Systems Thinking & Culture Fit

Systems Thinking & Culture Fit


Systems thinking is a concept that assists individuals in understanding where they fit and what role they are fulfilling in any given situation: the part of an employee, family member, and global citizen. A ‘system’ is defined as:

  • How your job fits into the latest project your organization is working on,
  • Your family and the how each person influences the action of a Thanksgiving dinner,
  • The role you play as part of a hockey team or business leader

Systems thinking can be summarized as understanding the whole and the pieces making up the whole. It is important to note that whether you are passive or active in any given situation – you are still part of that system.


Critical components of understanding a system include:

  • Stakeholders – who or what is impacted by the system
  • Goals – what do we hope to achieve by participating (or not) on a particular project
  • Culture – what do our backgrounds, beliefs, and norms bring to the system

Culture matters in systems analysis and the more you understand the culture of an organization, the better one can improve the culture. This understanding will enhance business results because leaders can tap into their greatest resources, employees, and ensure a positive and productive work environment. Without knowledge of systems, it will be hard to understand, let alone to change, the culture of organizations. Just as scientists, doctors, veterinarians, and engineers study and create systems; leaders must study, improve, and develop cultures. In fact, majoring in “culture” is a leader’s most important course as it touches each area of the organization.


Systems thinking replaces the concept of reductionism – the theory that everything can be reduced to individual parts, with expansionism, the belief that each system is either the macro or micro of another system. By utilizing a Systems Thinking model, leaders learn how the parts of their organization interact, not merely how they perform solo.

When using systems thinking effectively, the organization may learn to evaluate rewards and consequences more effectively, may see how one change or adjustment in a department will impact another department. While initially learning to see systems can be overwhelming, with practice and diligence it will provide a leader with a new awareness, of themselves and their teams.

If you’re ready for more information or support with systems thinking in your organization, please get in touch. If you can’t wait to read more, here are a few great resources:


Why Leaders Need to Be Systems Thinkers

Changing Organizational Culture From a Liability to an Asset

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