Problems can be overwhelming for organizational leaders and even more overwhelming for the employees. Organizational leaders have the benefit of having a bird’s eye view of the systems that contribute to the success and challenges of any organization, but employees can become siloed in their departments and often do not have the necessary information to maintain an overall view. For organizational leaders, helping their employees become system thinkers will not only empower them to discover solutions to problems that can benefit the whole of the organization but will also provide organizational leaders the advantage of gaining deeper understanding by tapping into employee expertise.
In order to get employees to become systems thinkers, organizational leaders need to start by teaching them to move beyond event thinking. Event thinking is pragmatic, action-oriented, alluringly simple and often lacks imagination (Morecroft, 2015). Event thinking is great for emergency situations that require quick, immediate action; unfortunately, if employees do not move beyond event thinking then the organizational culture adopts an emergency approach to operations which increases stress and decreases productivity (Morecroft, 2015).
Organizational leaders need to teach employees how to move past this firefighter mentality and think in a feedback approach which strives for solutions that are aware of the needs of the organizational and social environment (Morecroft, 2015). Feedback systems thinking is a shift of the mind to interpret organizational challenges in a more holistic fashion that break down silos and departmental thinking (Senge, 1990). The feedback approach develops systems thinking in employees because they move beyond the immediate problem and look for the overall causes within the organizational system (Morecroft, 2015). By moving employees from event thinking to a feedback approach, they will be empowered to anticipate potential problems, avoid strategic pitfalls, and take steps to improve performance (Morecroft, 2015)
Morecroft, J. D. W. (2015). Strategic modelling and business dynamics: a feedback systems approach (Second edition). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization (Rev. and updated). New York: Doubleday/Currency.