The Social Contract 15
often get lost in processes and lose sight of the outcomes they
deliver to society. When those failures to deliver results occur,
we hear about them in the evening news.
System Thinking—Adding Value to the Whole
Doing the right things is a very external focus, while doing
things right is a very internal focus. Organizations get lost in
processes (and fail to deliver results) when they lose sight of
the world around them and their external clients, be those cli-
ents consumers, families, children, elders, or the country
depending on you to keep it secure. To focus on doing the right
things and even think in terms of measuring socially responsi-
ble behavior, we have to first understand why society—not our
organizations—is the starting point for strategic planning.
The days of thinking of an organization or institution in iso-
lation from all other institutions and from society are long
Many do still operate this way, but that’s a business
model that will be short-lived. A brief boom in profit or ratings
does not mean a business or organization is functioning in a
way that will sustain continued success. Even though the
“short-term” forecasts and outlooks are the standard, common
models for many organizations, they are by no means the most
accurate or reliable. A company with a large profit one year
may very well be out of existence the next year without truly
strategic planning towards socially desirable results.
We have come to understand our world—in a variety of dis-
ciplines, from physics and the natural sciences to the social
sciences—as interconnected and interrelated. A change or
action in one place has ripple effects into other places. This is
the systemic way of thinking. It should not be confused with
systematic, which means to follow a clearly defined process.
Instead, system thinking views the parts as part of a whole—
what happens in one part affects other parts and, therefore,
affects the whole.
An important distinction is in order. The absence of the “s”
at the end of “system” is not a typo. Much of this stems from
General System Theory originally articulated by von Bertalanffy.
General System Theory has become an important paradigm