You might be absolutely convinced that you’re not a systems thinker. That you’re not the systems guy. That you’re more of a free-thinking entrepreneur who leaves systems thinking up to the geekier members of the team. You write notes on paper, you’re swamped with emails and your work gets done, not perfectly but at least on-time.
I’m here to tell you that you are a systems thinker and you’ve got systems thinkers wrong. Thinking in systems is grabbing a process and finding out how it changes over time. Take a teenagers room and you’ll see that a neat space becomes a mess through very specific inputs. It’s not the universe, some mystery wind or life, it’s half a process performed hundreds of times.
It’s the same with business. Perform a process a hundred times and leaving a small amount of chaos each time winds up being a mountain of chaos.
Our team sees it every week when we’re looking at the systems and processes that teams are using. They’re cobbled together systems and sticky-taped processes that have been built just-in-time to meet a business need. They’re not always bad but they’re a long way from a place where they can be constantly improved bringing more calm and more order to a business.
The first step to becoming a systems thinker is to take an elevated view of your business. Imagine it like you’re looking down on a LEGO village that you built. Customers come in, products get made, customers go out. Now adjust the variables, more customers, less staff, more products – what changes? What will break? Will you be able to keep track of everything that is happening?
This is just a first step to thinking in systems but it’s those slight changes in perspective that can make a huge difference in knowing what’s happening, what’s possible and what needs changing.