I came across two nice examples of how to use systems savvy to improve your work this morning. While these authors don’t call the skills they describe systems savvy, they are demonstrating the benefits of managing technology tools, organizational process, and people at the same time -- and being thoughtful about that process. For more on systems savvy, see the link above, or this one that uses cooking at the metaphor -- and feel free to let me know which one you like better.) Luis Suarez is one of my favorite bloggers. He’s an IBMer and knowledge work guru. In today’s post he talks about smarter work. Perfect timing for my students as we are covering E2.0 aspects of organizational design, and how to craft videos for knowledge reuse. The first video Luis focuses on highlights the value of collaboration -- though it starts off with a Dad wanting his son to get off the computer. The video quickly highlights that it’s not about the technology, but the ways the son does his homework and the facilitation role the teacher plays. Nice transition then to the Dad’s world of work. Thesecond video is a more macro view on how organizational success is less about giant capital outlays and instead about innovation. Again, technology is playing a role in enabling the work forms described, but it’s about how to engage employees in thoughtful ways. Technology, organization, and people == Systems savvy. The McKinsey Quarterly’s Derek Dean and Caroline Webb provide my second example. In their new article, Recovering from information overload, they show what happens if executives don’t practice systems savvy in designing how they do their work. Multitasking and over connection are perhaps even more of a problem now than when they were highlighted in Peter Drucker’s 1967 classic, The Effective Executive. They close with:
Finally, to truly make this approach work, leaders have to redesign working norms together with their teams. One person, even a CEO, cannot do that alone—who wants to be the sole person on the senior team who leaves the smart phone behind when he or she goes on vacation? Absent some explicit discussion, that kind of action could be taken as a lack of commitment to the business, not as a productive attempt to disconnect and recharge. So we encourage leaders and their teams to discuss openly how they choose to focus, filter, and forget; how they support each other in creating the necessary time and space to perform at their best; and how they enable others, throughout the organization, to do the same. This conversation can also be the right starting point for a deeper look at the information and technology needs of all the company’s knowledge workers. (For more on how to tackle this thorny problem, see “Rethinking knowledge work: A strategic approach,” to be published next week on mckinseyquarterly.com.)
This view echos my own view of systems savvy. While there is huge value in practicing systems savvy in your own work design, the value is even greater when it is layered throughout the organization. With such layers you'll find greater acceptance of the work changes you propose, more management support for those changes, and a likelihood of better related technology support. Share your systems savvy ideas to help spread the approach.