Systems Thinking Philosophy as it Applies to Frameworks, Methods, and Approaches

Related Pages

Related Articles

Recommended Resources

Provide Feedback

Systems thinking is a foundation of FLEX. Any changes you are trying to make to your organization becomes part of the system. That is, approaches for change are not separate from the system, they become part of the system. How the organization reacts to these changes must be considered by any approach you take. It means that if an organization reacts to a change in a poor way, you cannot say, “they just didn’t use my approach properly.” Their reaction is part of the system. As Jerry Weinberg states in his seminal book, Secrets of Consulting,  “No matter how it looks at first, it’s always a people problem.”

A decade ago, we were just starting to learn what to do when “business value realization” involved a software component.  The Agile movement and its corresponding methods still have conflicting mindsets – so it could be said there isn’t agreement on what to do. But I would contend the challenges are not around the practices but rather how to get people to adopt them.

Unfortunately, most of what is attempted now is following an approach instead of understanding our challenges, the intentions they are blocking and considering different solutions to eliminate the challenges. Many of these challenges are in fact how people react to change. We cannot just say “follow this” without attending to how people react to that mandate.  With apologies to Nike, you can’t just say “just do it.”

If the approach you are undertaking doesn’t incorporate this systems-thinking perspective, expect troubles. If your approach requires that people need to be a certain way (e.g., commitment, focus, openness, respect and courage), you must ask yourself “what will happen if they don’t have these qualities?” You should not be surprised if you don’t get the results the approach purports. In this situation you should also ask “how can I change the system so as to encourage these values?”

Because FLEX is based on systems thinking, how people learn and change is incorporated into its guidance. When applying FLEX, it is important to see how people react to it.  Some of this is in the ability of the coach to interact with people (see What to say when someone just doesn’t get it). This is one of the reasons that FLEX is designed to be used in a step-wise manner attending to the culture of the organization.