Elements of Systemic Health

An organization is a living system. Within that system exists the dynamics that live within each individual as well as the dynamics that exist when each individual interacts with the other individuals, in whatever number of combinations is possible. It’s a lot, probably too much to keep track of. It’s definitely too much to “manage” (part of why management as a concept is dated and ineffective).

Instead of attempting to manage this swirl of human dynamics, effective leaders establish guardrails – boundaries – within which the team can govern themselves. These boundary markers include the primary elements of culture: why we exist (mission), what we hope to achieve (vision), how we choose to behave (values) and how we talk about our progress and our challenges (accountability).

Well-established and well understood, these markers create an environment of self-governance, where individuals do not wait to be managed but act instead on their own initiative, from their resources of competence and confidence. This means, of course, that effective recruitment and hiring are sacred responsibilities, so essential is it to bring the right people into such an environment.

The right people in the right system understand themselves not as component parts of a larger, mysterious whole but as intersecting agents of change charged with the responsibility to help the system move from where it is to where it needs to be. These intersecting lines can, from a certain perspective, look like fractures that threaten to break up the whole. In reality, they are points of flexion, providing the system with the ability to adjust and adapt to that which it cannot predict but that is, of course, inevitable.


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