Systems thinking to create aligned strategies

How often do you feel your company strategies are more emergent than deliberate?

Everyone has the best of intentions and wants to put their mark on a product but without a system thinking approach it is difficult not to evolve into a situation where there are conflicts of interest. For example,  if the strategy is to improving margin, each discipline or capability translates this strategy into what is within its control with limited consideration for the overall system.  The result is that manufacturing complete incremental cost and efficiency improvements, R&D might develop a 2nd generation product with lower cost raw materials / process, procurement might look to alternative suppliers, external supply might renegotiate long term contracts, commercial might trade volume for sales etc.


Often these individual tactics are mutually exclusive, and resource intensive. The end result is that despite all the good ideas, little gets implemented due to resource constraints and too much procrastination relating to the options.

This is where design thinking and systems thinking can enhance product lifecycle by bringing the siloed capabilities together to first explore the strategy and frame the challenge, gather and share the knowledge and insights and then collectively ideate and choose the best tactics to deliver on this strategy. It's as much about what you stop and don't resource (or delay) as it is about the projects / initiatives you drive forward. 

I spent years working a large pharmaceutical multinational company in a technology scouting role, actively looking for innovative technologies and solutions. I regularly identified a valuable technology but couldn't match it to a need (ie a priority problem within the organisation) and felt the approach relied too much on serendipity. It was by chance that the solution was presented to the right person, at the right time, when they recognised there was a problem to solve.

I came to realise that the more systematic design thinking / innovation process focus on problem identification dramatically increased the number of ideas that were taken forward for implementation. It's not a new concept, but its human nature to jump straight to solutions. Einstein once quoted, "If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions."

Systems thinking can be difficult when stuck in a silo, you need to have the courage to bring the players together, agree the challenge to solve and then be open minded to solving it. Courage to navigate a cross functional team with different agendas and KPIs is daunting, so its no surprise that people choose to go it alone, and focus on what can be achieved within their silo.

"If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far, go together"

We use the design to value process to bring siloes together where necessary, to ensure the organisation alignment to see ideas implemented. For sure we have a host of tools to identify cost savings and value enhancements, (the world is not short on tools, and I'm sure you have plenty of your own!), but we have the facilitation and organisational change management approaches that will make stakeholders not only buy into the ideas but feel they co-created them.

Through our process there is a better balance of customer (market) pull as well as technology push (art of possible).