<Corporate Sandwiches>Learning Organization (4): Build a Dream Team

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I would like to repeat that this series of articles about learning organizations is written based on my own experience. It is inevitable that the content of the original article will be greatly simplified and modified. The purpose of writing this article is simply to arouse your interest in the content. Please read the original article if you have the opportunity. 

Everything is for The Fifth Discipline: Systems Thinking

Finally, we come to the fifth discipline system thinking. This is a way of thinking. But we don’t think in the usual intuitive way. It believes that the world is composed of interrelated factors, and emphasizes the interactions, correlations between things and their impact on the whole. System thinking is considered by the author to be the most important discipline that can help organizations look at problems from a comprehensive perspective and find more effective solutions. 

Although "The Fifth Discipline" tells us to practice systems thinking, it does not clearly explain the structure of systems thinking itself. For example, the book uses Causal Loop Diagrams as examples many times, but there is no explanation on how to make this diagram. We need to find its principles in other works on systems thinking. In systems thinking, every action affects other actions. We think about the relationship between two actions, not the logic between them. 

This time we will focus on several basic relationships mentioned in the book: positive feedback, negative feedback and delay. 

Positive Feedback means that the strengthening or weakening of the previous action will make the next action stronger or weaker, forming a cycle. To give an example, if a team can make better products, the team's self-confidence will be higher, and a team with higher self-confidence can make better products, and vice versa. 

Negative feedback means that the reaction of the previous action will cause the next action to react accordingly, thereby reducing the reaction of the previous action and forming a balanced state. To give another example, it must add new personnel because the team wants to expand its production capacity. However, the new personnel need training or need to adapt to the team, which will lead to a reduction in production capacity. 

Delay is the literal meaning. Sometimes the impact of one action on the next is not immediately appears but appears after a period of time. Delay is a common occurrence in reality, but it makes the correlation between actions more difficult to detect and the true cause is hidden. An easier-to-understand example in reality is the fertility policy of government. After the government announces a new policy, it may take several years for the fertility rate to respond. As time prolongs, some influencing factors will also increase, making it more difficult for us to understand the relationship. 

The above three relationships are just an introduction to systems thinking. After understanding all the relationships, we need to find the leverage points of the entire system in order to actually apply them. Leverage points refer to key factors that can have a significant impact in the system. In systems thinking, finding the leverage point is a key step in solving problems and can produce the greatest impact of the solution. Leverage points can be organizational structures, policies, procedures or beliefs, etc. By changing the leverage points, changes in the entire system can be triggered. 

It is difficult to explain systems thinking in the limited length of an article. If we see through the relationship between all actions and start at the leverage point, we can solve the problem in the most effective way. Just like in writing, mastering systematic thinking requires practice and is not something that can be learned in a moment. Or you may find that the more you study management, the more abstract you learn. But only by mastering abstract concepts can we be able to find different answers in the ever-changing real world.

Simon So

Chief Experience Officer of Hantec Group



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