Anyone can explore the relevant natural strategies required to become a leader. However, not everyone can sustain the effectiveness of a team or organization. A recent Center for Creative Leadership study has shown that 38% to 50% of new leaders fail within their first 18 months. A significant feature of leadership competence involves achieving organizational accomplishments by navigating systems and influencing people, especially those who do not have interpersonal relationships. This feature and more are incorporated into systemic thinking.
Systemic thinking is an influential theory that includes several tools and approaches for problem-solving. Typically, this theory focuses on an organization or system to identify complex and interwoven issues in the organization’s operations and technical workflows. Systemic thinking can be a practical approach to addressing widespread business challenges.
This article discusses the theory and its benefits in leadership.
What is systemic thinking?
Systemic thinking is a comprehensive, systematic approach to recognizing and understanding how different aspects of an organization interact within a system. It is a way of viewing an organization extensively, enabling you to examine and connect the linking parts.
For professionals serving in a leadership capacity, systemic thinking offers a strategy very different from standard analysis methods. Rather than analyzing each component of an organization individually, employing the systemic thinking approach helps to create efficient processes and mitigate practices that result in unintended and possible adverse outcomes.
Elements of the systemic thinking approach
Businesses and large organizations always look to deploy systemic thinking in identifying a solution to long-standing complex problems. Systemic thinking features several elements, most of which vary based on the industry, organization, or situation. Hence, professionals in leadership roles must learn these elements and how to tailor them to suit their organization’s requirements, primarily through advanced degrees.
Some elements are common to the approach, regardless of the setting, industry, or problem. You can acquaint yourself with these features by enrolling in Spalding University’s online EdD in the leadership program. This online program will aid you in developing systemic thinking skills and competency, helping you stay ahead and become an effective leader in your organization. S
The systemic thinking approach is based on the theory that different subsystems and aspects of an extensive system do not constantly interact or connect directly. However, there is a network of interactions that impacts their behavior. As a result, each element of an organization is considered equally rather than focusing on more significant and critical organizational aspects.
When several aspects of an organization or a system combine, they synthesize a new result. While it may seem straightforward, the synthesis process features a complex and dynamic nature, and it’s essential to understand this process for effective leadership.
This element references how various aspects of a system come together to make something new. Emergence is the outcome of the synergy of all individual parts of the system. Systemic thinking also indicates that synthesis is essential, as the work impacts the entire system.
The feedback element helps assess and understand how information flows between different system parts. This element measures the input and output of each component in a system. Feedback loops are of two prevalent types: reinforcing and balancing.
This element refers to translating information from the feedback loops to ascertain how much one system element impacts another. Data analytics and regression analysis can be employed to determine the root cause of a complex problem quickly and effectively.
System mapping involves mapping out the elements and how they relate. Leaders can employ this element to divide complex organizational processes into simple and easy visuals that show an entire system and its interconnectivity. Leaders can create these maps with graphs, charts, and flow diagrams.
Benefits of systemic thinking in leadership
Organizations need leaders to be influential systematic thinkers. By employing this approach consistently, professionals in leadership positions can get things done much more effectively and at a higher level. Here are some benefits of systemic thinking in leadership.
A tunnel-vision perspective is typical in an organization. Professionals engaged in a specific aspect of a company tend to view solutions from a particular viewpoint. However, it is to the detriment of an organization if a leader takes a department-specific perspective in solving complex issues.
Systemic thinking helps leaders step back and view the entire organization as one system. This allows them to understand the problem comprehensively and develop creative solutions for complex organizational issues.
Optimization is key to success, which also holds for business processes. Business process optimization undoubtedly makes an organization more competitive through risk mitigation, cost reduction, higher efficiency, and a better overview.
Yet, a leader would only be able to optimize processes with a comprehensive understanding of how employees interact and how the system works. As such, systemic thinking helps to understand the entire system and enforce changes that simplify the business processes. A leader can identify irrelevant processes through systemic thinking and find effective strategies to optimize the company.
Rather than assess the elements of an organization individually, as is the case with other analytical processes, systemic thinking determines the level of interconnectivity by examining how each component interacts with one another and to what result.
Systemic thinking creates the platform for leaders to recognize how dynamically interrelated everything is and how success depends on the effective interaction between each element. This approach also gives leaders the tools to integrate interconnectivity, creativity, and productivity into the workplace.
Become active problem-solvers
Nobody wants problems, and some leaders take conscious actions to avoid problems. However, complex issues are essential aspects of an organization. Identifying and solving an intricate problem could yield a more efficient way of conducting business and move the company forward more effectively.
Systemic thinking helps leaders see complex problems as exciting opportunities to innovate, improve and develop creativity. Systemic thinking turns leaders into effective problem-solvers, which every organization needs.
Regardless of the scale, every organization includes several systems and aspects that work together for a common goal. Addressing one system might help curb a problem in the short term, but it never yields a comprehensive solution. However, viewing the entire organization as an interconnected system helps discover better operating methods.
In summary, systemic thinking gives a leader the tools to revolutionize a workplace across every aspect. If you currently serve in a leadership capacity, you must employ systemic thinking to run a better and more efficient business.