We’re going to continue with our exploration of Peter Senge’s 11 Laws of Systems Thinking, and we’re now up to Law #9: Small Changes Can Produce Big Results, but the Areas of Highest Leverage Are Often the Least Obvious.
Remember, system problems or challenges are those that have multiple components and moving pieces, you’ve tried in the past to fix them, and they show up over and over again. When you’re dealing with a problem or a challenge in your work as a manager and a leader, and it has those components, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a system problem.
Here’s how you can apply this law:
1. Think Jenga
Imagine your system as a Jenga tower. Some pieces, when removed, cause the whole tower to topple, while others can be pulled out without much consequence. Your task is to find the part of the system where minimal effort can yield maximum results. Like pulling the right Jenga block, you can create significant impact with minimal effort.
2. Be a Fascinated Anthropologist
Before diving in to fix a problem, slow down and analyze all the components of the system. Do your due diligence and uncover all the different parts and facets of the system. Think like an anthropologist exploring a new civilization. Understand what makes it tick, and you’ll be better equipped to address the root causes of your problems. Then you’ll know where to put your efforts and resources to fix it.
3. Utilize the Two-by-Two Matrix
Map out your solutions on a two-by-two matrix with the vertical axis representing impact and the horizontal axis representing resources. Think about the different solutions and ways you can impact or fix the system, then put them on the matrix. Aim for the quadrant with the highest impact and the lowest resource investment. By identifying the right solution (that Jenga piece), you can maximize results without draining valuable resources.
Solving system problems requires a strategic approach. By thinking like a Jenga player, being an inquisitive anthropologist, and using a two-by-two matrix, you can make effective changes in your system without overwhelming yourself.