Graphic of silhouettes of heads with thought bubbles filled with gears above them, meant to be a metaphor for systemic thinking.

When it comes to manufacturers wanting to find greater success, we and others have determined that maximizing flow is the clear path. In order to maximize flow, organizations must minimize variability: specifically, management variability, or the variability caused by decisions and actions of members of an organization. How can manufacturers reduce management variability, though, or make better decisions to reduce variability and maximize flow?  

The first step is to change the way your organization thinks. Your organization’s thinking must change before anything else can change. This includes the way your team looks at the organization as a system and addresses problems within that system.

If manufacturers try to create operational improvement, respond to industry changes, and/or maximize flow simply by implementing new software, the results will be lackluster. Software enhances an organization's existing operations. If a manufacturer is thinking about and approaching issues and activities in an ineffective way, new software will only help them keep doing the wrong things better. An organization must first learn to think differently so they can act differently and then utilize tools to enhance that new way of thinking and acting.  

How can we approach new ways of thinking as an organization? Where can we start addressing patterns of thinking that are harming our performance? While each organization has unique ways of thinking and operating, there are a couple of traps that most manufacturers unknowingly fall into that your organization can begin to address.  



Siloed Departments = Siloed Solutions 

Employees are often not empowered to think systemically. They are siloed within departments and therefore are only encouraged to think strategically within their department. This can create some positive results departmentally, but, as we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, organizations can only reach their full potential when the entire system is considered. Until we give employees the tools and permission to think and work cross-departmentally, actions and solutions will inevitably harm flow and system operations as they only consider one section of the whole organization.  

Think about how many issues and goals each department in an organization is addressing at the same time? What are the odds that the way each of those departments define issues and goals, create solutions, and implement those solutions are in line with all other departments? What are the odds that none of those activities will conflict with or hinder the success of another department's activities? The answer is: slim to none. 



Thinking Stems from Assumptions and Rules 

Outdated assumptions and rules limit our ability to think systemically in a way that will benefit our organizations in the long run. The rapidly changing environment has added a variety of complexities, to the manufacturing industry, that necessitates a variety of changes to the way manufacturers think and operate. When organizations fail to recognize these complexities, update their rules and assumptions accordingly, and/or communicate those changes to their team members, they set themselves up for failure to compete in the modern environment.  

Assumptions and rules help create the framework with which organizations assess issues, and create and implement solutions. Without an accurate framework, effective solutions cannot be created or implemented. To positively change the way your organization thinks, you must also update your rules and assumptions.  



It All Starts with Management 

Managers must create a process framework for constructing and implementing ideas from a system-based perspective; not just for themselves, but for all employees. Flow must be at the forefront of all issue analyses and decisions. And those analyses and decisions cannot be made in isolation; they must be made with the approval of multiple stakeholders to ensure they are effective systemically.  

What are some ways to create that framework? Debra Smith and Chad Smith offer useful suggestions in their book, Demand Driven Performance

Formally train people in your organization to think systemically. 

Provide a common problem-solving language and process. 

Ensure people in your organization understand and are given visibility to see the connections between departments, resources, and people. 

Make sure people in your organization can convert data to relevant information for flow. 

Encourage team members to think about and offer solutions that reach beyond their area/department. 

Educate people in your organization about variability, flow, and their interaction

Ensure people can identify how and where variability accumulates and amplifies to effect total system flow.  


Management must be the instigators of changing systemic thinking to minimize management variability and therefore maximize flow. By being intentional about creating the opportunity and culture for employees to think with a flow-based perspective, your organization can break down the siloed department walls and update its assumptions and rules to create better ways of operating that benefit the entire organization. 

When embarking on making these changes, it can be overwhelming. One decision that can be helpful during this process is to work with a company that understands the challenges of modifying the way your organization thinks and operates who can help ensure the endeavor is successful. 

While Repathis is a software development company, we are different from others in that we care about more than just installing software: we care deeply about breathing new energy into manufacturing organizations so they can excel in the modern industry. 

We work hard to understand where your organization is at and support you in making the process changes necessary while implementing software solutions like our manufacturing software, Revive. Interested in learning more or starting a conversation? Contact us here