ESH Solutions Limited

Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking with ESH Solutions Limited

Systems Thinking, despite emerging as a way of organisational design after World War 2, is only now growing in popularity in the UK as more and more leaders and managers realise the benefits it can bring in improving service, cutting waste and growing bottom lines. They don't want to be left behind as others start to bring this powerful way of working into their organisations.

Although there are numerous academic definitions, the important thing to you is that it involves looking at your whole system, end to end, as one entity rather than the old fashioned way of dividing it into various functional silos, perhaps with seperate budgets or targets. When operations work as an individual entity (a silo) which is measured, funded or managed without looking at its overall fit, it leads to poor end to end customer service and increased costs. As Professor John Seddon would say, managers survive by hitting targets rather than make the "whole" stronger and better value.The Public Sector in particular has been forced to follow years of arbitary targets and inspections which prevent the integrated way of working many managers would like to experience on a day to day basis.

The benefit in Systems Thinking is that you can see how everything interacts and "works" so you can swiftly identify what is of value in delivering your service or product, and what is non value or waste. This holistic approach helps you see the forest rather than the trees. The results are better service at reduced costs.

So, 2 quick practical examples, both based on real situations: Organisation A is a sales driven company selling kitchens. Sales are down and the manager decides the answer must be with the sales staff who are obvioulsy not doing their best. Right, or Wrong?

Organisation B is made up of several voluntary and statutory sector agencies commissioned to provide substance misuse treatment services. Commissioners find that clients are entering the treatment system but often become stuck in one service and are not moving on. They decide that if only the agencides involved were to talk more to each other then this will resolve the situation and help them reach their "targets". Is this an approach that seems reasonable, or one that is destined to fail?

In both of these cases the answer of course is in something else and those managers will waste a lot of time and demoralise a lot of people in the process!

For a detailed definition of the various approaches to Systems Thinking you can look here or you can read the excellent books by W.E. Deming (Out of the Crisis) to get you started on thinking about your organisation in a different way.

ESH Solutions adopt a Systems Thinking approach to all of our work. The approach is tailored around your needs rather than taking an off the shelf set of tools designed for something else and making your business or organisation fit them. After all, what happens when you try and turn a tight nut with a pair of pliers instead of a spanner?

So if you are curious as to how Systems Thinking can benefit your organisation, or would simply like to learn more about it, please contact us and we'll be delighted to help.

Please keep an eye out for our dedicated systems thinking site which is under development.