There are none so blind as those who will not see. But there are also those who simply cannot see the wood for the trees, which is why so many organizations unknowingly suffer from a severe form of corporate dyslexia: Systems Blindness.
How can we diagnose, treat and cure this damaging and expensive syndrome that cripples effectiveness and long-term viability?
What is Systems Blindness? It’s the inability to recognise, clearly define and manage the various systems that constitute the organization.
Symptoms include: difficulty in effecting change; duplication of effort and investment; technology-centric approach to ‘solutions;’ management by organogram and an introverted world view.
Regularly examine and review your organization – look for symptoms of corporate dyslexia and Systems Blindness.
Every enterprise, regardless of size, comprises a complex combination of component systems and subsystems that interact to create the whole.
A system should be an effective combination of people, process, technology and organization – that is engaged in purposeful activity.
Hidden systems are intrinsically risky; likewise poorly defined systems.
Document and publish genuinely useful definitions of your systems. Share these with your stakeholders to foster better understanding and opportunity.
System boundaries are not constrained internally by organization charts and usually extend beyond to external stakeholders – even if these may not be immediately apparent.
Organograms can be a major inhibitor to successful organization.
First and foremost, recognise that the gleaming attractiveness of technology creates an artificial glare which quickly leads to System Blindness.
Do not fall into the trap of trying to align technology directly with strategy.
Technology can only deliver value as a subsidiary component of an effective system, not as a primary objective in itself.
Secondly, move beyond the hierarchical and horizontal conditioning that prevents thinking about the organization as a true mesh of multi-layered interdependencies.
Effective enterprises need effective systems, which weave a strong and resilient tapestry from the resources available. Not just a hierarchical abstraction of the management chain, or even a conveniently neat series of distinct ‘value chains.’
Finally, remember that each of us is naturally pre-conditioned towards thinking in terms of patterns and systems -it’s fundamental human nature to seek and respect systems.
But the world of work seems to ignore this innate ability, at great cost and disappointment. Why are so many people comfortable living with Systems Blindness?
You cannot understand or manage your organization properly if you cannot see your systems clearly.
Copyright © Colin Beveridge 2010. All rights reserved.