I think the real advantage to reading and discussion is the opportunity to finally "hear" something and get it for the first time.
Do You Think Systemically? struck a chord, based upon the Tweets and comments that followed.
We participate until we find the voice and the language that finally makes us go "Aha!"
Today, I want to offer a couple of simple ways to look at the relationship between people and systems in order to highlight the nature of Systemic Thinking--and it's critical importance in our lives.
Your favorite singer will disappoint you if the staging, lights, and sound don't offer the right technical support and atmosphere. A lousy singer won't sound any better in Carnegie Hall. In fact, the results may be worse because of the magnificent acoustical systems and orchestral support.
It takes a director (manager, conductor, pastor, lead operator) who can see how all of those elements are connected in a way that generates total performance and leads to a standing ovation.
What To Learn From Family Systems
Family counselors worth their salt know that an individual who comes with a "personal problem" is impacted in some way by the family system. If there is some normal dysfunction (you heard it right--people simply have problems that cause them to seek outside help), the counselor will look at the system in which the individual lives. The family.
Some families support and perpetuate unhealthy behavior. Even if the individual tries to change, there is an equilibrium that the family has established that simply won't allow it. I'm not saying that people aren't responsible for their own behavior. However, there is often a lack of awareness on the part of the individual and the family: they don't view themselves as a systemic entity. It becomes part of the counselor's task to help them see the connectedness within the system and the impact that each person--and the group as a whole--has on behavior (performance). When that begins to happen, healthy behavior (performance) can increase.
Organizations and the people in them can look at maximizing performance--and organizational health--using the same kind of thinking.
What To Do. . .
Instead of doing an amateur pop-psych number on someone whose talent seems to be faltering, ask:
1. "What part(s) of our systems are actually getting in the way of performance?"
After the deadly silence, which will last 10 seconds but seem like an eternity, the conversation will come. Ask clarifying questions to get to the heart of each issue. Note to leaders: You will always, in some way, be a part of the issue because of your role. It comes with the turf. You are also the biggest part of the solution. Listen without being defensive and you'll hear about barriers that you can remove, given your position and authority. Do it. The "leadership vision " thing is alluring and "sexy;" getting things out of people's way paves the highway to performance. That's leadership.
If the systems are actually pretty solid and connected, then ask yourself:
2. "Does this person have the willingness and ability to move forward with us?"
If the commitment (willingness) isn't there, then the person may flourish in another role or another organization.
If the skill (ability) isn't there, look for a training & development solution.
And, of course, have the conversation directly with the person. Second-guessing will put you in the category of mystical soothsayer, a special role normally reserved for marketing researchers:-)
Where does your organization focus its attention when it thinks that the "talent isn't performing?"