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Viewing your organisation as a system

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Whatever the nature of change, many people find it helpful to view the organisation as a system to help them manage the change effectively.

This section gives you a brief overview of systems thinking. If you want to know more Management Help has more information on this. 

What is a system?

A system is made up of separate components which all work together to achieve a task. If you take away or change a component it affects  the whole system.

So, for example, a car is a system. It is a collection of components which put together in a particular way, will transport you. Individually these components cannot achieve much if anything - a spark plug or petrol tank on its own will not take you far. Similarly, if one component is faulty or stops working then this can have a massive impact on the whole system. If you've ever experienced a flat tyre, you'll know this.

The organisation as a system

In the same way, you could view the organisation as a system - made up of components which work together to achieve an overall goal. These components can be defined in any number of ways, but you could see them as different functions. So, for example, the HR team could be one component. The service delivery staff another component. The volunteers another and so on.

All these different functions are dependent on each other. A  great HR team on its own does not make a great organisation  in the same way that a petrol tank on its own does not make a car. You may have a great team of staff delivering services, but if your finance processes and procedures stop working the whole organisation suffers.

Implementing change

So, what does that mean when you are implementing change?  Well, if you decide to change the tyres, or swap the spark plugs, it might seem relatively minor but it will affect the whole performance of your car. When you are planning organisational change consider how those small changes to components might affect the ability of the whole organisation to achieve its goals. For example, changing the working hours of your administrative staff might not seem a huge change but think through the implications as it could have big changes to the organisation as a whole.

If you want to know more about systems thinkings, the Management Library has a comprehensive explanation of systems thinking and how it applies to organisational change.

Page last edited Apr 28, 2017

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