J Francisco Ramirez R, LENSYS
Published April 29, 2015
The best decisions are made when there is awareness and knowledge of the different elements of a system, as well as how these elements are interconnected and what the outputs of the system are.
Systemic thinking is a Shingo Guiding Principle that ties together all other principles. Thinking systemically improves understanding by learning to see the system as a whole, including elements sometimes called sub-systems. In reality, most things are connected to something else in an environment that is constantly changing.
A clear example of an integrated and complex system is the human body as it is composed of different sub-systems such as the digestive, circulatory or nervous systems. Each of these sub-systems performs a function while being interconnected with the others, and only its synchronized and balanced function enables the entire integrated system, the human body, to perform perfectly.
Likewise in companies, an integrated system is composed of sub-systems that working together will enable the organization to achieve its best outcome. Sustainability comes through understanding the interconnections.
Understanding of the relationships and interconnections of elements of a system makes better decision-making possible and creates visibility to improvements. Systemic thinking encourages improvements to be made on the system as a whole, rather than individual components of the system, which is often where the ideas for change are initiated.
The Shingo Model™ itself is an example of systemic thinking. Typically organizations go through a natural progression of learning to understand how this system works.
1. Initially, managers understand and use the tools as a way to create improvements in the business.
2. Over time, managers discover that tools are not enough and they begin to see the relationship between the tools and key systems.
3. Eventually, managers come to understand the principles and systemic thinking becomes complete when principles, systems and tools are integrated into a perfect system.
Systemic thinking is closely related to the principle of Focus on the Process. Similarly, these two principles are closely related to key business systems such as goal alignment and gemba walks.
The leadership team of the company defines the strategies and goals in a cyclical and systematic manner. In order to achieve them successfully, it is necessary to ensure that the whole staff of the organization understands and are committed. Achieving shared goals requires good data, good analysis and the discipline to focus on the “vital-few.”
The related principle of Focus on Process teaches, “Good processes make successful people.” A regular and disciplined process of visiting the gemba provides the breadth of understanding required for leaders and managers to make good decisions. Seeing firsthand the interactions between related sub-systems helps in diagnosing the difference between actual and ideal behaviors and can reveal whether or not people are using the right data to manage the business and drive improvements.
The more deeply you understand the Shingo Guiding Principles the more you will come to understand their connectedness. You will come to see that a few critical systems in your business touch all of these principles. This is a great example of systemic thinking.
Francisco Ramirez, Director,Lensys
I have captured my experience over the last seven years supporting real companies as a consultant, 14 years as a Shingo examiner, and 30 years in the automotive industry in a book entitled, A3 y Punto. The book describes a systemic model called “Deployment.” This model integrates, in a structured and systematic way, all the elements required to support a sustainable implementation of enterprise excellence based on the Shingo Model™. To learn more about my book, visit http://lensysgroup.com/libro-a3-y-punto/.