toward the desired change with the
least effort or pain. The most important leverage point is the person
whose system it is. Build a high equity relationship with that person
to contribute to their success. If the system is yours build a support
system you can count on to help you create success.
- A Powerful Reframe: a systemic perspective takes away the
too popular notion of single-point fault and blame allowing an easier
transition to the infinite perspective. For example, pain reframed from
a systemic perspective is a signal for healing rather a trigger for
anger and fear.
- A Function of Consciousness: We are too often consciousness
of only a very limited part of ourselves and a very limited part of all
that is going on around us. An effective systemic-orientation calls for
being present to a much larger portion of ourselves and what is going
on around us. Only then will we begin to perceive systemic