How does your work work?

Applying Systems Thinking and other ideas

What System?

The way that our work is organised, from first contact with a customer to completion of an order or service to their satisfaction, can be represented as a system. The parts people play in that system to fulfil the customer's needs are the components of that system.

Systems Thinking is a way to analyse the functions of and interdependence of those components, aiming to make improvements which increase the performance of the system as a whole rather than optimising parts within.

Understanding how your organisation actually works (rather than the org chart) is the first step in being able to improve it and improve your customers' satisfaction with your services.


The world of software development has produced a concept of "Agile" to describe newer ways of working. These methods are not a specific set of processes but rather indicate a mindset and philosophy of self-organising teams, working in small batches (or delivering constantly in a flow) and continous reflection and improvement.

While specifics of this approach are not applicable everywhere, the benefits those using Agile see should not be confined to software development. "Knowledge Work" in particular (i.e. creative, individual products and services) is suited to the approach of trusting those who do the job to help improve how it works.

Agile management means enabling the work to be done, removing obstacles to delivery and performance. Is your management style aiming to do this, or is it all about controlling the workers?