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June 25, 2010

Human Resources: Systems thinking

Question:"As the HR director at my company, I’m spending more time mediating conflicts between work areas. No one seems to see the big picture: that we are here to help one another so the company can meet the customers’ needs. There’s a lot of competition, blaming and accusing. What can I do to help people see we’re all in this together?â€

Answer:This is a very common concern. We work with clients to address these kinds of concerns every day. Organizations of all kinds and types are filled with barriers, turfs, territories, and silos. Employees who operate inside these boxes tend to adopt a defended and guarded perspective along the lines of, "We’ve got our act together … the problem is over there, with those people … they are the ones messing things up.â€

This kind of parochial thinking is, of course, misguided. The adage that, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link†is applicable here. If Department A is going great-guns but Department B is spinning its wheels, then Department B’s futility will dictate how the organization’s processes ultimately perform.

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