Systems Thinking and ROI LO13601
Tue, 13 May 1997 15:33:24 -0500

Friends --

I find myself in a quandary. We have built a Systems Thinking workshop
and conducted it, say, a dozen or more times. We ask the participants to
come prepared to work on a complex problem (bring one along if they have
one in mind), and then engage another two or three people from the class
to work with them. We have enjoyed a great deal of positive feedback,
especially with those 'early adopters' who already had some familiarity
with concept.

Two more pieces of evidence: those early adopters come largely from the
lower ranks of the hierarchy (e.g., below the level of 'manager'), and the
problems they choose to work on largely come from the 'soft' side of the
world (e.g., why it's so difficult to get cross-functional teams to work
effectively, why people feel like their skills have less and less value,
why projects never seem to get finished on time).

But lately we have begun to get questions along the lines of, 'Well, this
was certainly enjoyable but my manager will never buy this unless I can
show some hard dollar returns. I have to show some tangible benefit.
Have you got any examples where you can demonstrate that engaging in a
systems thinking effort to examine a complex problem has resulted in clear
dollar savings?'

When asked about their experience and any benefits they've seen, this
sort of questioner will frequently say something further like,
'Well, when we built our systems model about [their topic here] we all
did understood each other's perspectives a lot better. But you can't put
a dollar value on "we understand each other better". I need _real_

Any ideas on how to respond to this sort of challenge? Anyone got some
concrete examples (that they can share at least anecdotally) about
tangible savings from systems thinking?

Michael A

Michael Ayers          Voice (612) 733-5690          FAX (612) 737-7718
  IT Educ & Perf Svcs\3M Center 224-2NE-02\PO Box 33224\St Paul MN 55133-3224
  "Sometimes the right question is, 'Are we asking the right question?'"
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