Does Your Organization Have a Learning Disability – Disability # 4 – Fixation on Events

Disability 4 – System what system?

Think systems not events.

When we first came to this earth it was important to feed ourselves every day, not get eaten by the local saber tooth tiger and, more importantly, grow the population in leaps and bounds. Life was simple, eat or be eaten. This only required the ability to understand each separate event and have a means to handle the event. Learn to hunt and enjoy ourselves. There was no need to appreciate the larger systems at work or be able to connect events.

Life, however, has become more complex and our survival is now dependent on understanding gradual processes such as global warming, a slow decline in sales, a growing obesity problem in the US, a loss of market share. Each is caused by a complex array of systems and events that interact with each other causing even more complex outcomes and effects. We know we cannot hope to keep track of all these events so we select a few that make sense and focus on them. Does business have it right?

We usually choose to see our lives in terms of events. Board meetings in companies are dominated by what to do about last quarters sales, the latest product the competition has launched, how to finance the latest deal, etc. Each is an event that we think has a single solution. We seek single solutions for single problems. We do not see how the latest product that the competition launched affects our sales. We do not see that bad employee relations lead to a low morale which in turn affects design quality and therefore the final product that we attempt to sell to our customers.

As long as we try to find one single reason for each problem we will never get to the bottom of our problems. As long as we fight fires, concentrate on operations and ignore the big picture we will never see any improvement in our business.

Learning is never sustained within a business that has managers focused on short term events. By focusing on events managers, at best, become predictive so as to react optimally. Most business and econometric models are developed in this manner. This however means that business really never learns to create, to think holistically defining the systems in the business.

Concentrate on strategy, think in terms of systems. Learn.