Re: Systems thinking on human resources
Posted by: KurtR
Date: October 24, 2005 11:51PM
I know this is an old thread, but just in case anyone is listening... This is a hard problem because it demands a rather concrete definition of systems thinking, and insists that we prove that such thinking exists and can be readily measured. What a fun challenge you present! Probably there could be many ways to address this. Here is one.
How to detect the systems thinker? By giving the team a problem that requires a systems perspective, such as consideration of both big and little picture issues. Or, perhaps a problem that requires comprehension of process optimization, but in an organizational context rather than a technical field. And see whether someone applies this type of thinking to the problem solution. You might give them a business problem where the short-term solution will lead to long-term failure. For example a customer is demanding that a product have a level of quality control that can not be sustained without a price raise. And raising the price will lower the quarter profits because this is a particularly large production run. At the same time there is great pressure from the shareholders/board to show a higher margin this year due to a hostile take-over threat. Finally, you tell the team they have limited resources to solve the problem, they only have a few hours so can only make a few contacts. Who would they call and what would they say or ask?
I believe most business people would look at this as a choice to make about who is more important. Which demand has a higher priority. On the other hand, a systems thinker would try to understand the systemic interconnections between these competing demands, and find a solution that worked in an optimal way. They would work through several possibilities, and try to find an innovative solution. So for example, they would want to contact engineers on the production floor, and ask them to find new efficiencies in production. They might also contact a board member or finance person and find a way to present lower margins as a benefit to the company.
This is a simplistic example, but my point is just to suggest that if you define an attribute of a system thinker, such as being able to see both big and little picture and being able to optimize a process, then you can assess the team for people who do this. You might find many such systems thinking attributes to measure.