Sunday, September 6, 2015

Psychology 706 (Masters Degree program) - Riordan Manufacturing: Fifth Discipline’s System Thinking Model

Riordan Manufacturing: Fifth Discipline’s System Thinking Model
Sean Delevan
4 September 2015

            “Riordan Manufacturing is a global plastics manufacturer with projected annual earnings of $46 million” (Riordan Manufacturing, 2005). The organization is currently seeking to exceed its previous year’s sales by $4 million dollars that will allow for the overall sales goal of $50 million to be obtained. To achieve this particular sales goal, the organization will need to improve upon a few operational and training components. Riordan Manufacturing has been presented with a Training Needs Assessment (TNA) recently which is a commonly utilized “process of identifying training needs in an organization for the purpose of improving employee job performance” (HR Guide, 2015). In the absence of improved job performance and overall job satisfaction, achieving financial goals such as this would arguably be unobtainable.
            The purpose of the information to follow is to describe how the Fifth Discipline’s System Thinking Model can be applied to Riordan Manufacturing. In this assessment will be the consideration of action learning and appreciative inquiries as alternate approaches to achieving the aforementioned organizational training and financial goals. Once applicability of these components are explained and understood, there will be a presentation of the most advantageous ways in which to implement such approaches and their projected outcomes.
            When it comes to organizational success and performance improvement within an organization, there are five learning disciplines that should be considered for application. In accordance with information presented by Senge (1990), the five learning disciplines consist of “Shared Vision, Mental Models, Personal Mastery, Team Learning, and Systems Thinking; all of which are made up of a set of tools and practices for building and sustaining learning leadership capability in organizations” (pg.1). While each of these learning disciplines are effective in their own ways, it is suggested that Riordan Manufacturing will see the greatest deal of success through increased focus on Systems Thinking approaches to training.
            Systems thinking approaches to training is annotated to be a viable framework in which managers and employees alike, can see how inter-relationships succeed or fail in the midst of complex organizational situations. One of the most sustainable ways in which to ensure organizational success in the realm of training is through experimentation. “Experimentation lends itself to objective systems thinking, proactive planning, and organizational learning, leading to an organization’s honest self-assessment” (Waclawski & Church, 2002, pg.10/14).
            The need for organizational and employee training is imperative as customers are beginning to annotate the transparency of inexperience within the organization. With this transparency present, this will dramatically hinder the ability of Riordan Manufacturing as they attempt to reach new sales and profit goals. Furthermore, if the Systems Thinking Model is applied to organizational training operations, this will ultimately result in employees feeling more valued and efficient in their duties. When this occurs, the second organizational goal presented by Riordan Manufacturing, improving employee satisfaction by %15 will be achieved.
            “From a systems thinking point of view, it is helpful to identify which facilitating factors serve as leverage points for change in particular groups and then to consider the team’s relative strength or capability in the area” (DiBella, 2001, pg.4/12). One of the best ways in which facilitating factors and their effect on organizational learning can be achieved through the implementation of Systems Thinking Models would be to create a simplistic cause and effect chain. When cause and effect are learned, the consequences of the effects resulting from the newly pinpointed causes can be determined so that management can develop practical options and solutions. Further research supports that implementing this type of model during training “enables teams to unravel the often hidden subtleties, influences, leverage points, and intended/unintended consequences of change plans and programs and leads to deeper, more complete awareness of the interconnections behind changing any system” (Senge, 1990, pg.2).
            There is a chance that Riordan Manufacturing will need to hire new employees in order to achieve the profit and market share goals listed in the Training Needs Assessment. If this is the case, a Systems Thinking Model can also be applied to ensure sufficient staffing is achieved. So long as it is implemented correctly, this particular model will aid in the organization’s ability to see and understand how different organizational segments are interconnected which will then lead to a bigger picture rather than individual goals. “Systems thinking attempts to integrate the various parts of a system in a way that optimizes, rather than maximizes, the performance of each of its parts in order to achieve organizational effectiveness” (Douglas & Kerfoot, 2008, pg.53).
            There are a number of different ways that Riordan Manufacturing can implement the Systems Thinking Model that will undoubtedly warrant success. First and foremost, Riordan Manufacturing needs to invest in systems thinking education approaches that have proven to be viable for other organizations in the past. In order to ensure that the appropriate methods are being utilized, management and all pertinent personnel need to ensure that the problem(s) that the organization is faced with is understood. Once this is achieved, management should “draw upon resources in the organization that can contribute to problem resolution; form interdisciplinary work groups; ensure that plans include achieving measurable business goals; and, put in place and use monitoring approaches that support analysis” (Douglas & Kerfoot, 2008, pg.53).
            In conjunction with implementing the Systems Thinking Model, management at Riordan Manufacturing should also consider alternatives to learning and teaching such as action learning and appreciative inquiry. Explained by DiBella (2001), “a key process in promoting learning across different teams is communication and the development and accessibility of communications technology will simplify the dissemination of knowledge” (pg.1/8). When action learning is applied, and communication is at an acceptable standard, management at Riordan Manufacturing will begin to see success in the transformation and development of people working within the organization.
Action learning approaches to training are most effective when individual employees work in small groups on projects that are actually needing to be done by the organization. Busy work, that is not applicable to organizational operations will not furnish the same level of learning results as those that work on projects that are necessary for organizational success. Some of the notably more effective ways in which Riordan Manufacturing can implement action learning would be through task-oriented strategies where people learn from the work they do, and development initiative. So long as action learning approaches are presented and carried out as they are designed to be, implementation outcomes will result in enhanced learning and learning becoming the main focus of organizational operations.
Finally, appreciative inquiry can be used as an alternative to the Systems Thinking Model as this is annotated to be an “OD technique that encourages reflection from the position that a glass can be half full but never half empty, that there are as many if not more positive aspects of any situation as there are negative ones” (DiBella, 2001, pg.2/17). When learning occurs, and success is presented, as a result, many may feel that appreciative inquiry is boastful. This is an inaccurate assessment, and if not encouraged, it could result in lessened employee performance and a change in organizational culture. Therefore, as managers, it is important to encourage learning and positive attitudes when a job is done well.

DiBella, A. J. (2001). Learning practices: Assessment and Action for organizational improvement. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Douglas, K. & Kerfoot, K. (2008). Applying systems thinking model for effective staffing. Retrieved from
Human Resource Guide (HR Guide) (2015). Needs analysis: How to determine training needs. Retrieved from
Riordan Manufacturing (2005). Economic forecast for Riordan Manufacturing. Retrieved from
Senge, Peter M. (1990, revised 2006) The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization New York: Doubleday

Waclawski, J., & Church, A. H. (Eds.). (2002). Organization development: A data-driven approach to organizational change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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