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Why we struggle to change?

Many organisations are overwhelmed by a continuous struggle to react and adapt as the world rapidly changes.  This leaves little energy or time for developing the new capabilities required to get ahead of the game.

When we do try to lift and break through, we find that working harder at ‘more of the same’ simply does not work.  This is frustrating and confusing, especially when we invest in expert help and we work hard – only to find over time that we re-arranged the chairs but that the fundamentals have not changed.

For decades, management thinking and practice has been focused on reducing variation, setting clear rules and achieving targets.  This works, at least to a point, if the environment is well understood, is not rapidly evolving and does not include disruptive technologies or changes in social norms.  

In those cases, we can reasonably aim for predictable performance and to increase both effectiveness and efficiency over time.  We can of course, push this approach too far, either creating red tape or low-value processes or to try to control complex, intangible challenges that do not respond well to linear thinking or methods.  In either case, we end up with avoidable churn and failures.

The reality for almost every organisation today - from a coffee shop, to a large business, to a Government agency - is that only some of what we do can be managed well using traditional management methods.   In our rapidly changing world, it’s simply not enough.

Complexity, uncertainty, emergence and interconnectivity are realities for all organisations and demand a different way of working if we wish to flourish.  

Applied systems thinking has emerged over the last two decades, in response.  It recognises that human organisations are inherently complex systems, with many interrelated, intangible influences and with the tendency to for unexpected outcomes to emerge.   

Crucially, applied systems thinking, methods and tools provide leaders with the opportunity to work in real time on complex challenges that would otherwise be overwhelming.   Rather than try to control the factors involved in complex challenges, they provide quick, reliable ways to explore complexity to find and understand the things that matter most.  The enable leaders to make clear, focused decisions, with confidence.

Applying systems thinking does not remove the need and ability to use traditional management approaches where they are appropriate.  In fact, they remain integral to both effectiveness and efficiency in much of what we do.  

However for the truly complex challenges we face, a step change is necessary especially for senior leaders and how they work.  Making that step change creates the potential for breakthrough performance not just once, but ongoing.   Proactive rather than reactive adaptation and innovation become part of business as usual. 

Systemic risk intelligence lies at the heart of the ability to make that step change.  It is the difference between those leaders and organisations able to make the change, and those that are not able to do so.

Systemic Risk Intelligence changes what is possible.  Breaking through becomes part of business-as-usual.

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