When working with an organization, whether helping them thrive in a period of transition, increase effectiveness and engagement, or undergo an organizational evolution, my focus is often first on helping leadership embrace a systems thinking perspective as opposed to a more traditional analytical way of thinking. In order to approach a challenge from a systems thinking perspective, one must ask these six key questions:
- Where do we want to be?
- How will we know when we get there?
- Where are we now? SWOT
- How do we get there from here – close the gap between where we are and where we want to be?
- What will change in your future environment that will affect you?
- How do these changes help the organization and the people who make it up?
It is a continuous loop of actions, feedback, and evaluation that ensures you are addressing your most pressing concerns and maximizing opportunities. Analytic thinking, on the other hand, focuses on:
- Today. What are today’s problems and issues?
- Breaking issues into their smallest parts and isolating them from the whole.
- Solving each problem as a discrete unit.
- Solving the problem, not advancing vision or goals.
Analytic thinking is akin to looking at a person not as a whole being but as a collection of parts. When the heart is ill, for instance, they look at it as a problem with one organ, not as an issue with the whole system. We know that approach to medicine doesn’t work; why would that approach to business work any more effectively?