By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International 6-8-2011
You see things and you say, Why? But I dream things that never were;
and I say, Why Not? – George Bernard Shaw
Are you a mid-level manager, a supervisor, the CEO of a young, growing organization, an owner of a small business or a board member of a non-profit organization? Guess what? When it comes to planning you all share one identical challenge – embracing change. This is likely not news to you, except maybe you feel all alone in your conundrum, which is “where do I get the time and resources to do a good job of planning and then to follow through with a diligent implementation of my plans?”
This is one of the greatest challenges of all organizations. We are constantly challenged to ask “WHY should we change or even consider changing?” – right? The quote above might seem comically absurd, in the sense that many of us rarely feel we have the luxury of dreaming things that never were, much less the courage to say “WHY NOT?”
In past articles I have explored some of the unintended consequences of not thinking systemically, or we can say, holistically, about issues and problems.
For example, it generally makes sense and is customary to place backup generators in basements of buildings, right? But that worked out poorly for the Japanese nuclear reactor buildings whose basements flooded. Other than a catastrophic building collapse from an earthquake, for which the buildings were fairly well prepared, flooding seemed to have never been considered.
I imagine all nuclear reactor plants around the world today are rethinking the configuration of their building and support systems. However, a simple four to eight-hour exercise in rigorous systems thinking in the design of the Japanese nuclear plant might have anticipated a flooding incident and adjusted for it in its construction with a much more positive outcome after the earthquake.
Back to the topic of Systems Thinking and “dreaming things that never were”. Planning for disasters is actually a fantastic exercise in working those systems thinking brain muscles. It’s easier to compel yourself and your colleagues to really press for those “what if” scenarios.
In doing so you will find yourselves asking those tough, uncomfortable questions that are key to the appreciative inquiry process that is so productive in systems thinking. You will more quickly produce the answers to the “why not?” questions, and begin to appreciate how the process can be productive in general business planning.
Whether you are tackling the plan for a project, a product launch, creating a new department, a business plan or a strategic plan, the elements of a rigorous and disciplined Systems Thinking Approach® to the planning process can be amazingly simple and will produce sustained excellent results.
If you are stuck asking “why?” about a problem or issue, it is high time you stop doing so and start “dreaming what has never been” and asking “why not?”, over and over again. You’ll find yourselves changing and moving in productive directions you never believed possible.
Send your comments to eric at dennergroup international.