I had a fantastic middle school science teacher, Mrs. McLean, who retired last year after nearly 30 years in the classroom. (Such a shame for the district, but well deserved!) She was not afraid to go outside the box and get messy to enhance the learning experience for her students. She blew things up during class experiments and dropped objects off the school roof to make her lessons more engaging. She took us on field trips and supported her students in extracurricular activities. She also gave students compliments in class and pulled them aside to offer encouragement if she thought they could do better.
There are many lessons I still carry with me from Mrs. McLean’s class, but one in particular has relevance for talent managers. (Yes, I learned something in seventh grade that I use daily as a talent manager, creative problem solver, and ed-innovator.) One day I watched her draw a simple diagram on the chalk board. It looked similar to the visual below.
Mrs. McLean explained that this outline was one of the most important things we would ever learn in science. We respected her, so when she said something was important, we all listened. Mrs. McLean was right. The diagram is seriously important, but NOT just for science.
Systems theory contends that any process has inputs and outputs which are impacted by the environment in which the process occurred. It also says there should be a feedback mechanism to measure and help improve the process and let us know about the qualities or characteristic of inputs and outputs. A process can only be as good as its inputs, while outputs will only be as good as the process that produces them. Most of us learned about systems theory in school. Have I jogged your memory yet?
So, how does systems theory relate to talent management? A true manager of talent must think and act regularly in a systems environment. This can be a challenging job. Talent managers must look at inputs, such as the quality of new hires, while managing daily processes within an organization, including how to grow, evaluate, and reward employees. This process must account for the local, state, and national education, economic, and business environment, while producing desired outputs, such as more effective educators and students who are prepared to enter college or the workforce. Finally, it is important for talent managers to continuously collect and analyze feedback on inputs, outputs, processes, and the environment in which they operate to support improvement. As most of us know, without feedback we can not improve.
Many of the individuals I look to as human capital and talent management experts use systems theory. Yet, it is useful in many settings and in various industries. For example, many continuous improvement and creative problem solving methodologies involve systems theory.
How does systems theory shape or re-shape your view of talent management, continuous improvement, or creative problem solving?
Please share you thoughts below by leaving a comment. If you have a talent management question or an idea for a blog post, feel free to tweet me on Twitter: @EmilyDouglasHC
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