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System Thinking is a Must Do


I recently reconnected with Megan Clubb through LinkedIn, the CEO of Baker Boyer Bank which even through the recession continues to be one of the best regional banks in the country. We had some great fun working together in the early 1990s and my consulting career was just getting started and Megan was on the path to become CEO of the bank. I mention her bank because she faced a problem common to many organizations. Here’s what I write in the book:

In 1990 Baker Boyer Bank, a well-run regional operation based in Walla Walla, Washington, embarked on an initiative to enhance quality by mapping every single process in the organization. In this way, management treated all processes (and their problems) as equal. To paraphrase George Orwell, “All problems are equal, but some problems are more equal than others.” You will not reap a decent return on investment if you try to map all of an organization’s processes in one fell swoop. So what should you do? First, stop thinking in terms of processes and start thinking in terms of the overall system. Then you can more easily separate the got-to-have breakthroughs from the nice-to-have improvements. Only the former will get you a big return on your investment to sustain such efforts.

To help Baker Boyer Bank, we showed the bank’s leaders how to see their organization as a system. That involved sketching on a single sheet of paper all the critical elements the leaders needed to manage in order to achieve their goals. The satellite’s-eye overview of the system would help them identify their major constraints focus their effort where it would yield the greatest return. While most small regional banks have merged into bigger national chains, Baker Boyer Bank remains a thriving and highly respected independent player in its market.

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  • About The Author

    John Bernard

    Website: http://www.massingenuity.com
    John Bernard ‘s work in redefining the fundamental drivers of business performance improvement has led to national recognition as a thought leader in employee engagement. As an equally experienced executive and consultant, his effective articulation of new ways of thinking about management and management systems has led to his forthcoming book, Engage to Win, The Surprising Secret to Extraordinary Employee Engagement. John is managing partner of Portland, Oregon based Mass Ingenuity at www.massingenuity.com. Check out John's book at www.engagetowin.com.Read Full

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