Each summer I invest a week serving as an athletic director at a Pennsylvania church camp. Most of the campers are about 8 or 9 years old it’s my job to keep the boy campers involved in a constructive athletic program. One of my activities involves tug of war games among the campers. The boys enjoy showing off their brute strength as they pull the rope and grunt primal groans.
Then, as a climax, I put all the campers on one side of the rope and only seven adult counselors on the other side. The campers outnumber the staff more than 4 to 1, plus the campers are pulling downhill and therefore the campers expect to win. But every year, it’s the same outcome. And I’ve been doing this since 1985 – each year the counselors beat the campers every time. Why? Because age and experience render an advantage, especially in terms of system dynamics.
So when you consider the term system dynamics, remember this definition: A methodology to explore complexity, interconnectedness, and change over time.
What does system dynamics have in common with summer camp? Keep reading.
Each camp counselor must assess the tug of war’s complexity (pulling uphill on a slippery surface), interconnectedness (synchronizing their effort) and change over time (get a foothold and then gain momentum). And while this tug of war illustration seems less important than a business application, the practice is the same.
For service managers, a correct assessment of daily challenges is necessary to achieve system goals. And age and experience can be a helpful advantage.
How do you know what a system’s goal is? Frequently, service managers have different ideas about the system’s goal. In most businesses, the company owner usually considers that the system’s goal is to make money. The assumption here is that a money-making company keeps people employed, serves the community and facilitates future growth.
Service managers might see the goal a little differently. While they acknowledge the need to make money for the company owner, service managers also realize that other things are important too. Things like parts availability, customer satisfaction, a satisfied, secure workforce and service quality.
Are the service manager’s priorities goals or are they necessary conditions?
A goal can be defined as the result or achievement toward which effort is directed. A necessary condition is a circumstance indispensable to some result, or that upon which everything else is contingent. There is a dependent relationship inherent in these conditions. So here is a question: Must a service manager satisfy the necessary conditions in order to attain the goal?
The correct answer is that the relationship between a goal and a necessary condition is interdependent.
Therefore it doesn’t matter what you call a goal and what you call a necessary condition. This interdependency is constant, no matter what factor a service manager labels as a goal. So if a service manager labels customer satisfaction as a goal, then all other related factors become necessary conditions to achieving that goal. A company can not have satisfied customers without profitability, parts availability, a satisfied, secure workforce or service quality and so on.
Service managers who simplify complexity, leverage interconnectedness and measure improved change over time are maximizing their system dynamics potential.
System dynamics is a combination of personal and systemic factors which enable service managers to be leaders.
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