Analysing organisations? Think ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ systems

If you’re analysing your organisation you need to look at it using both sides of the brain!


The left-hand side of the brain looks at the “hard systems.”The logical, practical, reliable step-by-step procedures that allow work to operate effectively. Used when looking at predictable processes such as machines to make products. The analogy often used is the motorcar. The components rely on each other but they all have predictable behaviour.

However, in an organisation that has people and most do! Hard systems thinking is not enough. Soft systems thinking is using the right-hand side of the brain; the creative, artistic and sometimes intangible thinking that allows tenuous connections with various parts of the organisation. A good example of this is the human body. This is made up of soft systems. Where all the various components in a holistic manner has some connection with each other, but don’t always affect each other until they go wrong then you get an illness.

To analyse your organisation effectively you need to look at the tangible parts of the organisation that give the hard results and you need to analyse the softer systems that create the cultural capability.

One without the other won’t give you a true view of how the organisation really works.

The only way to do this is to exercise the brain to look at both sides equally. This is tricky when in many cases senior people in the business have been trained to think one or the other way, not both.

Contact NewLeaf International for more systems thinking advice…