Systems Are Like Domino’s
One of the things I used to enjoy as a kid was to take a pack of domino’s and stand them up one by one next to each other. It would take painstaking time to organize everything just right, but if done correctly you could make some incredible shapes and intricate designs. The creation of the domino trail was part of the fun, but the most exhilarating moment of all was when you would give one tiny push on the end domino piece and watch as one by one the rest of the domino’s would fall to the ground. Each domino’s fall would impact the domino next to it and so on until the end result was every domino was on the ground.
While I still have a child- like fascination with domino’s, I have come to recognize the concept which intrigued me is the same we see in organization’s we lead and are apart of every day. The leader has incredible potential to give a little push here or tweak something just slightly and before you recognize it, the domino effect takes place and it impacts the entire organization and system. In the leadership world this is called systems thinking. What you do today, regardless of how small or large it may appear, will affect every part of the organization you lead or are apart of. The incredible aspect of the domino effect is understanding that touching one domino will affect every other domino that you have never touched before. As a leader, one must recognize that their actions and decisions will impact the entire system, even the parts they do not have direct access to.
As the old saying goes, “you are only as strong as your weakest part”, is so true. The impact of the weakest part of your organization can cause it to hemorrhage to the point of no repair. The weakest aspect of the organization is like a constant force on a domino that is pushing against every other aspect of the system. Before long the system breaks down and can not function properly.
The challenge for the leader is to take a step back and view their organization as a set of domino’s. What domino in the system is throwing every other domino off? Do you need to push a little harder, or maybe pull back a little? What small thing are you doing or not doing that is causing an impact that is unhealthy to the culture of the organization you serve? And just for the fun of it, maybe you should go purchase a pack of domino’s and teach some of the leaders within your organization the impact each one of them makes on all the surrounding people in the organization.