Business Systems Thinking

Next a broad post before we get specific and deep. Let’s start with “Systems Thinking” and then add “Business” to find the intersection that maximizes value.

First, an expert in Systems Thinking for some guidance on the topic. While I studied Software Systems Engineering in College and feel I can apply the concepts of Systems Thinking well, I believe the perspective of an expert will provide the best learning. @LeylaAcaroglu wrote a great series called “Tools for Systems Thinkers” and in the first article she provides an easy to understand set of core concepts: Interconnectedness, Synthesis, Emergence, Feedback Loops, Causality and Systems Mapping. Using these core skills provides the systems thinker a viewpoint not otherwise available and reveals a perspective on the world around us that promotes evaluation and improvement.


While the Systems Thinker is classically an individual with a technical background, it does not have to be. In my travels around the world, working with businesses of all industries, I meet individuals that focus on the business side of their organizations while leveraging their problem solving and analytical skills to bridge a common gulf between IT and Business teams. Adding “Business” to “Systems Thinking” necessitates a deep and personal understanding of your business (be it banking, insurance, healthcare and life sciences, retail, etc.). What if you lived the workflows and decisions of care management within a clinic? What if you capture and collaborate on content to perform and automate tasks? And what if you then took the necessary time to step back and look for Interconnectedness and Feedback Loops within your workflows? Actually, the more opportune question is: what if you had time to apply Systems Thinking to your Business?!

Trust me when I tell you that time will literally be created when your organization realizes automation through a Business Systems Thinking approach. I find Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is a difficult concept for first line managers and administrators to focus on depending the their personal viewpoint and top line management support. My guidance, find the time. I know that is a bit harsh but if you find the time to perform Business Systems Thinking, you will find the space for automation and can then make the case for business value to your management. This may start with an hour here and there of your own time to visualize and map small systems. Then, ask for some time from your manager by showing some tangible results. When ready, leverage your vendor’s help to create a Business Value Assessment (BVA); from my personal experience in companies like IBM, we have deep automation and cross-industry expertise available to help.


Now, your quiz: are you ready to apply Systems Thinking to your Business? The concepts and tools include Interconnectedness, Synthesis, Emergence, Feedback Loops, Causality, Systems Mapping. Applying these to your business requires taking a step back from your day to day workflows and deciding what is connected, why and how, and then map it! Trust that it will provide a dividend of time once automation takes hold.

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