“An eye opening session to co-relate the Organization Lifecycle curve with my work with different organizations.”

Vijayta Panjwani
Corporate Manager
Training & Development, Kanakia Group

Systemic Organisation Development

The Management Dilemma

Managers today are expected to cope with increasing complexity, change and diversity. Problems rarely present themselves individually, but come related to other problems. Organizations, if they are to remain viable, have to respond adroitly to constant shifts in their environments.

Faced with these challenges, managers have often sought the help of consultants who have offered the latest management fad. Unfortunately, these simple solutions fail because they are not holistic or creative enough. They fail to recognize that optimizing the performance of one part of the organization may have consequences elsewhere, that are damaging for the whole. It fails to see that, even if each part is optimized, the performance of the whole organization can be disastrous if the parts do not interact well with each other.

Management fads also stifle creativity. They pander to the notion that there is one best solution in all circumstances. They encourage us to look at organizations from only one perspective.

Systemic Organization Development

Systemic OD is the study of the whole organization before that of the parts. It does not try to break down organizations into parts in order to understand them and intervene in them. It concentrates its attention instead at the organizational level and on ensuring that the parts are functioning and are related properly together so that they serve the purpose of the whole.

Being holistic also means approaching problems ready to employ the systems language. For example, looking at organizations, their parts and their environments as systems, subsystems and suprasystems. Being systemic is to be able to look at problem situations and knowing how to resolve them from a variety of points of view and using different systems approaches in combination. The growing popularity of holistic thinking, is reflected in the increasing readership of Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline.

Basic Assumptions of Systemic OD

• There is no one truth. Depending on the perspective of the observer, the perception differs.

• Organizations are networks of conversations. They create themselves through stories, perceptions, patterns and expectations.

• The patterns and codes of the organization are important not the individuals.

• Organizations that do not interact with their environment tend to reach their limit.

• Cause and effect are not closely related in time and space. Actions may have different effects at a later stage and time unforeseen.

• A system at the same time is open and closed

Our Approach as Systemic Consultants

As systemic consultants, we have found that the best way to build organization capability is by treating the organization as a whole system. Viewed like this, we optimize the systemic balance between the‚ hard (technology) and the soft (human) success factors, in the tension between strategy-structure-culture. It is by working with these processes that meaningful and lasting change can be created.

In practice this means we include a variety of approaches such as organization lifecycle, learning organizations, appreciative inquiry, large group conferences and organization archetypes in our work. However, we are not bound by any one convention and see every assignment as unique and individual, and so deserving a unique and individual response.