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:

  1. Where do we want to be?
  2. How will we know when we get there?
  3. Where are we now? SWOT
  4. How do we get there from here – close the gap between where we are and where we want to be?
  5. What will change in your future environment that will affect you?
  6. 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?