The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Systems Developing Through Stability, Stimulation and Success

Slides Systems.001

Systems have the ability to develop. Some human systems, however, tend to degenerate and move towards entropy.

People who work in organisations, for example, can get frustrated by the system’s reversion to homeostasis. This is the system’s drive to return to its original stage.

This ability can be useful when the human body, for example, works to heal itself. It can prove difficult, however, when people aim to help human systems to implement new ways of tackling challenges.

The failure of many so-called change programmes, for instance, underlines the capacity of systems to return to their original state.

Slides Systems.001

Systems can develop if they get the right blend of stability and stimulation to produce success.

Stability is vital, but this means following the principles required to deliver the desired results. It does not mean following old processes that do not deliver success.

Systems also need stimulation, because otherwise they can fall into stagnation. They need to harness people’s spirit and creativity in order to achieve compelling goals.

Arnold Toynbee the historian said that civilisations can choose to develop or die. Sometimes they commit suicide, however, by smothering the creative ideas that would help them to thrive.

Looking back, can you recall experiencing or seeing a system that continued to develop? This may have been a family, school, sports team, community, organisation or other group. What did they do right to achieve success?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a system you have experienced or seen that developed successfully.

Describe the specific things people did to make this happen.

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Slides Systems.003

Let’s explore some other ways to shift a system. One approach is to actually create a new system, rather than change an old one.

Imagine you have been given the brief and mandate to rebuild a struggling organisation. There are many ways to make this happen. Sometimes the different approaches can be likened to building a house.

Some people renovate an old house. Some build a new house that is connected to an old house. Some build a new house in a new place.

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Renovating an old house

Revitalising an existing house – or an organisation – can be challenging. Sometimes changing a system meets resistance. Too much time can be spent trying to persuade people, rather than delivering the required results.

It is possible to rebuild an organisation. But you will need to implement the right strategy with the right people in the right way. This may call for many tough decisions along the way.

Building a new house with
a corridor to the old house

Kate Lavender is somebody who has followed this route. She has built many new houses – new ways of doing things – that have been connected to existing organisations.

This has including leading teams that developed new approaches to customer service for companies in the travel, insurance and digital sectors.

Kate often takes the following steps to deliver success. She aims:

To get a clear picture of success and mandate from the Board.

To clarify what had worked best in the company and show respect for its heritage.

To connect the new approach to the existing company by creating some kind of corridor – but developing the new approach separately.

To build the new department, deliver great customer service and show the bottom line results.

To hand-over the department to people whom she coached to run it successfully.

Kate has a track record of making this happen. Sometimes the existing house – the old way of doing things – was then demolished.

Many elements of the cultures she built remain. They continue to serve both their company and their customers. You can discover more about Kate via the following link.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/katila

Building a new
house in a new place

Pioneers often take this route. They go out and build a house – a new business, new idea or new project – on the prairie. Sometimes they find gold; sometimes they go bankrupt.

Such people go beyond having a Big Idea. They move forward through the stages of imagination and implementation to achieve the desired impact.

Combining some
of the approaches

Many of the people I have worked with have combined elements of the first two approaches.

They have built a new house that has delivered success. They have maintained some stability in the meantime, however, by being accountable for ensuring the old house keeps delivering.

People who take this route devote most of their energy to building the new house. Whilst they remain accountable for the old house, they put somebody in charge of maintaining its performance. The successful new house then replaces the old house.

Let’s explore another approach to shifting a system.

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People who thrive in organisations often get the right blend between delivering the scorecard and doing stimulating projects. Such projects need to benefit the organisation and produce success stories.

Maintaining stability by
delivering the scorecard

Every organisation has its own version of a scorecard. This describes the mandatory things that, for example, each team must deliver. Each person will also be given a scorecard. This describes what they must deliver in a specific role.

Some scorecards mainly focus on the ‘What’. They are written in outcome terms and outline the specific results a person must deliver. The person is given freedom, within parameters, regarding how they deliver these results.

Some scorecards are much more detailed. They describe not only the ‘What’, but also have strict controls on the ‘How’. The centre wants to feel more in control – not only of what people deliver, but how they go about it in their daily work.

Doing stimulating projects

People can continue to deliver the scorecard, but they often want to pursue additional stimulating projects. One manager explained their approach to making this happen.

“We deliver the scorecard to keep the centre off our backs. In our market, however, we also need to adopt fresh approaches to helping our customers to succeed.

“Bearing this in mind, I did the following exercise before the start of the financial year. Looking ahead, my team focused on how to do the following three things.

To deliver the scorecard and satisfy our key stakeholders in the company.

To do stimulating projects that would deliver benefits for both the customers and the company.

To translate these projects into success stories that could be published and deliver benefits for the company.

“Each team member clarified the projects they wanted to deliver. Again, it was vital to show how these could benefit the company.

“In practical terms, this also meant passing on some of the other tasks to members of their teams who wanted to prove their worth.

“Eventually we settled on the projects to deliver, the support required and when people would produce the success stories.

“This approach worked. We delivered the mandatory tasks, plus built prototypes that helped to shape the future for our organisation.”

Let’s return to your own work. There are many ways to help a system to develop.

You may want to do this by getting the right blend of stability and stimulation. On the other hand, you may want to build a new system that delivers success. This may or may not be connected to the present system.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific system – such as an organisation, team or other group – that you would like to help to develop.

Describe the specific things you can do to help it develop and achieve success.

Describe the specific benefits of helping it to achieve success.

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