A Systems View of the Organization

Today’s Challenge for LeadersGuiding organizations through choppy waters is what leaders do. Some are more successful than others. You are charged with maintaining and growing the viability of the business regardless of events you seemingly have no control over. The question is how you go about that.There has been a lot of talk about strategic thinking and planning. However, when faced with slumping sales and rising costs, management tends to look within and focus on examining existing operations, to try to find ways to reverse the trend. It typically starts with a meeting with sales and marketing, to get a more accurate feel for the market and to adjust sales projections. Armed with this new revenue number, an in depth auditing of each department will follow looking for new efficiencies, new ways of doing business, or anything that can help the company hit the new numbers, the new fixation of the business. When money is tight you cut back right? It seems only logical.But if you stop and think about it for a moment, is that really the best way to analyze the situation? For example, when an auto manufacturer experiences a downturn in sales the automatic response is to slow or stop production. This is not adapting to the market it’s reacting to the market.Couldn’t the real problem possibly be that the auto company didn’t fully understand what kind of car the market wanted, how many and at what price point? Undoubtedly they spent a great deal of time and resources gathering intelligence on the competition, which is a good thing to do, and they should do it. But remember, the competition doesn’t buy cars. Shouldn’t the company also understand the environment that their customers live in? Shouldn’t they also know and appreciate what constraints that environment might place on their customers’ buying decisions? The real problem isn’t that the company didn’t sell enough cars; that is just the end result. The real problem is that they made more cars than the customers wanted to buy or could afford buy, or simply made cars that the customers didn’t need or didn’t want.It’s the understanding that the company must have of the external driving forces, their inter-relationships, and the impact these have on the company, that should determine what it must deliver to be competitive or simply remain relevant. And it is this understanding of what it must deliver that then determines how the company’s internal systems (and their inter-relationships) need to be designed and operated.The Systems ViewThis idea of looking outward, of looking beyond the walls of the company office building is not new. What is relatively new to many executives, is the idea of looking at the world as a collection of systems that create a whole and examining the relationships between those systems to determine how they affect the whole. Systems Theory, as applied to organizational management, puts forth the premise that all organizations are systems, and all systems are part of larger systems. How a subsystem fits the needs of the larger system ultimately determines if that subsystem prospers or is left to wither on the vine.It’s this concept that the adept leader can use to get a more “holistic” view of his organization. Understanding how the company relates to the larger system in which it exists and operates, and then how the company’s internal systems contribute or detract from that larger relationship can provide a more relevant analysis.It really isn’t as esoteric as it may sound. Once you grasp the concept it will be easy to see how it applies to your organization. Let’s spend a moment on a definition and then we can address application.In Systems Theory, a system is defined in two ways:Externally, by its purpose. Each system has a role that it plays in the higher-level system in which it exists. Using the auto company example we can say that the auto company is a system whose role is to provide cars to the next higher-level system, the auto market. The auto market in turn has its multiple roles that it plays in the next higher-level systems of transportation and national economy and so on.
Internally, by its subsystems and internal functions. Each system is made up of components and sub-systems that interrelate and contribute to the overall purpose of the parent system. In the auto company those components might consist of engineering, production, marketing, finance, human resources and sales all of which should be supporting the system’s purpose of providing cars to the higher system, the auto market.Systems Theory in Managing OrganizationsDefining the Higher-Level System and the Organization’s Role in ItSo for a leader, the first step in developing a holistic view of the organization is to define the higher-level system in which it exists/operates, and its role/purpose in that higher-level system. Where does it fit? What kind of role does it play and what value does it bring to the purpose of the higher-level system? If a company does not have a role to play in the higher-level system, then it does not belong in that system; and if it cannot find a role in any higher-level system, it is in effect redundant and will ultimately die. Additionally, and sadly more common, if a company cannot accurately define what its role is in the higher-level system, even if it has something relevant to offer, it will be treated as if it had no role at all.If a higher-level system cannot perceive value by including a particular sub-system, it will ignore that sub-system. This typically means the end of that sub-level system’s participation in the higher-level system. That’s the reason nobody makes buggy whips or vinyl music records anymore.Designing the Internal Functions and Subsystems of the OrganizationOnce you have defined the higher-level system in which your company operates, and established your company’s purpose within it, then it’s time to look at the components or subsystems of your organization. These subsystems and components, knowingly or unknowingly, all interact and play a part in achieving or detracting from the company’s purpose. Ideally of course, these subsystems and their interrelationships should be designed and organized in a way that collectively promotes the organization’s purpose, and achieve zero or sustainable negative entropy for the organization. While there is much to discuss about entropy and organizations, a simple macro explanation is that entropy occurs when a system’s resources are depleted over time and its subsystems descend into chaos. Zero entropy is thus a state where resources do not deplete over time, and negative entropy where resources increase over time; in both cases with the subsystems maintaining current relevance and focus on the system purpose.In the auto company example, it needs to define its market, the range of products and services for that market, and how to produce and deliver those products and services in an exchange with the auto market, in a way that its resources do not get depleted. When it achieves that, the auto company will have reached a state of business sustainability. Of course all companies would like to grow, and not just maintain the business; however we all know that growth needs to be kept sustainable or the result could be detrimental. For example, if the auto company increases its market share so rapidly, that it is unable to match that pace with getting the people and systems it needs in place to ensure good quality control, then it could get into problems. In Systems Theory, when we talk about negative entropy in successful systems, it is always about sustainable negative entropy.It can be argued that assuming the organization knows its true purpose, then how that organization’s subsystems are organized will determine the success or failure of the organization. Subsystems, functions, and their inter-relationships are thus optimized to achieve the organization’s purpose; this is distinct from optimization of subsystems for their own purposes. Consequently, if a subsystem does not have a role in the organization’s purpose, then it does not belong in the organization system.It kind of sounds like we are back to the traditional response of auditing departments doesn’t it? But did you note the difference? This time we defined a purpose first. We identified what our role is in the higher-level system. We know what we must do to succeed in that higher-level system. It’s only after we have that firmly established that we use it to determine the organization and effectiveness of our subsystems.Outside-InsideLet’s ratchet this up a level and get you thinking in even broader terms. We talked about finding our purpose in the next higher-level system but it really doesn’t stop there. The effective leader has to look beyond the immediate higher-level system, and get an appreciation for how the next-higher-level system and even-higher-level systems and so on, can impact the purpose of the organization.Say for example, the green environmental movement successfully lobbied to legislate that all cars will be required to double their kilometers per liter rating in 5 years, while at the same time reducing emissions by 50%. This is a political/regulatory factor driven by the inter-related forces of ecological imperatives and the collective awareness of consumers, etc., that now directly impacts the auto company. This factor, which the auto company has no control over, effectively changes what the company must deliver to fulfill its purpose in the higher-level systems in which it operates. The successful auto company, with enlightened management adopting the systems perspective, would have seen this decision coming by identifying the inter-related driving forces leading to this decision, well ahead of their competitors; it would have already began redefining its outputs and reorganizing its subsystems and their inter-relationships for this new reality.It’s important to view business as a part of larger systems. Business does not exist in a vacuum. The arrogance of some organizations, particularly those too big to fail, is disturbing and it’s obvious that they have not learned from past lessons. One only has to look at the auto industry worldwide, the railroad industry in the United States, and the steel industry generally to see examples of once powerful and rich organizations who ultimately didn’t understand, or care, about what their purpose was in the higher-level systems. Today many former giants in those industries are shells of what they were, replaced by organizations who understood what the system needed and where they fit in.Systems Theory and the LeaderSystems Theory is a powerful tool that will take your thinking to an entirely new level. It is an exceptionally honest and effective method for understanding the purpose of an organization and for performing an effective analysis of its subsystems. However, without an advocate, it remains just a theory. That’s where your responsibility as a senior level leader begins.Systems Theory when applied to human organizations is the only management concept rooted in natural science! It makes perfect sense and is really logic and common sense driven. Commit yourself to view everything you do and see in terms of interrelated systems.Start by defining the higher-level system that your organization serves. What purpose, what value, and what fulfillment of needs does your organization offer that system? What products or services does your organization offer that best fills the purpose? Are you offering products or services that don’t serve this system but may serve another?All successful living systems are open systems, and information and resources flow across them. Closed systems, i.e. systems that insulate themselves from, and do not interact with, the higher-level system or other systems, are destined to fail. One of the reasons, though not the only one, is that if they do not interact with other systems, how will they be able to adjust to the evolving purposes of the higher-level-systems and hence define their useful role?To keep your system healthy, what information (business or market intelligence, etc.) do you need to gather from your higher-level system? What information (marketing, communications, etc.) do you need to send to the higher-level systems? What resources (raw materials, component parts, etc.) do you need to acquire from the higher-level systems and the other subsystems within it? Are there resources (shared services, collective bargaining, etc.) that can be shared with other subsystems? What useful resources (products, services, etc.) can you provide to the system and its other subsystems that they need and that you do best in?Lastly you have to organize your subsystems to promote your purpose. A prime directive in Systems Theory is that every subsystem must contribute to the success of the system’s purpose. Teams, managers and individual workers are all subsystems, and components of subsystems. If the guy on the loading dock, or the lady at the front desk, does not understand how he/she is promoting the purpose then he/she cannot be as effective a member of your system as he needs to be.Once your organization is focused on and designed for purpose, you as the leader have to spend time interacting with other systems in the higher-level systems. Obviously you want to spend time within your immediate higher-level system, because that’s where your organization operates. However, you need also to involve yourself with even-higher-level systems like your community and its NPOs, and society. In the inter-connectedness of the world, the health of your community will in the end have a direct impact on your organization’s purpose.ConclusionUltimately, we all need to view ourselves and our respective organizations as parts and subsystems of the successively higher-level systems, our roles in the purposes of those successively higher-level systems, and how we all contribute or detract from the success of the highest-level system we live in, namely the eco-system of earth. That will make the discourse over sustainability in its widest definition a whole lot easier, but that is another subject for another time. For a start, let’s start thinking in systems, so that we and our organizations can be more effective and successful.Through applying Systems Theory to management and leadership you will serve not only your company but your entire environment. That’s what exceptional leaders do.

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Parents of Aspergers Children, Don’t Be Intimidated by Medical and Educational Professionals

After raising children for sixteen years, I’ve learned to trust my instincts. In fact, one psychologist told me that I have a PhD in my children. In this particular case he was referring to my autistic son, who was five years old at the time.He said, “You’ve been studying him for five years now. That’s how long it takes some psychologists to earn their PhD. You are an expert on your son. Don’t let anyone tell you different.”Medical Personnel:I wish I had this much confidence in myself when my middle son was an infant. I kept taking him in for his well baby check ups and complained about developmental delays. He was months behind his brother for smiling, babbling, crawling, walking, talking, etc.I was intimidated into not looking for answers for three years by one simple comment from his doctor. “Oh, you had the perfect child first.” When my son was three and a half years old, I ventured to ask my own physician in the same family practice. She administered some developmental tests on the spot. Then she immediately handed me a referral to a children’s developmental clinic.It turned out I was correct in my concern. My son received the diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome from this clinic. Fortunately, my son was not adversely affected by the delay in a diagnosis and early interventions.Educational Professionals:When I took my son into preschool, the vice principal told me that my son was too young to receive a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome. When I requested my son be tested for speech and language disabilities, I was told that he had none. The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) my son had at the beginning of preschool was withdrawn.In kindergarten my son came home thirty-eight days in a row having had a wetting accident during class. I thought I had complained to everyone that something was wrong. Maybe I did and maybe I didn’t. All I know is after a meeting between my attorney and specialists and the school board’s vice superintendent, attorney and the school’s principal, my son was immediately moved to a different classroom and teacher. The wetting accidents stopped.There was a discrepancy between the quality of work he was bringing home and what he was doing at home. I felt my son had a learning disability. The school did not. I went to the local learning disability advocates who confirmed that the school did not have to do anything more for my child. I hired an attorney and educational consultant who affirmed my position.In the end, I did not continue with the services of the hired professionals. Once I had begun to trust in my own instincts, I began advocating on my own for my son. Eventually we did receive a new IEP for my son. He went from a child in the top two thirds of his class to earning straight ‘A’ report cards and being placed in the Honors program.

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A Detailed Overview Of Student Loans Without Cosigner

One of the options that students can take advantage of to pay for their tuition fees are student loans without co-signer. Sadly, there are so many students out there without the relevant information on the best way to apply for these loans. As such, most of the applications for student loans without co-signers end up not being approved which mean more problems in financing their education. Actually, students can apply for both private loans and loans supported by the federal institute.Steps to follow to qualify for the loansFirst of all, when thinking about student loans without co-signer, it is essential that you read and thoroughly comprehend the eligibility form before you fill out the required details. This provides some insights on how to convince the lender of student loans without co-signer to avail the loan to you by showing that you are certainly qualified for the loan. After reading your form, you will be in a position to explain precisely all the requirements as per the forms specifications. This will also ensure that your application form is accompanied by the necessary and required documents. These and many other punctual actions can result in the lender responding appropriately to your application.Some important things to knowSomething very important you need to do in relation to student loans without co-signer is to be truthful when applying for loans without co-signer. Honesty is a virtue that every lender will reward as they easily understand your personal situation. Also ensure that all your credit bills and other debts are settled on time as missed and delayed payments can really frustrate your chances of qualifying for the loans. In fact, if you have a bad credit history and score, then you can as well count your application for loans without co-signer as unsuccessful.Know your optionsWhen it comes to student loans without co-signer, there are several options that students can consider and apply for them accordingly. To start with, the federal government offers some few programs on loans without co-signer. For instance, there are Pell Grants which are given to students that are in dire need of assistance to pay their tuition fees. Essentially, this form of loan does not require the students to repay back the money and it is one of the best options for loans without co-signer if you can qualify for the grant. Still, the government also offers Stafford Loan under this program but unlike the Pell Grant loan, this one must be repaid back as it is not free money.Another option of accessing student loans without co-signer is applied via private lenders in the country. For those students who opt for this route, it is essential they have a loan co-signer when entering into an agreement with the private lender. Your chosen private lender then critically examines the credit report you have availed. This will help in evaluating your application and most importantly the lender will then determine the kind of risk that you pose in having the loan awarded to you. For applicants without a credit history, then the lender will require that a family member Co signs the loan agreement before you are awarded the loan.Essentially, Stafford loan does not need a co-signer all thanks to the process followed when borrowing the money. As such, loans without co-signer actually do not involve examination of your credit score or history. However, the lender will be interested to know the specific degree program that you are enrolled in, the income of your parents and lastly, the school that you will be attending. According to the government, every parent is required to contribute to the education of their children. As such, they will use the income to ascertain the extent in which a given parent will afford to pay for the tuition fee in a year.After this, the government then decides exactly how much money they are going to give the student. Basically, federal loan covers for books and tuition and sometimes, the student housing cost will also be included in the package as well. However, the student must be residing in the campus for the housing cost to be covered by the loan. Where the student opts to live outside campus, he or she will then be required that they look for other alternative options for meeting the cost of rent. This is only exceptional where their choice of housing is a form of college or university arrangement.Instructions/steps to followFirst of all, it is essential that you search for info regarding student loans without co-signer and you need to note that you should follow in the category of traditional students. The, the most crucial step in getting student loans without co-signer requires that you fill FASFA or simply, Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the form not only gives you an access to loans without co-signer but you also benefit from grant money. Stafford loans are either unsubsidized or subsidized and this is a function of who will be meeting interesting cost while you study. Sanctioned amount can be extremely low and only available to the seriously needy students only. Then there are also Perkins loans which are designed for students in extreme need of financial aid and in addition to have minimum interest rates, they also have longer loan repayment terms. The non traditional students can still look for other ways available for accessing student loans without co-signer which are still available to them provided they are able to prove that they deserve financial aid.SummaryWhen you secure student loans without co-signer, you are basically not going to be awarded a huge sum of money as such largely due to risk factor associated with student loans without co-signer. However, there are many reasons why you must consider applying for student loans without co-signer as they come with additional benefits compared to typical loans that are hard to qualify for. Graduate students have higher chances of benefiting from student loans without co-signer and are highly encouraged to ensure that they apply for them accordingly.

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