What is Systems Thinking? LO6174

Richard Karash (rkarash@karash.com)
Fri, 22 Mar 1996 20:58:39 -0500 (EST)

Replying to LO6139 --

On Wed, 20 Mar 1996, John Godfrey & Miranda Beale wrote:

> 1) If an organisation could demonstrate reasonably consistent competence
>in and practice of systems thinking, then is it a "learning organisation"?

Well, I'll tell the story related to me by a very talented colleague and
superb systems dynamics/systems thinking analyst, Jenny Kemeny. She says,

"Earlier in my career, I discovered that as I got better and better as an
analyst, I was getting kicked out of my cleints faster and faster. They
were always nice, appreciative, told me 'good job' and all that, but
still I was shown the door.

"I was looking at their problems from a systems thinking perspective, I
was finding the ways in which they were creating their own problems. For
an organization that's not vision driven, this is just plain bad news.
Blameful, etc. They understood my message rationally, but they just
couldn't do anything with it.

"When I began working with vision-driven organizations, or when our work
was successful in building capabilities in all five disciplines, then the
same kind of results -- showing how they had created their own problems --
these results were pure good news. Good news because if they created the
problems, then there was nothing in the way of their eliminating the

And, I'll add a piece from my own early career experience. Trained in the
operations research, management science disciplines, I saw a lot of good
work that just wasn't implemented. Good works that never had any impact.

So, if an organization has systems thinking skills, but not the other
disciplines, I think their effectiveness is diminished. I think a
reasonable skill in all the disciplines is important for organizational
learning to be strong.


Richard Karash ("Rick") | <http://world.std.com/~rkarash> Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer | email: rkarash@karash.com "Towards learning organizations" | Host for Learning-Org Mailing List (617)227-0106, fax (617)523-3839 | <http://world.std.com/~lo>

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