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SYSTEMS THINKING AND THE 4 STATES OF THE SYSTEM Featured

For many years, Da Vinci adopted a '3‐states' of the system approach as proposed by Zandi (2000). This approach involves an investigation into the "as is" the "as it will be" and the "as it should be" state. By exploring these issues, the organisation is able to gain a fundamental appreciation of its current positioning and gain useful insights into its future.

The "as is" state defines the current situation. It is an understanding of what is taking place within the organisation's system. In the conventional school of strategic planning it is what would emanate from a SWOT analysis.

We go one stage further by exploring what if the current managerial leadership style is not adapted to take into account the realities that are taking place? In this case, the organisation has a great propensity to destroy itself. We define this state as the "as it will be" state ‐ this defines the system in a point of time in the future if nothing but natural influences are imposed on the system. We refer to this state as the "Early Warning" – state. In terms of the previous article, the concept of the Mess Formulation embodies both the "as is" state and the "as it will be" state. There is a well‐defined process to get to a full picture of theMess.

The "as it should be" state ‐ this defines a desired future state of the system. It is that state that will ensure sustainable growth for the organisation.

The investigation of the "as‐is" and the "as‐it‐should‐be" states is carried out by groups of people from different levels of the organisation who interact and carry out dialogues to map where the organisation is and where it should be.

It can be seen that in order to move from the "Mess" a process of "design" is introduced taking the organisation to the "as it should be" state. The design process will be described in the final article and its objective is to ensure that the new state of the system would be harmonious with its environment and would take cognisance of changes in the containing system.

Over the years, The Da Vinci Institute has worked with a wide spectrum of business and public sector organisations. In all these cases these organisations were in search of a process, which would move away from a linear approach to strategic planning. In reflecting the outcome from these interventions The Da Vinci Institute has questioned whether the notion of a 3‐state description of an organisation's system adequately/holistically describes the realities, which organisations face from a systemic viewpoint?

In reviewing the impact the approach had on these organisations, it was found that in many cases, the outcome resulted in a totally new dispensation that had a profound impact on the organisation being able to meet the expectations of its stakeholders. However, in some instances the process had less of an impact and in time the organisation lapsed back into a state of disarray.

The realities of this 3 states model is that it is based on the assumption that there is a managerial leadership style in place that is capable of ensuring that the organisation has the ability to move to a desirable, more beneficial end‐state. The model makes a tacit assumption that the conditions precedent to move the organisation from the "as‐is" state to the "as it should be state" is conducive to a transformational leadership style (Transformational Leadership Report, 2007) in which those responsible for the "redesign" of the system are fundamentally systemic in their thinking and managerial leadership styles.

In truth such an assumption does not reflect the reality of what is found in organisations throughout the world. In many cases, contrary to the notion of transformational leadership characteristics (Transformational Leadership Report, 2007; Bass 1990) there is evidence of transactional leadership characteristics which mitigate the ability to design a new system, which has the desirable end results.

Da Vinci has identified the concept of a counterpointing situation in which the organisation, depending upon the prevailing managerial leadership styles, can move either in a positive direction which implies a transformational leadership style (the "as it should be" state) or a negative direction resulting from a leadership style which is transactional. In recognition of this pivotal issue the concept of a 4th state namely the "as it could be" state has been identified.

References:

Bass B. M (1990) From Transactional to Transformational Leadership: Learning to share the vision in Organisational Dynamics vol 18 issue no 3 (pages 19‐31)

Gladwell M, (2000) The Tipping Point: How Little Things can make a Big Difference, Little Brown and Company, New York

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