Systems Lurk in every Organisation

Nov 14, 2022

Key points

Systems are everywhere
VET is a system
What systems do
RTO is a system
Not everyone likes systems

Wrong question
You’ve googled systems thinking and reckon you’ve got your head around it. So, you ask yourself ‘Would it benefit my business if I implemented systems?’ No. No. No. Wrong question. You can’t implement them, because they are already there, whether you realise it or not. You can’t banish them either, although you can ignore them.

Systems are everywhere
Systems are everywhere. There are natural systems such as the planet or the human body, there are mental systems such as mathematics or music theory, and there are mechanical systems such as a car or washing machine. The most complex are social systems such as a family, an organisation, a city or a nation.

Numerous systems combine to become the VET Sector. Registered training organisations, government regulators, government advisory bodies and professional VET networks are all interdependent and interrelated systems in the complex eco-system system known as the VET sector. The VET sector itself is a system in the even more complex Education and Training industry eco-system.  Starting to sound like a set of Russian dolls?

What systems do
A system has an objective and creates value. The objective of a city’s transport system is to get people from one point to another. The value of a city’s transport system is that it increases the effectiveness of the city’s infrastructure.

What about a registered training organisation? The RTO’s objective as a system is to upskill people. It also creates value by increasing the pool of available talent, thereby helping grow Australia’s economy.

Make them go away
Not everyone is happy with systems thinking. Managers who are seriously into control find it difficult to engage with systems thinking because they fear systems cannot be controlled. Organisational systems can’t be seen, and they appear to work in mysterious ways.

Systems thinking acknowledges that change is non-linear, which is a polite way of saying it is messy and chaotic. People who prefer ordered, directed, lock-step change are uncomfortable with the view that chaos is acceptable, and are happy with the delusion that they can totally manage the change process. However, a system accommodates change chaos and works to maintain its stability.

Correct question
Ask ‘What are the systems in my business and what are they doing?’ Systems are responsible for the effectiveness and efficiency, or lack thereof, of an organisation.

Once you see them, it is difficult to unsee them. Systems thinking is a very powerful construct for making sense of what is happening and for identifying the source of those persistent and annoying operational glitches.

Previous Editorials