Business Environment Analysis and Simulation.
Free enterprise competition is one of the greatest boons to humankind in thousands of years. But it
does have limits. We have all seen that. Is more regulation the answer ? More regulation will
lead to people trying to find more ways to circumvent it - which will lead to more regulation,
and on, and on.
The best way to combat this kind of oscillating system is to strengthen the positive feedback
loop that causes the organization to be successful and do what is right in the first place.
Most organizations, when they start, are full of anticipation, and people are bound and determined
to make the organization work, flourish, and do things right for customers and employees.
An organizations culture and vision needs to be shared by all stakeholders; it needs to be
reinforced, and *NOT* undermined by management or non-management employees being allowed to
perform their tasks in a manner not consistent with culture, vision, and policy. (Policy,
incidentally, should only be formed around culture and vision.) Management needs to be held
to this - either by a strong CEO or a board determined not to let it slip.
But most organizations let it slip. The dynamic is one of 'eroding goals', when people find
it more and more difficult to 'keep the dreams alive', perhaps under pressure from division
managers that want more say in their operations, so they let policy slide. Those organizations are
not fun, exciting places to work. They are generally considered to be places people go and
do their best work until it is time to retire. Successful businesses are places where people
can't wait to get to in the morning. They are full of new things to learn and explore. The
vision and culture make people feel they're making a contribution to a better world.
That is quite a difference from most workplaces, full of the drudgery of the assembly line.
This is, of course, true of offices, manufacturing, service organizations, and many others.
Ever-increasing complexity added to unanticipated effects of policies (policy resistance)
and actions contributed to the many economic debacles in the last 30 years, including the
Savings and Loan Crisis, the faltering of the American Auto Industry, and in 2008, the
Mortgage Industry / Finanancial Institution Collapse.
Small business is the best hope America has to redefine the way business is done in
GM may come back, but the full effect of that effort, given the systemic
delays built into the economic system, may be more than 10 years. Even then,
if the organization does not change the way it does things, it will go in the
direction that caused it to wither in the first place.
Business schools in this country (and indeed, around the world) have tried their best to
educate students in business and ethics.
But the cultural tide dragging them toward riches at all costs has brought disastrous consequences
to the economy of the world.
Most of the work I do in IT involves writing software for companies that need it to track and
share information across the enterprise, whether large or small. I work with Java/J2EE, and
SQL databases like MySql, SqlServer, Oracle, and Sybase. Putting together or enhancing systems
involves knowing interrelationships as well as the entities of a business; they are both important.
Management of a business is the same way: in my business classes at Northwood University I could
see that many businesses seem to focus on the events without looking at the policies, procedures,
and systems (designed to make a business run well) that are causing the very troubles and events
they are trying to solve or fix.
I believe that systems thinking can correct much of the systemic dysfunctionality we experience
as part of our businesses, societies and cultures. The systems we live under were created by the
thinking of men and women whose motivations varied greatly along the spectrum from truly trying to
help humanity to merely trying to help themselves and their friends benefit from the system.
The 'conflicting goals' and 'shifting the burden' dynamics that pervade our world is part of
the kind of thinking we have been taught (by default) to use by our education; from early childhood
through College or University. Trying to teach us the scientific method, our schools have left
out a very crucial part of our ability to think; to see the underlying causes of the events (symptoms)
we see. I studied Physics and Mathematics at S.U.N.Y. Oneonta, and I don't remember them ever
teaching me how to think systemically: that is, how to trace back the interrelationships between
agents in a system and the functions of those agents, in order to see how they react to changes
in the system.
As Einstein told us, our problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created
As an IT professional, I have studied systems thinking as it relates to computer and network systems.
In business school at Northwood University, I also studied business, economic, and social systems.
In terms of systems thinking, they are not that far apart.
The problems we face as humans are far from simple. They will not be solved by systems thinking by
itself, but by people letting go of their frustration, mistrust, apathy, anger, and hatred long
enough to talk to each other about how we see the situations that confront us. Systems thinking
can help. So can a lot of techniques that bring people together instead of driving them apart.
Some very good links for Business Process Simulation:
A WikiPedia definition.
U.S. Dept of Energy Intro to System Dynamics
A Sober Optimists Guide to Sustainability