Does Your Team Have System Think?

System Think WEBCarter McNamara,, a well-known business consultant, states,

"The system's overall behavior depends on its entire structure (not the sum of its various parts). The structure determines the various behaviors, which determine the various events. Too often, we only see and respond to the events. That's why, especially in the early parts of our lives, we can be so short-sighted and reactionary in our lives and in our work. We miss the broader scheme of things."

This concept is something I strive to instill in coaching clients by helping them to see their lives and their careers as a system. No, it’s not too romantic, but it does help the thinking, analytical, and goal setting process to take roots. This applies to business, management, and leadership as well.

Managers tend to look at their own “territory” so to speak. Encouraging team members to get into someone else’s business or territory is not what this is about. Rather, it is the effort of designating the time to take an overall view of patterns, and in particular, cause and effect. Unfortunately, this is something many people fail to see even in their own lives much less seeing it in an organization. If you have many of these types of behaviors or thinkers in your organization. Call me right now! Then you have those who may have the ability to think this way in their own lives, but fail to see the application to business. This is especially true for those who do not understand their part in the whole organization, or those who work in and with silo mentalities. First let’s look at the effects of non-system thinking and then look at some ways to change the way your team thinks.

Drilling Down: System thinking can help drill down to the real cause of problems or challenges in an organization. Just looking at the challenge of an event in one department or part of an organization fails to provide enough information to producing solutions and certainly being proactive and preventing the same situation from occurring once again. It’s like the person who marries six or seven times, failing to see how their own behaviors are causing a ripple effect or cause and consequences.

Cutting Out a Piece: Often times, manages have the mindset that they can perform localized surgery, if you will, on just one part of the system and everything that piece connects to will be “fixed.” There have been many leaders who thought they could just cut out ethics in doing business. Needless to say, the business world and the customer’s of these organiztions have had their world rocked at best and destroyed at worst. Look at how cultures, countries, and people suffer when changes are made in one part of the world. These changes can come from outside or inside a geographical area. The world stage is an excellent teacher about system thinking.

Change: System Thinking and change should be a no brainer. Organizational change is never implemented successfully without considering the entire system. However, just picking up the mantle of system thinking upon need is not a good idea. The sooner you begin learning how to think about systems and how they interact, the better. Implementing training programs and disseminating information on system thinking “as the norm” will head off multiple headaches when change comes.

Changing the Way Your Teams Think:

  • The ability to see and understand relationships between systems in an organization
  • Understanding what external and internal factors affect organizational systems
  • Seeing the big picture. See “Is Seeing the Big Picture Smart” below this post.
  • Foster collaboration between people, departments, and systems
  • Become a learning organization and don’t be afraid to teach everyone strategic thinking

Thank you for reading this blog. If you would like more information about how to build system thinking in your organization call 404-320-7834 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

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