#8: 5 Reasons Why EVERY Consultant Needs Systems Thinking

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I have two children. When they were small, they used to go to daycare. What this meant in practicality to me was: two kids + daycare = many fevers and visits to the doctor’s office. As the parent, I was able detect and even treat the fever. However, in order to get rid of the fever, I had to rely on my doctor to discern whether the fever was caused by a bacteria or a virus and, if so, what part of the body the bacteria or virus was infecting. Then the doctor, using her knowledge of how the body functions, was able to prescribe the solution to dealing with the root cause of the fever.

Why You Need to This Week's Podcast:

You may be thinking right now, “What does this have to do with consulting to change?” 

Let me give you two really important ways:

1. To create real results (vs. expensive band-aids) - your change project needs to be directed towards resolving challenges at the level of cause (not effect).

2. Any change in one part of the system, effects the others. If you don't adjust the system, your change effort will for certain fail.

In this podcast from my series Consulting Matters: Mastering the Art and Science of the Business, I give you a quick overview to how organizations function. I'll be going over what's in this visual to give you a better sense of the true complexity of an organization.

  • Business Strategy: The organization’s formula for winning (e.g., goals, objectives, values, etc.).
  • Organization Strategy: The placement of power and authority (e.g., organizational chart, division of labor, etc.) and how the work is accomplished, the flow by which products and services are created and delivered (e.g., budgeting, order fulfillment, etc.)
  • People Strategy: What competencies are required; how individuals are recruited, selected, trained, recognized, compensated and rewarded; and how performance is measured, tracked and monitored.
  • Leadership and Culture Strategy: How employees are led, and the unspoken but understood “ways things get done around here” (e.g., stated and implicit performance expectations, role and styles of leadership, etc.).

Every organization has these components, whether consultants and leaders are aware of them or not. The key to sustainable change is taking into account the entire system.

Where You Might Get Stuck:

The concept of system thinking might be new to you. You may have found your way to consulting as a result of developing an expertise within a specific functional area like marketing, sales or operations and now are being invited to contribute towards projects that affect the entire enterprise.

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