A recent 2010 study by IBM of 1541 Global CEO’s identified:
complexity… as their primary challenge; and, a surprising number of them told us that they feel ill-equipped to succeed in this drastically different world.
If CEO’s are feeling the pressures of complexity at their level, imagine what the Directors, Program/Project Managers, individual contributors are feeling down in the trenches? With outsourcing, off-shoring, and right-sizing as cost-cutting strategies, teams are distributed across continents, time zones, cultures, languages, operating paradigms, processes/procedures, and leadership norms.
The thinking and management practices that have created the organizations of today are no longer sufficient to deal with these levels of complexity, brought on by the pressure for ever-increasing monthly and quarterly results through various cost-cutting strategies.
Albert Einstein said:
The thinking that created today’s problems is insufficient to solve them.
Most of today’s leaders have progressed through the ranks using the traditional, linear thinking that made the Industrial Age of the 20th century so successful: divide and conquer; optimize the parts; ensure quality control and consistency. Because teams were more often co-located, it was easier to work out problems that might arise between the parts. It is a different world now from 50, 30, even 10 years ago, with global interconnectivity, parts being built in distributed locations and then brought together for assembly, social networking becoming marketing tools to explore, 3-4 generations of employees trying to work together (each generation with its own set of values and drivers for success).
Complexity is part of every person’s life:
- family systems expanded through divorce and remarriage;
- project teams working across cultural boundaries through mergers and acquisitions;
- communities driven to share infrastructure resources because of declining federal and state funding;
- public educational systems teaching to testing requirements to ensure ongoing financial support, and still feeling the pinch of declining funding, while children’s unique learning styles are sub-optimized;
- family systems having to make hard trade-offs between food, clothing, health care, transportation, living circumstances, children’s education costs;
- and the list goes on and on.
Sadly, the way most people think about and deal with their current circumstances have not evolved with the level of ever-increasing complexity.
Systems thinking is valuable because people at all levels and backgrounds can understand a complex issue, find leverage points for change, and create actions to support moving the system toward a desired future state. In systems thinking you consider the parts of a system, the interrelationship between the parts, and the whole that is created by the combination. What is often missed in traditional process improvement efforts is the causal relationships between the parts, and the beliefs and assumptions held by the members of the system about how it could, should, and would operate, if only . . .
This method of systems thinking uses the stories of the system to evaluate the current situation, and future opportunities, by mapping the underlying structures that are driving the systems performance, the interrelationships between those structures, the beliefs and assumptions underlying people’s actions, the leverage points for change, and an action plan to resolve the structural tensions and breakdowns, generating the desired system of the future.
Jean Tully and Bruce Flye are presenting a one-day pre-conference workshop titled: “Why Does This Keep Happening? Exploring Complex Challenges In Ways That Open New Doors to Creativity” on June 19th as part of the CPSI Conference 2011.
More info: www.cpsiconference.com/pre-conference