The Art of Systems Thinking - Part Two




This blog will explore part two of ‘Systems Thinking’ using ‘The Iceberg Model’. If you missed the introduction blog on this topic, I suggest you check it out here. It will be good for you to catch up on the information and the topic is well worth the read! The introduction blog discusses an overview of ‘Systems Thinking’ (and I really mean an overview, the topic is very in-depth). Whilst ‘Systems Thinking’ is an in-depth topic, the benefits of using it is totally worth your time. Solving problems and designing effective learning solutions can be taken to another level when using this art of thinking as it allows you to approach problems more effectively (Applied Systems Thinking, 2008).

So, let’s get started on exploration of ‘Patterns of Behaviour’. This stage delves deeper than the previous blog on ‘Events’ and will explore ‘trends and what has been happening over time’. You can see it situated on the second level of the pyramid below.





Iceberg Model (Northwest Earth Institute, 2017).

                                                 Patterns of Behaviour (Anticipate):

To ensure this blog is useful for you, let’s look at how we can apply this stage to your situation. Have a think about the following question.

1. What patterns of behaviour have been taking place in your organisation? E.g. Supervisors are being performance managed, the majority of grievances are received from a certain team, 60% of new starters quit after 3 months etc.

When you think about the problems that are taking place or the learning solutions that are needing to be implemented in your organisation, do you notice any trends?

Trends can help you to refine your problem solving and allow you to be better equipped to target the root cause. For example, there may be a high rate of supervisors underperforming in an organisation. This may lead you to believe that the whole organisation requires supervisor training. When you look at the trends you may notice that the supervisors that are underperforming all report to the same manager. You should then look at the performance of this manager and the expectations that they have of his/her supervisors. The manager may have lower expectations of their supervisors in relation to other managers in the organisation and this could be the root cause.

The risks involved with not applying this type of thinking is that you may design a learning solution for all supervisors to undertake training when the most efficient solution could be to speak to that particular manager and get him/her to adjust expectations of their supervisors. Taking these trends into consideration can have a great impact on your ability to find the root cause of the problem.

Detecting similar patterns over time also allows you to anticipate certain problems prior to them commencing rather than reacting to them in the moment. For example, if you know a certain team struggles with an initiative you launch every year, rather than waiting for them to struggle, organise extra training for them to ensure a smoother process.

Considerations:

1. Take the time to analyse what ‘Patterns of Behaviour’ are taking place in your organisation. Trends can help you to refine your problem solving and allow you to be better equipped to target the root cause.

2. There are risks involved with not looking at ‘Patterns of Behaviour’ when you are solving a problem or designing a learning solution. Without looking at trends and repeated behaviour you will potentially design learning solutions that are not effective or directed at the problem.

3. Detecting similar patterns over time also allows you to anticipate certain problems prior to them commencing rather than reacting to them in the moment. This allows you to better prepare for problems and sometimes avoid them completely.

What experiences have you had with trends and patterns of behaviour taking place in your organisation? This can be very common in the business world and we would love to know how others have discovered the trends and worked to anticipate events prior to them happening. Keep an eye out for the next blog on ‘Underlying Systematic Structure’. Here at Belvista Studios we want to continue to support businesses and ourselves be the best we can at our craft. We look forward to continuing this learning journey on ‘Systems Thinking’ and supporting you to apply it to your organisation.

                                                                References

Applied Systems Thinking (2008). Importance of Systems Thinking Today. Retrieved from www.appliedsystemsthinking.com/importance.html.

Northwest Earth Institute (2017). A Systems Thinking Model: The Iceberg. Retrieved from: https://www.nwei.org/iceberg/

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