The Laws of Systems Thinking

Twenty seven years after publication, still one of the best organizational books I’ve ever read.  “The Fifth Discipline; The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization”  – Peter Senge. (I posses an author’s signed copy residing in a prominent place in my office library.)

Senge lifted and legitimized the concept of organizational transition to learning systems, where gathering, storing and using knowledge becomes critical to success.  At least once a month, an occasion arises which causes me to speak the first law……

  • Today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions.
  • The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back.
  • Behavior grows better before it grows worse.
  • The easy way out usually leads back in.
  • The cure can be worse than the disease.
  • Faster is slower.
  • Cause and effect are not closely related in time and space.
  • Small changes can produce big results – but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious.
  • You can have your cake and eat it too – but not at once.
  • Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants.
  • There is no blame.

Healing Leaders thinking is deeply influenced by the truths reflected in the systems thinking laws. A strong connection flows between the laws and these principles:

  • Emotional processes are always more powerful than ideas
  • Power lies in presence rather than methods.
  • Leaders should avoid trying to instill insight into the unmotivated.
  • Self-defining includes responding to events, situations, crises and others non-anxiously.

Peace and Courage,


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