Systems Thinking allows organizations to:
- understand the strategic vision of the organization as a whole
- understand how the organization works and fits together as a whole
- understand the problems in the systems and understand the consequences of how solutions to those problems can affect the whole system.
Systems Thinking is a wonderful way to understand the root cause of the problem. For example, if there is a town that continually has fire outbreaks, just putting out the fires each time is not solving the root cause of why fires break out. The root cause could be that the town has no fire codes or the houses may not be equipped with smoke detectors. Putting out the fire is just a temporary solution but let’s say the town implements fire codes; this could potentially eliminate the fire breakouts. This is the beauty of Systems Thinking. It allows business analysts to determine the root cause of the problem and nip the problem at the root opposed to building out temporary solutions.
How can we apply this concept?
Let’s take the example of the fire outbreaks:
- First, identify the event/problem. The event in this situation is the fire outbreak in the towns.
- Second, identify the patterns. By asking a series of questions, patterns can be determined. For example, “What similarities in the house are causing the fires?” “What sections of the town are the fires breaking out?”
- Third, once the problems and patterns have been identified, then determine what solution can rid of the problem.
Sounds pretty simple but it’s amazing how often this is not done.
This is a powerful tool for business analysts to help implement better solutions. Start thinking about the projects you are working on and ask yourself:
- Why are we doing this project?
- How does this project fit into the organization’s strategic goals and long-term vision?
- How will the solution I recommend or help build meet those strategic goals or long-term vision?
- Am I solving for a temporary need and implementing a temporary solution; if so, what can I do as a business analyst to ensure that temporary solution doesn’t turn into a long-term solution? Or better yet, why are we doing a short-term solution for a long-term goal? What’s driving that need?
I do have to add that sometimes the answers to these questions are out of our control due to company culture but it never hurts to ask if your culture allows for that. In the long run you will be thanked.
Even if you have doing business analysis for years, it’s always good to step back and look at the projects you are working on and determine if the solution is really solving the root cause of the problem or just simply putting a Band-Aid to get past an immediate need. Even if you have to put on a Band-Aid for an immediate need it’s good to go back and ensure that Band-Aid has been removed and the long-term solution is implemented.
Let’s step our thinking up to the next level!
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Paula Bell is a Business Analyst, mentor and coach known for consistently producing exceptional work, providing guidance to aspiring business analysts (including those that just want to sharpen their skills), as well as providing creative and strategic ways to build relationships for successful projects. With 14 years in project roles to include business analyst, requirements manager, technical writer, project manager, developer, test lead and implementation lead, Paula has experience in a variety of industries including media, courts, carpet manufacturing, banking and mortgage. Paula has had the opportunity to speak on a variety of topics to include business analysis, project management, relationship building, diversity and software methodology.