Change the Thinking to Change the System to Change the Behaviour to Improve the Results


Although these principles aren’t in a specific order, let’s start with the first on the model.

This principle is Think, Systems, Behaviour, Results’ model, originally developed by Deming over 30 years ago, but it’s certainly one of our ‘go to’  principles when referring to what’s the right thing to do and where the right focus should be. 

The main message here is; systems drive the behaviour in the business.

First of all you need to appreciation the term ‘system’, because many of us will see a system as a “hard system” for example computer software, machinery and well defined documented procedures. They are systems, but also systems are the less tangible daily “behavioural systems” driven from habits that are formed and then become the norm.

The simple diagram below shows the Scale of Systems in an organisation;

Most of these “behavioural systems” already exist and have never really been defined. For example a system can be as simple as ‘Oh this is the way we do things around here.’ So when you view systems as something as generic as that, you appreciate that actually an organisation is full of systems and mostly they’re the things that drive behaviour.

These “systems” that drive behaviour are where we need to focus change in a business, not the behaviour itself! One of the biggest faults in organisations today, is trying to discipline people to change their behaviour. Studies have shown that only about 5% of behaviour is driven by independent maverick behaviour. This is also shown in inappropriate management styles, when companies are constantly telling the workforce to “chase the numbers/targets/goals” when in fact, the achievement of these numbers are outputs of the system that drives the behaviour that gets the results we have.

Thinking differently about the organisation and its required results and the systems that drive them is a key component to changing the way an organisation operates.

So, we understand clearly that we’ve got to get people to think differently before they start to see their systems in a different way. As consultants we know we need to spend time, usually with Senior Managers, before we embark on introducing any required tools and techniques into the business. The Seniors need to engage with their people to introduce what the behavioural systems are that need changing and importantly allow them to think differently about what drives the business.

Thinking differently is where change starts.

So, change starts in a business with people starting to think differently. If they don’t think differently and people don’t create the opportunity to allow people to think differently, we will always be using the same systems whether formal, or informal and this will drive the same behaviour which will then drive similar results.

We then need to see systems in a different way. They aren’t just the tools and techniques. They are the things that drive the culture and are rarely identified.

We must resist addressing people’s behaviour solely to try and increase results. Only 5% of the results that any business achieves are down to sole, maverick behaviour. Most of the results produced, whether good, bad or indifferent, are the way we think, and often the informal systems we allow to happen in an organisation that we just except as “ that’s the way it is around here”.