Monthly Archives: September 2014

Systems thinking

Developing strategy is often not a simple linear process. Its not “let’s do A, then B, then C”.

For you need to consider what the impacts are upon A, and what the other areas are that A will impact. For it just might be that A influences something which in turn makes C irrelevant.

Its called systems thinking. Its a way of thinking that considers all of the relationships between all of the components. And further, it considers the level and direction of influence that each of those components have on each other.

And systems are everywhere. There are interconnections between different businesses and between individuals within a business. We have a system of roads, of air & rail transport, and so on. There are systems within hospitals, within universities, and within emergency services providers. Think of a sporting club also as a system, even your family!

But what marks out a system? Its the flow of information, its the time delay between action and outcome, its the feedback loop between the output and input. Its the complexity derived from many interconnected parts.

Regarding the flow of information. How does information move from one part of the system to another? What external information comes into the system? What information is prevented from making its way around the parts of the system. And thinking about the profile of the information – is it always the same, are do the makeup of the messages transferred change from time to time?

Regarding time delays and feedback loops. How long does it take for an effect to be noticed? Do any outcomes loop back and change the next input?

So when developing strategy, think of the flow of information and think of the time difference between when something is started and when it will be finished. For when that 1 year, 3 year, or 5 year plan has come to pass the context of that plan’s completed state will be different to the current one. And the difference will be in part related to the mix and flow of information and changing influences throughout that 1, 3 or 5 year period.

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