If there is one thing we have learned over years of working with all types of organizations, it is this: systems have power.
And all human systems fight to preserve the status quo, even if that results in death!
Like fish in water we live in systems often unaware of how they shape us. But everything is connected. Human beings live and move in systems; life is a dynamic interplay between people and events. And the systems we live in produce predictable results.
Here are five basic truths about how we are shaped by systems and the results they produce (we credit the thought of Peter Senge here):
- Today’s problem’s come from yesterday’s “solutions”. What worked in the past does not work anymore because external realities have changed.
- The harder you push the harder the system pushes back. The system is an unforgiving thing. It cannot be defeated, only understood, and over time transformed.
- Faster often results in slower. It’s vital to reflect critically and build ownership in stakeholders in the early changes of a change initiative.
- Small changes often produce big results – but the areas of greatest leverage are often the least obvious.
- There is no one to blame. We tend to want to make people scapegoats and culprits. But in fact people generally behave exactly how the system rewards them for behaving.
Each of these five truths have this in common – they are counterintuitive! When you have some time to reflect, to “get on the balcony”, consider each in turn and how they may challenge some of the predictable ways you tend to think and behave.