Let’s Talk About S…!

2 Comments Foundation of Excellence

Regent University - fountatinS-e-x? Not this time, friends. The “S” is for “Systems Thinking”! Let’s talk about systems thinking! If you are unfamiliar with the concept of “systems thinking,” your first thought might be that the expression is scientific, probably has something to do with psychology, and surely does not relate to what you do in your world. The aim of this post is to demonstrate how systems thinking is most assuredly applicable to your world and has the potential to change aspects of your life!

Systems thinking is an approach to problem solving that analyzes the parts of a whole, with consideration of how the parts interact, in order to derive a solution to a problem or address a question related to an operation. The word “systems” refers to the operation or any dynamic unit, organization, issue, situation, etc. In other words, “systems” refers to any entity that functions as a whole with constantly moving parts or elements such as a corporation, college, school, church, family, and even YOU. Another characteristic of any system is its identifiable outcomes. Systems exist to attain particular results.

As an illustration of systems thinking, the chief executive of an organization must be a sophisticated user of the process to establish the vision, engage in goal setting and to problem- solve in guiding the system to its identified outcomes. For a mid-level executive who manages a department or division within a large organization, sophisticated use of systems thinking must be routinely applied in order to achieve the goals of the unit within the larger system. Finally, individual workers within the organization must also apply systems thinking as they perform to attain the established goals and objectives within their sphere of operation within the system.

As systems thinking is applied by each responsible person within the organization, namely the CEO, the department manager, and the individual worker, consideration is given to the dynamics (moving parts) for each sphere of responsibility in order to progress to achieve the outcomes of the organization. Thus, systems thinking is applied: problems are identified and analyzed, priorities are determined, strategies are generated, solutions are weighed, human relations are managed, time is organized, creative options are brainstormed, resourcefulness is demonstrated, decisions are made, and results are constantly evaluated.

These actions involving systems thinking result in successful attainment of the outcomes of the organization and assure the viability of the system. On the other hand, if systems thinking is weak and ineffective throughout the organization, outcomes cannot be reached. The result will be devastating to the system. The outcomes of the operation will not be attained, resulting in system failure and the demise of the entity.

With this general understanding of what a “system” is and how “systems thinking” is critical for effective operation and the success of an organization, let’s look closer at “systems thinking” and how it is applicable to YOU! To attain success in life, you should apply systems thinking to advance your personal goals, reach new heights in your career, and fulfill your purpose in life. Instead of simply living day-to-day and following the same routine, you can be energized and gain insight to reach life goals by considering your life operation as a system:  With consideration of your life as a “system”, you are able to establish clear goals and identifiable outcomes that are achievable throughout various stages of your life. You will apply the same strategies or “systems thinking” as previously outlined for the success and viability of an organization:

  • Problems in your life are identified and analyzed.
  • Priorities are determined.
  • Strategies (specific action steps) are generated.
  • Solutions are strategically identified.
  • Human relations are managed.
  • Time is organized, valued, and focused.
  • Creative options are encouraged and valued.
  • Resourcefulness is demonstrated.
  • Decision-making is systematic and strategic.
  • Results are constantly evaluated.

It is noteworthy that systems thinking is sophisticated processing, is comprehensive in its nature, must be conducted with the recognition that conditions are constantly changing, including some factors that are beyond one’s control but yet must be accommodated. Further, it is important to be aware that decisions made within the system will have a ripple effect throughout the system – sometimes positive and at other times negative effects.

However, the most important consideration in applying systems thinking is its potential for reaching desired goals and attaining system outcomes. Systems thinking is a 21st century skill and a required process for all of us to use to be successful in all realms of our lives.

Dr. Helen Stiff-Williams

School of Education

Charlotte County, VA

Dr. Stiff-Williams is a professor in the Regent University School of Education and has experience as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent. She also served as Division Chief for the Virginia Department of Education.

2 Responses to “Let’s Talk About S…!”

  1. Reply Kalyn says:

    I loved this- it got my attention from the beginning! :) I appreciate how relevant and applicable it is regardless of my position- on the individual level on up. I believe this will make me more successful in all areas of my life- thank you!

  2. Reply Antwan Perry says:

    I LOVE this woman! A great person and a scholar and intellectual! This is applicable to me in my life right now. Great words.

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