Discovering that “ambiguous politics” are masking a deeper systems problem is a critical step towards victory.

  • Often problems at work involve many organizations, personalities and complex information systems. Add to this bureaucracy, convoluted processes and manning changes and it’s no wonder that problems can become seemingly insurmountable. However, we contend that these problems may often be better viewed as systems problems that are masquerading as “office politics.”
Why is Systems Thinking important? Just like construction at heights, solutions are not easy. Systems problems with multiple organizations involved tend to mask themselves as “organizational politics.” In fact, the ambiguity can be cleared up with systems thinking.

To determine the simple effective solution to a problem, we must understand the complexity of the problem. The performance of any system depends upon its structure. Through causal mapping, we capture the structure of the system so we can determine where to intervene in the structure such that we effectively and favorably influence its performance. Example systems include highway systems, monetary systems, housing systems, and large or small organizational systems.

To solve any problem in the business world, industrial and government workers and managers must be able to have effective conversations with the people they serve inside and outside the organization. In addition the development of causal maps requires communication savvy and sagacity. Communication savvy includes communication principles and practices as well as communication situational strategies. Communication sagacity includes the highest level of communication savvy (keen and farsighted perception, sound judgment, and acute discernment) as well as social, political, and organizational acumen.

Our facilitators use the skills and tools for system dynamics, developed in the Sloan Business School at MIT, to teach course participants how to diagram the complexity of the problem and to determine the leverage point within the system in which the problem exists. Course participants will learn to read causal maps and to modify and construct causal maps as needed. Using the diagrams (causal maps), course participants can use various skills taught in the course to determine the alternative policy changes needed to intervene in the system to resolve the problem. Recently, we talked to a Field Operations Director for a major organization who asserted that the results of our “Systems Thinking” course are still felt throughout her organization as they approach problems with an analytical mindset postured for implementation of new programs throughout the organization.