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Newport Group, LLCNewport Group, LLC. Improving Management and Leadership Practices in Complex Organizations Through a Systems Approach.

Useful Tools

Management

It's Obvious!

I have a big problem when I delegate a task. Once I mention the topic of the task, I believe the needed result, the needed methods and resources, and the needed empowerment are all obvious. Part of my personality type (ENTP, for those who know Meyers Briggs typing), is that everything seems obvious to me. The problem is: what’s obvious to me isn’t obvious to others.
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Leadership

Vision is Knowing Where You Want to Be

Some people have a clear sense of who they are, where they're going in life; they can see it clearly because they have a personal vision of what they want to achieve in their life. They're committed to it. They're at peace with it.
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Life Balance Corner

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Applying The Systems Approach

Good systems managers and leaders need to be good systems thinkers. In systems engineering and management, we know about and implement systems, the engineering process, and systems modeling. In systems thinking, we approach the world differently. In systems thinking we see patterns of connection where others see only components, their attributes, and relationships among components or where others see only isolated events. We understand the essence or meaning of the system. We recognize the relationship of each system component to the whole. We learn about a system’s functioning by generalizing lessons learned from other systems. We include everything that affects the system’s aim, functioning, and result. We understand the context of the system. We know how the system came to be.

In systems thinking, we’re equally comfortable and competent in dealing with the conceptual and intangible subsystems as we are in dealing with the tangible subsystems. Since humans design and implement systems containing human subsystems for the benefit of humans, humans are the integrating force for the system and tie the system to its context. Humans are the glue in our systems. (Kurstedt, 2000) This integrating force includes the humans, the relationships among the humans and between humans and the whole, and the emotions, imaginations, consciences, and desires of humans. We see these attributes as important, valuable, and useful in the context of the larger system.

In systems thinking, we see the roles, functioning, and interactions of as many of the system components at one time as possible. We need to see all subsystems that are instrumental to the larger system meeting its aim. In short, without understanding the human subsystems of the larger system, we don’t know the system. Without knowing human relationships, we can’t be systems thinkers.

I used to think that my background in civil, mechanical, and nuclear engineering meant that I was a systems thinker. I saw enough different types of systems and I saw the absolute consistency of mother nature across these types of systems. Then, I focused on organizational systems—largely from a measurement and data perspective, as in total quality management. This additional focus surely would make me a systems thinker. I don’t think so now.

I believe that, before we can be systems thinkers, we have to deal with biological, ecological, sociological, or family systems in addition to the engineering and business systems we’re used to. I believe we have to deal with these kinds of systems because we’re more apt to confront the roles and characteristics of humans in these systems. We have to deal with humans as subsystems and how the intangible components within the human subsystems relate to components in our other subsystems. We need profound and intimate knowledge of human subsystems, individually and as a type of system component. And, ultimately, humans hold the systems we engineers deal with together. Humans are the glue in our systems.

A systems thinker easily and comfortably integrates human components as subsystems in complex systems. Integrating human subsystems requires understanding how human subsystems work emotionally and socially as well as physically and mentally. The key to effectively integrating humans is in analyzing, designing, and implementing relationships between and among human subsystems. We must design and manage relationships between human subsystems as well as between humans and non-human components and subsystems.

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