Blog PostBusiness Analysis
Systems Thinking – Part 1

How ‘messy’ is your problem?

“The only problems that have simple solutions are simple problems. The only managers that have simple problems have simple minds. […] Complex, messy problems do not have simple solutions.”  ― Russell Ackoff

In the pursuit of efficiency, productivity and profitability, business leaders must orchestrate various teams, technologies and perspectives, collectively as one system. These systems are often viewed through a reductionist lens, making it difficult to optimise efficiency and resolve complex problems.

Not all problems are created equally.  Most people, when attempting to solve a problem, fall into the conventional traps of linear and dogmatic thinking, applying ‘solution’ rather than ‘intervention’ to their problem. The reality is most problems business leaders face contains an entanglement of problems, which become difficult to identify and target.

When faced with this level of complexity, systems thinking provides a methodology that can be used as a diagnostic tool to pick apart a problem, to understand it, and to solve it.

Case Study:

Process Innovation at Dupont

Problem:

In 1991, a benchmarking study showed Dupont spent more on maintenance than any of its competitors, yet plant uptime was lower, and its mechanics worked more overtime.

Understanding:

Systems thinking showed that the overspend on reactive maintenance had translated into a culture that pressured staff to deliver savings and increased uptime, at the cost of increased defects. Overworked maintenance staff and an incentive to use low-cost parts would often result in an increase in future defects.

The data showed that Dupont can maximise the plant profit via a full suite of proactive maintenance policies, with a year of profit reduction.

Solution:

Systems Thinking tools ensured that a critical mass of stakeholders across Dupont were engaged to enable the change.

In plants that implemented the program by the end of 1993, the mean time between mechanical failure for pumps rose by an average of 12% and maintenance costs fell by an average of 20%.

Methodology:

Sub-Methodology Applied: Systems Dynamics

Definition: System Dynamics is an approach to understanding the nonlinear behaviour of complex systems over time, using stocks, flows, internal feedback loops, table functions and time delays.

 

If you want to learn more about how Systems Thinking works, and how CBO can use it to help you solve complex problems within your organisation, follow consultant Jason Gibbs as he shares a series of articles taking you step by step through the background, methodology and application.

More business analysis articles

Blog Post
Systems Thinking – Part 1

How ‘messy’ is your problem? “The only problems that have simple solutions are simple problems. The only managers that have simple problems have simple minds. […] Complex, messy problems do not have simple solutions.”  ― Russell Ackoff In the pursuit of efficiency, productivity and profitability, business leaders must orchestrate various teams, technologies and perspectives, collectively as one system. These systems are […]

Case Study
Software Implementation for Guernsey Harbours

Context Whilst delivering a significant software implementation for Guernsey Harbours, CBO was asked to conduct complex business process modelling in relation to processes impacted by the new software solution. This involved close engagement with both client and supplier stakeholders, and utilisation of both technical and personal skills, in order to improve the quality of the […]

Case Study
International Bank – ServiceNow Implementation

Context Multiple jurisdictions of an international bank wanted to replace an outdated service desk application, with the following objectives: To reduce duplication of systems and improve resolution times; To automate and audit a large virtual and hardware infrastructure; To trace recurring tasks and ensure adherence to processes; To eliminate paper-based processes. CBO’s Approach CBO analysed […]

Insight
Business Process Modelling and Optimisation Insight Paper

Expose and eliminate weaknesses and waste in business processes to exit difficult periods stronger than you entered them. Now is the time to assess how your organisation may be able to improve processes and provide benefit for years to come. In this paper we set out why doing this is important and the advantages gained, […]

Case Study
International Bank – Storage Audit

Context The long-term vision for a subsidiary of an international bank was to transition to a new working environment with the following objectives:   To maximise available office space for a growing business; To eliminate paper-based processes; To introduce alternative and collaborative workspaces.   CBO was asked to conduct a detailed audit of the use […]

Insight
Covid-19: emerging stronger from the crisis

The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the gaps between current processes and what businesses need to have in place in order to perform, both in these uncertain times and as we return to normality. By better understanding your processes, identifying and refining those that underperformed, you have the opportunity to exit the crisis stronger than you entered it. In this paper, […]

Fancy a chat? Get in touch with CBO today to discuss how we can help