Characteristics of Systemic Interventions LO9782
Fri, 6 Sep 1996 03:02:59 -0400

From: Alan McMahan

I am a Ph.D. student doing a dissertation on Systemic Change using The
Fifth Discipline as a core text. Specifically, I am examining two church
growth consulting firms that wish to intervene in plateaued church
situations using systemic strategies. That is, they claim that their
interventions are systemic in nature. I will examine their intervention
methods and then do case studies on several of their client churches to
see how their interventions dealt with systemic forces that have kept
these churches from growing in the past.

At this point one chief question I have is: What makes an intervention
systemic? Can an intervention itself be systemic or does the intervention
simply work to certain effects in the systems of an organization? I have
tried to develop a list of characteristics that might be common to
systemic interventions. Any feedback and/or modifications to the list
would be helpful.

Characteristics of Systemic Interventions:
1) Recognizes that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
2) Recognizes that a key to shaping systemic structures is the mental models
behind them.
3) Is wary of scapegoats and blame-shifting.
4) Recognizes systems integrity.
5) Distinguishes between symptomatic solutions that give short-term
satisfaction and long-term solutions which may have in-built delays.
6) Addresses more than one issue at a time.
7) Maps the interactions of interrelating forces with the goal to assess
relationships and affective causes one upon another.
8) Cultivates a healthy interdependence between the participants in a system.
9) Assumes that the sources of the problems are multiple.
10) Does not try to solve the problems as much as resource the participants
in a system to mutually resource each other to solve problems.
11) Identifies long-term consequences and unintended side-effects.
12) Looks at yesterday's solutions as one source of today's problems.
13) Recognizes that most organizational problems are complex and therefore
any intervention must focus on high leverage issues and have a
self-sustaining, multiplicational dynamic.
14) Recognizes compensating feedback (where pushing harder on the usual
answers has diminishing results).
15) Distinguishes between multiple levels of systemic reality (events,
patterns of events, systemic structures, mental models).
16) More concerned in leading the process, not the people.
17) Seeks to identify points of leverage to address foundational loop

Any insights that you would have to add, subtract or otherwise modify
these characteristics would be appreciated.

Alan McMahan


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