Making it through the silly season with “systems thinking”

feature-xmas-regrets-200Business is stressful all year round, but the silly season is the pointy end. Things just seem to go crazy. The projects that are due, but unfinished; the planning for holiday schedules, sale days or Christmas run-outs; whatever your flavour, there is more on your plate.

Or is there? How real is Christmas pressure? This year, it might seem very real because you have not changed the way you think about it, says Greg Lourey, a director of the Leadership Circle, Asia Pacific.

He says leaders who apply “systems thinking” will be handling their deadlines more easily than those who  do not.

And, they are more likely to achieve their deadlines, Lourey says.

“There is a ‘narrowing’ of time in the rush towards Christmas and people think, now there is less time,” he says. “Systems thinking is an ability to see the organisation as a system, and to see all the parts in the system, rather than getting lost in the moment,” he says.

Leaders may jump into action, with less consideration than they would apply in another part of the year. The result? The potential for mistakes increases, and leaders can have a negative impact on everyone around them.

Here’s five steps to a calm and productive lead-up to the year end.

1. Focus on the big picture

Stay focused on the “big picture” – the long term strategy for the success of the business. If you are tempted to start micromanaging and driving the agenda, check in with yourself and ask: is it the system, or is it me? If it is you – micromanaging, insisting on pre-Christmas deadlines just to make yourself feel better to have crossed them off your list – ask yourself, what is the impact I am going to have on the system from all the things that I think need to get done? There are only so many things that anyone can do.

2. Prioritise your tasks

Look at your tasks and priorities in context. Lourey gives an example. “Someone who is working on a project over a period of months has a report to deliver. They think to themselves, it is my responsibility to deliver this report on December 20. The reality is that the project doesn’t finish until March. The context is that we got to this point because the client didn’t deliver their part on time, or we discovered new information. But I am still marching to my deadline, the deadline we made three months ago. Rather than getting defensive, making excuses or blaming others, look at the context and ask: do we need to set a new deadline?”

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