- Bolman and Deal (2017) have suggested to us that we can improve organizational performance by reframing the way understand and imagine how organizations function. We have examined organizations through the structural, HR, political, and symbolic frames. Captured in Bolman and Deal’s conception of how we might reframe organizations, although not explicitly referenced, is the notion that for organizations to be successful in a sustained way, requires that they must become “learning organizations.” According to systems theorist, Peter Senge (1992) author of the groundbreaking book on organizational learning, “The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization,” we must think in a systems way rather than the usual way of focusing on immediate events. Senge notes that from a systems perspective, today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions in that, when we solve a problem in one part of the organization, a new problem arises in another part of the organization. He gives an example of cutting inventory to solve the problems of high inventory costs only to have the problem of unsatisfied customers who have to wait for late deliveries. He also warns that “behavior grows better before it grows worse,” meaning that organizational fixes that focus on the symptoms of problems but not the sources of problems will result in larger problems down the road.
Think about how your department or unit within your organization is connected at a systems level, or how your organization functions as a system. What current or past remedy to a problem is an example of “non-systems thinking” and why? What might be, or could have been, a better solution from a systems perspective?