Workforce Performance Solutions - May 2006 - (Page 16)

WP0506_A.qxd 4/27/06 11:44 AM Page 16 human performance ystemic Thinking and Human Performance Improvement Harold D. Stolovitch, Ph.D. mining its overall appropriateness an educated guess and decide on a Several years ago, a transportation solution. However, you could increase client of mine commissioned an and potential impact. It would either the probability of making an accurate assessment of its top 100 to deter- disrupt the system or simply get choice if you diagnosed the system to mine leadership strengths and weak- absorbed and have no effect. ensure the presence of all required nesses. Although the assessment elements and their proper functioning. turned up numerous strengths, one Turning to Human consistent weakness it uncovered Performance Systems was lack of systemic thinking. Two Rules of Human performance systems are Needless to say, the assessment Systemic Thinking composed of numerous elements firm had to explain what this meant In systemic thinking, you do not fix- including workers, managers, tasks, and what the implications were to the ate on a single system element. You tools, goals, environment and culture. company. This is a serious defi- think of the whole. You envision all In a human performance system, ciency. In today's complex world, of the elements combined into an these elements work together to pro- systemic thinking is critical. duce valued accomplishments. If the system is not functioning properly, In the world of work, you cannot you cannot simply go in and add ele- ments without systemic analysis and change work hours or the work systemically designed interventions. process without realigning and Don't confuse systemic, or holis- tic, with systematic, or step-by- rebalancing a host of other factors. step thinking. Systematic ways of doing things are ordered, logical and generally linear, which does not necessarily require big-picture integrated entirety. You analyze the What is Systemic Thinking? thinking. A good rule to follow is: system to identify all necessary Think systemically before proceed- components and their functions. We generally think of a system as a ing systematically. You then design your intervention way of doing things. Although this is systemically to ensure that every- one definition, it is not particularly use- thing is present and will work ful for performance improvement A Closing Example together. issues. According to the General Recently, an HR director of a manu- Systems Theory, a system is a set of Please note two rules of systemic facturing company told me that the elements interacting with one another thinking. First, if one element is lack- company had just completed a work- within specified boundaries to pro- ing or incompatible with other ele- place climate survey. According to the duce an output or result. For example, ments, it can decrease efficiency or survey, workers felt they were nothing a car engine consists of valves, pis- even destroy the entire system. The more than cogs in the wheels of the tons, hoses, fuel and many other ele- overall result is diminished or company's machinery. They felt ments. Each element operates ruined. Secondly, you cannot maxi- looked down upon, unimportant to according to its own rules. Each valve mize one part of the system and the May 2006 management and disposable. does what it is supposed to do, never entire system simultaneously. Any Distressed, senior management the same as what another valve or change to one part requires read- mulled over the report and then piston does. All elements combine to justments throughout the whole sys- directed the HR manager to clean up produce a common result power tem. In the world of work, you the situation by putting a communica- WORKFORCE the car. Other examples include our cannot change work hours or the tion program in place complete with digestive system or the heating sys- work process without realigning and posters containing inspiring and car- tems in our homes. Imagine if one rebalancing a host of other factors. ing images and slogans. He was also element in your car, digestive system Short term, you might achieve performance SOLUTIONS told to immediately set up a commu- or heating system were omitted or improved results, but eventually the nication training program for first-line malfunctioned. It could have a dra- system will become distorted. You supervisors. matic impact on the overall result. To also cannot decide to drop an ele- fix it, you What a wonderful non-example of ment into the system before deter- might make S systemic thinking! Harold D. Stolovitch, Ph.D., is a principal of HSA Learning & Performance Solutions LLC and is emeritus professor of instructional and 16 performance technology at the Universit

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Workforce Performance Solutions - May 2006

Editor's Letter
Table of Contents
Change Management
Human Performance
Strategic Alignment
Advertiser's Index
Editorial Resources
Full Potential

Workforce Performance Solutions - May 2006