Systems As A Whole Mark Porter 30 April 2024

Systems As A Whole

Systems thinking’s primary focus is to optimize performance of the “whole” rather than optimizing isolated parts. It supports people in grasping the complexity of systems. From a business perspective, systems thinking creates understanding of patterned ways the information, values, and ideas of the system’s people interact to produce workplace behaviors and events. Systems thinking optimizes the organization.

Everyday, people operate within a Social system. Our cities, workplace, and schools are all examples of social systems.

Three characteristics of social systems:

1. Members have a choice and actively respond/engage information

    • Learning/growth only occurs if choices available

2. Conflict is likely: differing interpretation of information/contradictory values

    • Functional divisions of labor in pursuit of a common purpose
      • At least one labor division has a system control function
    • Distinct labor units respond to other’s behavior through observation or communication leading to behavior

3. Reducing choice (autocratic) decreases productivity and quality while dehumanizing

    • Employees perform their jobs better than bosses if given freedom to do so
      • Forced choice: focused on getting rid of what we don’t want
      • Free choice: sharing ideas directed at getting us what we do want
    • Getting rid of what we don’t want doesn’t ensure we get what we do want
    • Finding deficiencies and getting rid of them does not enhance the system

Systems thinking is an improvement program focused on what you do want

    • Improvement focuses on quality
    • Quality focuses on effectiveness
    • Effectiveness equals wisdom

Architects approach their objective of designing a beautiful home via systems thinking. The house is designed before the rooms. If the architect wants to improve the quality of the rooms, they modify the house. An architect would not modify the house by simply improving a room unless the overall quality of the house is improved.

Individualized understanding of human behavior does not guarantee the understanding of human behavior in a group or system. Behaviors that support individual resiliency and success can be detrimental to team success. Team, system of people, success relies on the depth of connection the individuals have in their interaction with others. The deeper the connection, the greater the team’s ability to endure stress and respond proactively to the difficulties the human system will confront.

Structure causes Behavior!


Systems thinking is foundational for high-performance organizational cultures!

High-performance organizational cultures have increased productivity, performance, and profitability!

High-performance organizational cultures sustain their competitive advantage!

Soteria Alliance implements science, psychology, and proven business practices to drive companies for high-performance organizational culture!