The analysis, design and change of a system require iteration.
Iteration means repeating an action again and again.
Working iteratively is a principle of systemic change management. The reason is that systems are dynamic. As change is observed or initiated in one point in a system, it ripples through the system, impacts on the stakeholders of the system (i.e. the systems in the outer and inner environment with which the system interacts) and through them back to itself.
Analysing a system will yield different results at different times, as the interacting systems keep changing. The results will also differ according to the perspectives from which one views the system and its change. Thus, analysing a system requires iteration.
Likewise, managing the change of a system requires iteration. As one intervenes in a system, other impacts are also received by the system, creating an emergence which may require more and different interventions. Thus intervening in a system will also require iterations.
Iteration can be diverging (e.g. interacting with new stakeholders and viewing new perspectives), as well as converging (e.g. integrating information and deepening understanding).
Although iteration could feel like going in circles and repeating the same over and over again, this is not the case, if facilitated correctly. Even if there is some repetition, there should be enough new information to make iteration worthwhile and enough alignment in the end to allow systems to move forward coherently.
Systemic problems cannot be (dis)solved in a linear, step by step manner. They require iteration.
relevance for the change manager
A non-systemic change manager may get frustrated with seeming repetitions. By comparison, a systemic manager builds iteration into the change management programme from the start.
Not only does iteration lead to more detailed and in-depth information about the change issue, but – even more importantly – the mindsets of stakeholders get aligned in the course of repeatedly working through an issue.