The importance of incorporating a systemic perspective in work environment surveys nowadays

A few years ago I was asked by an organisation to help a leader in the IT area to improve their work environment. I was just finishing a training course in systemic thinking (an epistemology that considers things as a whole for their analysis, understanding and use, unlike linear thinking – from the scientific method –, which only perceives parts thereof and in an unrelated way). This approach had completely changed my perspective on how to analyse reality. The first thing I asked the leader was, “why do you insist on you and me working alone?” 

He told me about the importance of the role, his responsibility and so on, increasing even more my concern about drifting away from a deep circular reading such as the one I had just discovered. We moved forward, we talked, and he finally agreed – with some scepticism – on getting his team involved.  

A team that is involved in the analysis of their own environment is a team that is aware of the fact that the environment is created by all its members, and that everyone is a responsible actor of both what happens and the change they aspire to. 

Finally, the IT team, after a long conversation about the reasons that were driving their participation, managed to get involved and detect their co-responsibility and mutual opportunity to create a better workplace. This motivated them to build a different plan from the one they had originally thought, and their leader became the facilitator and provider of the team. 

However, we were left with a huge challenge: to make sure the next survey asks questions and analyses information in the same way they want to participate now, that is, by getting involved.    

The design of tools for work environment and talent management must aim to communicate that which organisations want to express: the importance of co-creation, the sense of reciprocity, the possibility to think systemically, empowerment and the search for multiple solutions with all stakeholders. 

Let’s cultivate a systemic perspective, which will allow us to see, as Paul Watzlawick says, that, “In human relations and their interpretation there are no simple truths. The ‘usual’ is not to find uniformity but rather a diversity of ways of action and interpretation”.