Systems Orientation means keeping a focus on the context and the external environment in which an organisation is operating and attending to the boundaries in place between different systems. It is about maintaining balance between different environments.
The everyday struggle of organisational life can easily seduce us into forgetting that we and they are part of and dependent upon a much broader interconnected system. Systems orientation places the organisation within this broader context, seeing it as part of a map or many different maps and recognising that journeys and explorations are essential to fulfilling its purpose, to its survival and progression.
What does this mean in practice?
It means getting out there and collaborating and learning from other organisations. It means recognising that beyond the organisation there will be a whole set of people with a stake in its work and that understanding their needs and views are necessary for its survival
The quality of these interactions becomes a way of understanding the nature of the boundaries in place between different systems. If we are part of what could be called an over bounded system, one with very thick walls around it, we are unlikely to hear or act upon criticism or even see it as relevant, because we’ve blocked out the outside world. In an under bounded system, one surrounded by a flimsy fence with holes or no fence at all, it is likely that we will become over reactive and scatter-gun in our interactions and responses as we respond to everything that comes in from the outside world.
In both cases the risk is that we lose sight of the work and purpose of the organisation.


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