FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to work for, 2018
For All Summit. March 7-9, 2018 in San Francisco
Just Announced. Ariana Huffington to our Speaker Lineup

Systems Thinking: A Method for Communication

 

Blog - Joseph Alonzo - July 24, 2012

Systems Thinking: A Method for Communication

3275

Views

Communication in the Workplace

We are a complex society with many interconnecting parts that contribute to global movements.  And yet, far too often when something goes right or wrong our instinct is to assign blame or praise to a single source.  This type of fragmented thinking, I would suggest, is both shortsighted and irrelevant to our present workplace paradigm. 

Anderson and Johnson stated that systems thinking is a language that provides a method for communication about dynamic complexities and interdependencies.  Our workplaces provide an ideal context for this definition.  Workplaces are comprised of various systems of people, departments, and technologies all swirling around in the larger system with partnering and competing workplaces.   With such complexity present, a systems thinking lens will allow us to see how the parts are functioning alone, and perhaps more importantly, better communicate about how they are working together. 

Systems thinking is characterized by the following principles:

  • Thinking of the ‘big picture” - Whatever problem is being faced is attached to a larger system.  To discover the source of the problem we have to widen our focus, and it is from that perspective we will likely find a systemic solution. 
  • Balancing short-term and long-term perspectives - The balance of short and long-term thinking will supply a sound foundation for thorough examination before any actions are taken.
  • Taking into account measurable and non-measurable factors - There are plenty of tangible data metrics in the workplace, but what do we do with all the intangible information, such as morale, levels of trust, and working relationships?  We account for it and allow it to influence our understanding alongside the tangibles.      
  • Recognizing the dynamic, complex, and interdependent nature of systems - A glimpse at any organizational structure will reveal systems within many other systems.  In order to make sense of such complexity we tend to oversimplify and make decisions based on those oversimplifications.  Systems thinking reminds us that once we do so, it is important to zoom back out and take into account the whole picture before making decisions. 

The appeal of systems thinking is at least twofold:  first, it provides a more holistic perspective for observation and analysis, and two; it gives greater insight into our interconnectedness and positions us to improve on how we relate to each other and other systems.  Additionally, it can help shift our thinking from an exclusive point of view (i.e. “you are responsible for this”) to a more inclusive frame of reference (i.e. “we are responsible for this”).  

Taking the first step towards systems thinking is simpler than you might imagine- invite others to participate. Your workplace is a dynamic, complex system comprised of various systems of people, departments and technologies, and these are your best resources for contemplating the bigger picture. By inviting employees and different departments to communicate and share information with each other, you can begin brainstorming and making strategic decisions on how to successfully grow your business, as a whole.

Read more about three small businesses that used this method of communication to turn a moment of financial uncertainty into a success story.

Joseph Alonzo recently graduated Saybrook University with a Master's degree in Organizational Development and is a guest blogger for Great Place to Work®.

Joseph Alonzo

Assess. Analyze. Accelerate.

Great Place to Work® Certification is the easiest, most affordable way to quantify your culture, benchmark against the world's most successful companies, and grow your business.

know whats working

Know What's Working

Assess and benchmark your culture against the world's most successful companies. Our data identifies opportunity areas and provides a roadmap for how to improve - all in metrics that are easy to understand.

grow bottom line

Grow Your Bottom Line

Best Workplaces see stock market returns 2x above average. A healthy culture means a financial advantage in a competitive marketplace.

national acclaim

Earn National Recognition

Great Place to Work - Certified™ companies have the chance to brand themselves as top workplaces by ranking on one of our prestigious Best Workplaces Lists, produced annually with Fortune – including the 100 Best Companies to Work For® list.

"The Great Place to Work Trust Model is the best practice bar and what we use to model and measure our culture."

Jennifer Johnston

Head of Global Employer Branding & Recruitment Marketing, Salesforce.

"Maintaining a high-trust culture is super important for our competitive advantage. Knowing where we stand with our employees, how much trust we've built, how well they'll represent the company with the customer, how innovative we'll be with our products. It's really core to how we operate and drive our business."

Jeff Diana

Head of HR, Atlassian.

"We know there is a direct connection between doing this work and our company’s bottom line performance."

Patti Lee

VP of HR, Wyndham Worldwide.

Our Clients Are Culture Leaders

Join thousands of like-minded business leaders that rely on our guidance.

american-expresss sales-force mercedes-benz hospital whole-foods mars
REI 15 SM 1k calogo2789 etsy MI png rgb 1 scripps workday

High-trust culture drives results.

Great Place to Work®’s High Trust Culture Consulting
helps organizations assess, improve and sustain the specific culture
that enables their people to power business success.

It's No Coincidence Our Clients

Call Us the Gold Standard

Data Library Like No Other

Unparalleled benchmarking data and best practices from leading companies around the world.

Industry-Proven Research Methodology

Our Trust Index® Survey is taken by millions of employees annually, and our Great Place to Work® Trust Model ® has guided research on workplace culture for decades.

Decades of Expertise

30 years experience in culture research and consulting.

We Practice What We Preach

We’re business-minded people at a mission-driven company. We know what it takes because we live it.