Arniston Spa Hotel

Agility – Develop a systems thinking approach

By Dr Letitia van der Merwe & Magda Stevens – InavitIQ Learning

Having explored the characteristics of ”being” and “doing” agile, we can now continue our series of article 3 of 5 by exploring how to:

“Develop a systems thinking approach”

Peter Senge made the concept of systems thinking popular. In his work he focuses on the problems that are most difficult to solve and the mental models today’s leaders need in order to build a smarter planet. According to him, leaders today need to be able and prepared to reassess their strategies, work across multiple groups to find solutions and have the vision to work through high leverage solutions over time. To us this also implies a deep commitment to learning: i.e. leaders must be prepared to be wrong, to challenge their mental models, to triangulate and collaborate to see collectively and know that it may require time to address the problem.

Working smarter means working in ways that are collective and are based on collective intelligence across cities and supply chains to produce social, ecological and economic well-being.  Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, Senior lecturer at MIT and founder of the Society for Organizational Learning shares his perspectives on leadership and systems thinking. For more context, please use the following link to access his views in a short 5-minute video clip.

Systems thinking involves both a mind-set that focuses on how the parts of a whole are interrelated and a set of tools that helps organisations examine complexity (The latter is also defined as a function of complex decision making, at different levels of work, over time.) Some of these tools that you might like to explore includes:

  • Systemic enquiry; (defined as a careful, deliberate effort to deal with a problem and to investigate something inadequately known or understood.)
  • OODA Loop; (The phrase OODA loop refers to the decision cycle of observe, orient, decide, and act. It is also often applied to understand commercial operations and learning processes. The approach favors agility over raw power in dealing with human opponents in any endeavour.)
  • Critical chain project management; (Critical chain project management (CCPM) is a method of planning and managing projects that emphasizes the resources (people, equipment, physical space) required to execute project tasks); and
  • Rich pictures. (Rich pictures are a strategy in which complex situations are represented in a large diagram with pictures and symbols.)

In the next section we will provide some insight on how to ask more open-ended questions.