butterfly effect, systems theory, Toby Elwin, blog

Change management stormtroopers and system theory

systems theory, chaos, butterfly effect, change management, stormtrooper

The flight path of the butterfly strangely affects the toilet bowl, system spiral of most change management

Process engineers hijacked systems theory.  Worse, Information Technology stormtroopers hold change management for ransom.

When did we allow organization designs led by:

  1. analytical, causal, deductive, drone’s with an over-adherence of frameworks to analyze past events
  2. technical belief that behavior is linear towards a single end point

Frameworks and theories that rely on past events ignore all opportunity for organizations to interact in an interdependent co-generative way: systems theory.

People are more emotional than rational. Plans and process make nice economic theories, but provide little insight into real systems.

Systems theory and systems thinking relies on interface, feedback, organizational goals, input, throughput, output, differentiation, and integration.

This Relates to Me

Systems thinking is relational.

People are relational.

Systems thinking has moved us beyond deductive, logical analysis to context, association, meaning, value, and perception.

People seek association, meaning, and value.

Systems thinking introduced the wholeness of an organization’s personality, integration, cohesion, and environment as a key determinant for choices the organization has made.

People’s personality and environment are clear determinants for decisions and choices they make.

Who hijacked systems thinking from pattern recognition to process mapping?

Who advanced the practice of analyzing parts of the organization away from the whole?

If I had a nickel for each time I have heard the word silo as a description of corporation, federal agency, college, hospital, startup, or boy scout troop organization dysfunction, wow, consider me retired! Hmm, there is a pattern to be recognized in how each group feels a divine right to their silo mentality, but I digress…

Well, That Depends

When did we forget that organizations are interdependent and that process summation of individual elements cannot account for the whole?

Anyone who relies on interaction to achieve a desired outcome needs to stop thinking about engineering process maps. We need to stop dehumanizing our relationships. Are we in such fear of political correctness or liability that we avoid interaction and dialogue with a preference to believe a process map or blue print will not offend?

We need to start building accountability for outcomes. We organization development practitioners need to step up our abilities to add process, rigor, data sets, and accountability or we will lose our place at the business table.

In short, organization development needs to take back systems theory.

Next time you meet a process map wonk or change management consultant, ask them to add more Gestalt and ease up on Visio.

Postscript: I recommend Systems Theory for Organization Development, edited by Thomas G. Cummings as a great resource

Systems Theory Series:

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