System Assessment

  • Look for Systemic Values
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
  • Survey for Themes

Systemic Thinking

Starting the year off with a system assessment can help guide your decisions going into a new year. To assess your system, you need to step back and take a balcony view. Here are some things to remember when you take this step:

Look for Systemic Values

             A system is always designed to meet certain goals. Your organizational system is no different. David Stroh, a systems expert, says “Systems are perfectly designed to achieve the results they are currently achieving. In other words, no matter how dysfunctional a system appears to be, it is producing benefits for the people who participate in it.” Is your business system meeting the goals or values you have set for it, or are there other results you are seeing?              

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

          A system assessment will help you decide out how well your workspace is meeting the psychological safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs of the people in your organization, which are Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It may seem that a business or educational system should not have to meet these needs, but human systems must address these needs to be successful. People in your system will strive to meet these needs any way they can. 

           Psychological safety can be met through direct behavior or passive aggressive behavior depending on the health of your organization. Belonging can be collegial banter and fun, or it can be gossip (the choice is yours). Esteem can come out as successful presentations, productivity, or sabotage. Self-actualization will come through amazing contributions of ideas and problem-solving, or it will come through someone actually walking away from your organization. These patterns are clear during a system assessment.

Survey for Themes

             A leader can survey the humans of an organization and look for themes. There are many ways to do a confidential survey, but it is recommended that an outside, neutral, third party do these assessments. Many stakeholders have an emotional investment in the system and have a hard time not taking feedback personally. Looking for themes means asking questions with written responses and looking for patterns in the answers. When things are repeated, it is not a fluke. An organizational leader can assume the group is conspiring to do harm, or they can look for the harm and find a way to repair it.

Make High Leverage Moves

             After you analyze the themes in your organization, look for things you can change easily and quickly first. Your team will see these changes and begin to feel confident that you are listening to them and making the shifts they are hoping for. Moral and income will increase, paving the way for the bigger systemic changes.

You Got This!

             One of our favorite books for systems assessments and systemic change is Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline. Pick it up and follow its amazing suggestions as you begin to re-align your team. Your leadership in hard moments will be the example for your employees. Just know you’ve got this and some time investment will be worth it.