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Systems Thinking
Lessons From The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Senge, Kleiker,
Roberts, Ross and Smith



                                                          Presentation by
                                             Joanna Beltowska @jbeltowska
                                                  Amy Rae @elucidateamy

©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.
Oh hai again!



©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.   2
All of these things are systems.




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                      3
Are you looking at a system or a bunch of stuff?

              Can you identify the individual parts?
   1


              Do the parts affect each other?
   2


              Do the parts together produce an effect that is
   3          different from the effect of each part on its own?




              Does the effect persist in a variety of
   4          circumstances?




                                                                   x




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                             4
Ping pong is a system.
                                                IT HAS IDENTIFIABLE INDIVIDUAL PARTS.



                                                               PART 2




                      PART 1                                                            PART 3




                                                               PART 4




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                       5
Ping pong is a system.
                                                             THE PARTS AFFECT EACH OTHER.




                                      LAWS OF PHYSICS




                                                                 RULES OF THE GAME




                                                                                            LAWS OF PHYSICS




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                    6
Ping pong is a system.
                                                         TOGETHER, THESE PARTS CREATE A UNIQUE EFFECT.




                                      LAWS OF PHYSICS




                                                                      RULES OF THE GAME




                                                                                                         LAWS OF PHYSICS




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                                 7
Ping pong is a system.
                                                        THIS EFFECT CAN BE REPLICATED IN MULTIPLE SITUATIONS.




                                      LAWS OF PHYSICS




                                                                         RULES OF THE GAME




                                                                                                            LAWS OF PHYSICS




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.
                                                                                          X      1, X 2, X 3...               8
Finding and analyzing systems is difficult work.
The following pages will introduce systems thinking,
a set of tools and methods to help you along the way.




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.              9
WARNING:
                                             Systems always surprise us.




                                                                Don’t fret!
                                                 This way for the three main reasons why.




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                  10
rs
                                              inke
                                             h
            rt
          ea                                                      o n - linea r
We are lin                                             in a   n                   wo
                                                                                     r   l d.




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                      11
In a nonlinear relationship, the cause does not produce a
proportional effect.
                                             is range represents the optimal amount of fertilizer to apply, and if too much is applied,
                                             the yield might even go down.
Crops Yield




                                                                                                                    Fertilizer Application
©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                                                   12
Reality is made up of circles, but we see straight
                                             lines. Herein lies the beginnings of our limitation as
                                                                systems thinkers.



                                                                 Peter Senge




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                            13
The Linearity Double Dunk

                                   Formal education rewards               Language shapes perception.
                                             linear thinking.

                                           Research with young children   Western languages are biased
                                           indicates that we have               towards a linear world view
                                       latent skills as systems                     because of their
                                            thinkers that are                        subject-to-verb
                                         undeveloped, even                            object structure. This
                                       repressed, by formal                           structure trains our
                                                   education.                        brains to link together
                                                                                   thoughts in the same way.




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                     14
In the real world, boundaries don’t exist. There are only
boundaries of thought, perception and social agreement.




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                  15
BOUNDED RATIONALITY

In decision making, rationality of individuals is limited by
the information they have.



                                             Fishermen are not aware of the total number of fish in the
                                             ocean or how many fish others harvest. This is a typical
                                             example of a dilemma referred to as “The Tragedy of the
                                             Commons” - a situation in which a group of individuals act
                                             rationally in their own self-interest and deplete a shared
                                             limited resource.




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                16
E xp li ci t kn ow le dg e



MENTAL MODELS

Individuals are also inhibited by their mental models - the
images, assumptions, and stories which we carry in our
minds of ourselves, other people, institutions, and every
aspect of the world.

                                                          Taci t know ledge




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                    17
Systems fool us by presenting
themselves as a single event.


                                             The stock market crashed in 1929, making
                                             headlines. This single event was overemphasized,
                                             and other, more important, events influencing the
                                             Great Depression were less salient, like the
                                             200,000 factory workers being replaced by
                                             machines and farmland value falling by 40%.



©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                       18
Events accumulate into dynamic patterns of behavior.
                                                           e Great Depression begins

             Wheat prices per bushel in dollars
 3




2.5




 2




1.5




 1




0.5




 0
      1900                                   1910   1920                           1930



©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                          19
Long-term behavior provides clues to the underlying
system structure.
System structures are created by the choices people make
consciously or unconsciously over time.

In systems thinking, structure is the pattern of
interrelationships among the key components of the system.
That might include hierarchy and process, but it also
includes attitudes and perceptions, the quality of products,
the ways in which decisions are made, etc.




                                                               e winter of 1929 was a so called “long wave” winter.
                                                               Long wave theory, a subset of systems thinking, says
                                                               that economic crisis come and go in cycles.
©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                             20
Researchers at MIT came up with ways to understand and
categorize different types of systems.

©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.               21
With practice, these tools can help you unpack complex
 problems in a flash.



  Think of these tools as your diagnostic
  repertoire.




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                22
Links and Loops
T H E F O UND A T I O N O F SYST E M S M O D E L I NG

                                                              A LINK:
Links are arrows that represent influence between elements
in a system.                                                  NUMBER OF         TIME SPENT
                                                               LOLCATS          ON THE SITE


Loops are combinations of links that that reveal                Cause             Eect
interdependencies; In a loop, every element is both the
cause and the effect.

                                                              A LOOP:
Example: The more lolcat pictures on
icanhazcheeseburger.com, the more time people spend
there, commenting on lolcat pictures, and becoming inspired
to create more. (Because we all know lolcats are awesomely
hilarious!)
                                                                    NO. OF   TIME SPENT
                                                                   LOLCATS   ON THE SITE




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                    23
Balancing and Reinforcing Loops
T W O T YPE S O F L O O PS T H A T O CCUR F RE Q UE NT L Y

Balancing loops occur in systems that are self-regulating.
                                                                                                 US ARMS
The system has an inherent goal, and when that goal isn’t
met, intense pressure is applied to reach it.                                                     (R)
                                                                     NEED TO BUILD
                                                                                                               THREAT TO
                                                                       US ARMS
                                                                                                              SOVIET UNION
Example: Your refrigerator’s goal is to keep food at a chilly
35 degrees. When a half-eaten pizza enters, the refrigerator
decreases the temperature to cool the warm pizza, bringing
                                                                            THREAT
                                                                                                               NEED TO BUILD
the refrigerator back to equilibrium.                                        TO US
                                                                                                                SOVIET ARMS


Reinforcing loops occur in systems that steadily grow                                            SOVIET
                                                                                                  ARMS
and/or collapse over time.

Example: The Nuclear Arms Race between the US and the           NUCLEAR STOCKPILES 1945 - 2005
Soviet Union during the cold war is a typical example of a
                                                                                     Exponential growth
reinforcing loop. The US created the first atomic bomb in       45,000                                               SOVIET
                                                                                                                       USA
                                                                40,000
1945. The Soviet Union followed in 1949. By the 1950s both      35,000

sides had enough nuclear power to obliterate each other.        30,000
                                                                25,000
The system then declined when both stockpiles decreased in      20,000

the 1990s.                                                      15,000
                                                                10,000
                                                                5,000
Sources: Natural Resources Defense Council (1946-2002 data),        0
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (2003-2006 data)                   1945      1955       1965       1975   1985    1995       2005
©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                                      24
Balancing and Reinforcing Loops: Templates
A D A PT E D F RO M T H E F I F T H D I SCI PL I NE B Y PE T E R M . S E NGE . US E T H E S E T E M PL A T E S A S A S T A RT I NG PL A CE F O R S YS T E M A NA L YS I S .



REINFORCING LOOP TEMPLATE                                                                              BALANCING LOOP TEMPLATE

                                  Optional intermediate element (might                                                                                               Target or goal
                                  be a consequence of performance)                                                                   Actual performance              (desired performance, either
                                                                                                                                     (that you measure or            known or unknown to you)
Actual performance                                                                                                                   observe; often a problem
(that you measure or                                                                                                                 symptom)
observe, which you can see
growing or declining)
                                                                       Growing action
                                        (R)                            (what you do, or someone
                                                                       else does, to generate growth
                                                                       or decline)
                                                                                                                                             (B)
                                                                                                       Optional
                                                                                                                                                                   Gap (discrepancy between
                                                                                                       intermediate
                                                                                                                                                                   desired and actual
                                                                                                       element (might be a                                         performance, either visible to
          Optional intermediate element
                                                                                                       driver of performance)                                      you as a shortfall, evident as
          (might be a driver of performance and/or a
          consequence of action)                                                                                                                                   a need, or felt as a pressure)
                                                                                                                             Corrective action (can be a
                                                                                                                             quick x or a driver of your
                                                                                                                             performance)




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                                                                                                     25
Causal Loop Diagrams
H E L PI NG YO U T E L L A M O RE RO B UST ST O RY

Causal loop diagrams combine multiple loops and reveal                                              -             WEAK OR
more detail about the system. A “plus” indicates that the                           +                             UNCERTAIN
                                                                                         PERCEIVED                ECONOMIC
elements change in the same direction while a “minus”                                -   SOLVENCY OF BANK         CONDITIONS

indicates that the elements change in opposite directions.
                                                                                                            -
                                                                                                                           +
Example: The bank panic during the Great Depression was          SOLVENCY
                                                                            (+)            (+)              FEAR OF
                                                                 OF BANK                                    BANK FAILURE
caused by a public fear of bank failure. This caused people to
withdraw their personal savings, reducing bank solvency,          +
which in turn drove private withdrawals of funds further in a                                           +
                                                                                         TENDENCY TO
                                                                   BANK RESERVES         WITHDRAW
spiraling, reinforcing, loop.                                      ON HAND               PERSONAL SAVINGS
                                                                              -

                                                                 Casual loop diagram describing the bank panic during the
                                                                 Great Depression (adapted from Beyond Training Wheels
                                                                 by John Sterman).




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                                     26
System Archetypes
A PE RI O D I C T A B L E O F T H E M O ST CO M M O N SYST E M B E H A VI O RS

If we think of each system as a story, system archetypes
are the classic stories that we keep seeing over and over
again. By measuring our systems against these classics, we                         Problem      CURRENT              STAFFING    Fix
                                                                                  symptom       PROFITS              CUTS
can quickly identify the dominating behavioral patterns.

For example, “Fixes That Backfire”: A company is struggling
with profitability (the problem symptom) and decides to let
some people go to reduce costs (the fix). Profitability initially
improves, but the loss of experienced employees as well as a
drop in morale impact productivity negatively (the                                                        PRODUCTIVITY

unintended consequence).                                                                           Unintended consequences


                                                                                 PROBLEM SYMPTOM

                                                                                             “Fix” applied




                                                                                                      Original threshold of tolerance


©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                                              27
Archetypes: Comparison Chart
A D A PT E D F RO M T H E F I F T H D I SCI PL I NE B Y PE T E R M . S E NGE




BALANCING LOOP                                                     REINFORCING LOOP                                     “FIXES THAT BACKFIRE”

There is a movement toward a target (without                       An important variable accelerates up (or down),      A problem symptom alternately improves (the
delay), or else oscillation, hovering around a single              with exponential growth or collapse.                 problem variable goes down) and deteriorates
target (with delay).                                                                                                    (the problem goes up, worse than before).




“LIMITS TO GROWTH”                                                 “SHIFTING THE BURDEN”                                “TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS”
There is a growth (sometimes dramatic growth),                     The reliance of the short-term fix grows stronger,   Total activity grows, but the gains from individual
leveling off or falling into decline.                              while efforts to fundamentally correct the real      activities are dropping.
                                                                   problem grow weaker. The problem symptom
                                                                   alternately improves and deteriorates.




“ACCIDENTAL ADVERSARIES”

Each side’s performance either declines or stays
level and low, while enmity or competitiveness
increases over time.

©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                                                                              28
Stocks And Flows
A D A PT E D F RO M T H I NK I NG I N SYST E M S B Y D O NE L L A M E A D O W S

Stock and flow diagrams are another way to analyze
systems. Stocks are tangible and measurable, and they
                                                                                                                              Inow
change over time through the actions of flows. Stocks act as
buffers, delays or shock absorbers in systems.

Example: Imagine you’ve decided to take a bath. You begin                         Stock
to fill your bathtub with hot water and go read while you’re
waiting for the tub to fill. When you come back, the water is
a bit too hot for your liking. To get the temperature down
quickly, you open up the drain and turn the cold water faucet
on. Your bathtub is now a simple system with one stock (the
water in the tub), one inflow (the cold water) and one
outflow (the water that is leaving through the drain).



                                                                                                       WATER IN
                                                                                                       BATH TUB


                                                                                          COLD WATER              DRAINED WATER


                                                                                             Inow      Stock        Outow


©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                                            29
Systems Analysis Guidelines
T H E SYST E M S T O O L K I T I N A CT I O N

All models are simplifications of the real world. It’s up to
you to decide how much detail to illustrate.

There are no right answers. Mapping out a system will
reveal a set of potential actions you may take. As you
become more a more proficient systems thinker, you’ll begin
to recognize the consequences of different interventions.

Cause and effect will not be closely related in time and
space. Don't look for leverage near the symptoms of your
problem.

Good results in a complex system depend on bringing in as
many perspectives as possible. Consider who else you can
bring in to make your system model more informed.

Use your intuition when you work with archetypes. It's not
critical that you pick the right archetype - as long as it rings
true with your story, it's good enough as a starting point.



©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                         30
A good systems thinker avoids traps by looking for multiple
levels operating simultaneously.



                                                  LEVERAGE FOR LASTING CHANGE
                                                                                  MENTAL MODELS


                                                                                      SYSTEMS


                                                                                PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOR


                                                                                      EVENTS

                                             ADAPTED FROM THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE FIELDBOOK BY PETER M. SENGE



©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                                   31
Good Systems Thinkers Make Good Strategists
A ST O RY O F H O W ST RA T E GY D E F E A T E D 1: 2 5 O D D S

On October 26, 1597, the Korean admiral Yi Sun-sin
famously defeated the Japanese fleet of 333 units with only
                                                                  Admiral Yi: a badass
13 ships at his disposal.
                                                                  systems thinker.

Yi strategically chose the Myeongnyang Strait as the arena
for his last stand with the Japanese based on its strong
currents, narrowness, rough tides and surrounding shadowy
hillsides. By reading the environment as a system, admiral Yi
used it to his advantage.

No other naval battle involving fleets of this size, has
resulted in a victory for such a proportionately small force,
also making it one of the greatest military achievements in
world history.




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                               32
Cancer (?)



  The challenges society faces are growing.

                                               Measles (1963)




                                              Smallpox (1796)


©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                  33
In order to meet those challenges, we need to explore new
ways of thinking. Systems thinking is the cornerstone of
how adaptive organizations think about their world.




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.              34
Designing a Systems Workshop
PUT T I NG SYST EMS T H I NK I NG I NT O PRA CT I CE

Tackling a huge problem? Systems analysis will help
elucidate multiple sides of the issue and identify areas of
opportunity. Workshops or brainstorms are great forums
for this type of analysis. Below is a (very) general overview
of a good workshop:

Study up: Learn your links, loops and archetypes. For
practice, sketch out systems diagrams of popular problems,
like Global Warming or Poverty.

Event Prep: Invite stakeholders from all levels of the
organization; Unique perspectives will make the analysis
more robust. Choose a room with a white board and bring
your markers!

 Facilitation: In general, spend 1/4 of the time introducing
the concept and creating a safe space for open discussion.
Spend 1/2 of the time analyzing the problem on the white        Darth suggests you use the “Five Whys”
                                                                to help the group discover deeper
board with the Systems Toolkit, and spend the remaining 1/4
                                                                interactions between elements.
looking for possible interventions in your diagram.


©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                               35
“It’s like the old expression, ‘You are what you eat’.
If you start thinking differently, you see things differently.
And all your actions start to change.”
- Pat Walls, FedEx



                                             Are you ready to switch to a loops-based diet?




©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.                                                    36
Special thanks to our mentors and friends at
Systems Thinking
Lessons From The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Senge, Kleiker,
Roberts, Ross and Smith



                                                          Presentation by
                                             Joanna Beltowska @jbeltowska
                                                  Amy Rae @elucidateamy

©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.

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SYSTEMS THINKING: Lessons From The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Senge, Kleiker, Roberts, Ross and Smith

  • 1. Systems Thinking Lessons From The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Senge, Kleiker, Roberts, Ross and Smith Presentation by Joanna Beltowska @jbeltowska Amy Rae @elucidateamy ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.
  • 2. Oh hai again! ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 2
  • 3. All of these things are systems. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 3
  • 4. Are you looking at a system or a bunch of stuff? Can you identify the individual parts? 1 Do the parts affect each other? 2 Do the parts together produce an effect that is 3 different from the effect of each part on its own? Does the effect persist in a variety of 4 circumstances? x ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 4
  • 5. Ping pong is a system. IT HAS IDENTIFIABLE INDIVIDUAL PARTS. PART 2 PART 1 PART 3 PART 4 ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 5
  • 6. Ping pong is a system. THE PARTS AFFECT EACH OTHER. LAWS OF PHYSICS RULES OF THE GAME LAWS OF PHYSICS ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 6
  • 7. Ping pong is a system. TOGETHER, THESE PARTS CREATE A UNIQUE EFFECT. LAWS OF PHYSICS RULES OF THE GAME LAWS OF PHYSICS ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 7
  • 8. Ping pong is a system. THIS EFFECT CAN BE REPLICATED IN MULTIPLE SITUATIONS. LAWS OF PHYSICS RULES OF THE GAME LAWS OF PHYSICS ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. X 1, X 2, X 3... 8
  • 9. Finding and analyzing systems is difficult work. The following pages will introduce systems thinking, a set of tools and methods to help you along the way. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 9
  • 10. WARNING: Systems always surprise us. Don’t fret! This way for the three main reasons why. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 10
  • 11. rs inke h rt ea o n - linea r We are lin in a n wo r l d. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 11
  • 12. In a nonlinear relationship, the cause does not produce a proportional effect. is range represents the optimal amount of fertilizer to apply, and if too much is applied, the yield might even go down. Crops Yield Fertilizer Application ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 12
  • 13. Reality is made up of circles, but we see straight lines. Herein lies the beginnings of our limitation as systems thinkers. Peter Senge ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 13
  • 14. The Linearity Double Dunk Formal education rewards Language shapes perception. linear thinking. Research with young children Western languages are biased indicates that we have towards a linear world view latent skills as systems because of their thinkers that are subject-to-verb undeveloped, even object structure. This repressed, by formal structure trains our education.  brains to link together thoughts in the same way. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 14
  • 15. In the real world, boundaries don’t exist. There are only boundaries of thought, perception and social agreement. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 15
  • 16. BOUNDED RATIONALITY In decision making, rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have. Fishermen are not aware of the total number of fish in the ocean or how many fish others harvest. This is a typical example of a dilemma referred to as “The Tragedy of the Commons” - a situation in which a group of individuals act rationally in their own self-interest and deplete a shared limited resource. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 16
  • 17. E xp li ci t kn ow le dg e MENTAL MODELS Individuals are also inhibited by their mental models - the images, assumptions, and stories which we carry in our minds of ourselves, other people, institutions, and every aspect of the world. Taci t know ledge ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 17
  • 18. Systems fool us by presenting themselves as a single event. The stock market crashed in 1929, making headlines. This single event was overemphasized, and other, more important, events influencing the Great Depression were less salient, like the 200,000 factory workers being replaced by machines and farmland value falling by 40%. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 18
  • 19. Events accumulate into dynamic patterns of behavior. e Great Depression begins Wheat prices per bushel in dollars 3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 1900 1910 1920 1930 ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 19
  • 20. Long-term behavior provides clues to the underlying system structure. System structures are created by the choices people make consciously or unconsciously over time. In systems thinking, structure is the pattern of interrelationships among the key components of the system. That might include hierarchy and process, but it also includes attitudes and perceptions, the quality of products, the ways in which decisions are made, etc. e winter of 1929 was a so called “long wave” winter. Long wave theory, a subset of systems thinking, says that economic crisis come and go in cycles. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 20
  • 21. Researchers at MIT came up with ways to understand and categorize different types of systems. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 21
  • 22. With practice, these tools can help you unpack complex problems in a flash. Think of these tools as your diagnostic repertoire. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 22
  • 23. Links and Loops T H E F O UND A T I O N O F SYST E M S M O D E L I NG A LINK: Links are arrows that represent influence between elements in a system. NUMBER OF TIME SPENT LOLCATS ON THE SITE Loops are combinations of links that that reveal Cause Eect interdependencies; In a loop, every element is both the cause and the effect. A LOOP: Example: The more lolcat pictures on icanhazcheeseburger.com, the more time people spend there, commenting on lolcat pictures, and becoming inspired to create more. (Because we all know lolcats are awesomely hilarious!) NO. OF TIME SPENT LOLCATS ON THE SITE ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 23
  • 24. Balancing and Reinforcing Loops T W O T YPE S O F L O O PS T H A T O CCUR F RE Q UE NT L Y Balancing loops occur in systems that are self-regulating. US ARMS The system has an inherent goal, and when that goal isn’t met, intense pressure is applied to reach it. (R) NEED TO BUILD THREAT TO US ARMS SOVIET UNION Example: Your refrigerator’s goal is to keep food at a chilly 35 degrees. When a half-eaten pizza enters, the refrigerator decreases the temperature to cool the warm pizza, bringing THREAT NEED TO BUILD the refrigerator back to equilibrium. TO US SOVIET ARMS Reinforcing loops occur in systems that steadily grow SOVIET ARMS and/or collapse over time. Example: The Nuclear Arms Race between the US and the NUCLEAR STOCKPILES 1945 - 2005 Soviet Union during the cold war is a typical example of a Exponential growth reinforcing loop. The US created the first atomic bomb in 45,000 SOVIET USA 40,000 1945. The Soviet Union followed in 1949. By the 1950s both 35,000 sides had enough nuclear power to obliterate each other. 30,000 25,000 The system then declined when both stockpiles decreased in 20,000 the 1990s. 15,000 10,000 5,000 Sources: Natural Resources Defense Council (1946-2002 data), 0 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (2003-2006 data) 1945 1955 1965 1975 1985 1995 2005 ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 24
  • 25. Balancing and Reinforcing Loops: Templates A D A PT E D F RO M T H E F I F T H D I SCI PL I NE B Y PE T E R M . S E NGE . US E T H E S E T E M PL A T E S A S A S T A RT I NG PL A CE F O R S YS T E M A NA L YS I S . REINFORCING LOOP TEMPLATE BALANCING LOOP TEMPLATE Optional intermediate element (might Target or goal be a consequence of performance) Actual performance (desired performance, either (that you measure or known or unknown to you) Actual performance observe; often a problem (that you measure or symptom) observe, which you can see growing or declining) Growing action (R) (what you do, or someone else does, to generate growth or decline) (B) Optional Gap (discrepancy between intermediate desired and actual element (might be a performance, either visible to Optional intermediate element driver of performance) you as a shortfall, evident as (might be a driver of performance and/or a consequence of action) a need, or felt as a pressure) Corrective action (can be a quick x or a driver of your performance) ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 25
  • 26. Causal Loop Diagrams H E L PI NG YO U T E L L A M O RE RO B UST ST O RY Causal loop diagrams combine multiple loops and reveal - WEAK OR more detail about the system. A “plus” indicates that the + UNCERTAIN PERCEIVED ECONOMIC elements change in the same direction while a “minus” - SOLVENCY OF BANK CONDITIONS indicates that the elements change in opposite directions. - + Example: The bank panic during the Great Depression was SOLVENCY (+) (+) FEAR OF OF BANK BANK FAILURE caused by a public fear of bank failure. This caused people to withdraw their personal savings, reducing bank solvency, + which in turn drove private withdrawals of funds further in a + TENDENCY TO BANK RESERVES WITHDRAW spiraling, reinforcing, loop. ON HAND PERSONAL SAVINGS - Casual loop diagram describing the bank panic during the Great Depression (adapted from Beyond Training Wheels by John Sterman). ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 26
  • 27. System Archetypes A PE RI O D I C T A B L E O F T H E M O ST CO M M O N SYST E M B E H A VI O RS If we think of each system as a story, system archetypes are the classic stories that we keep seeing over and over again. By measuring our systems against these classics, we Problem CURRENT STAFFING Fix symptom PROFITS CUTS can quickly identify the dominating behavioral patterns. For example, “Fixes That Backfire”: A company is struggling with profitability (the problem symptom) and decides to let some people go to reduce costs (the fix). Profitability initially improves, but the loss of experienced employees as well as a drop in morale impact productivity negatively (the PRODUCTIVITY unintended consequence). Unintended consequences PROBLEM SYMPTOM “Fix” applied Original threshold of tolerance ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 27
  • 28. Archetypes: Comparison Chart A D A PT E D F RO M T H E F I F T H D I SCI PL I NE B Y PE T E R M . S E NGE BALANCING LOOP REINFORCING LOOP “FIXES THAT BACKFIRE” There is a movement toward a target (without An important variable accelerates up (or down), A problem symptom alternately improves (the delay), or else oscillation, hovering around a single with exponential growth or collapse. problem variable goes down) and deteriorates target (with delay). (the problem goes up, worse than before). “LIMITS TO GROWTH” “SHIFTING THE BURDEN” “TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS” There is a growth (sometimes dramatic growth), The reliance of the short-term fix grows stronger, Total activity grows, but the gains from individual leveling off or falling into decline. while efforts to fundamentally correct the real activities are dropping. problem grow weaker. The problem symptom alternately improves and deteriorates. “ACCIDENTAL ADVERSARIES” Each side’s performance either declines or stays level and low, while enmity or competitiveness increases over time. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 28
  • 29. Stocks And Flows A D A PT E D F RO M T H I NK I NG I N SYST E M S B Y D O NE L L A M E A D O W S Stock and flow diagrams are another way to analyze systems. Stocks are tangible and measurable, and they Inow change over time through the actions of flows. Stocks act as buffers, delays or shock absorbers in systems. Example: Imagine you’ve decided to take a bath. You begin Stock to fill your bathtub with hot water and go read while you’re waiting for the tub to fill. When you come back, the water is a bit too hot for your liking. To get the temperature down quickly, you open up the drain and turn the cold water faucet on. Your bathtub is now a simple system with one stock (the water in the tub), one inflow (the cold water) and one outflow (the water that is leaving through the drain). WATER IN BATH TUB COLD WATER DRAINED WATER Inow Stock Outow ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 29
  • 30. Systems Analysis Guidelines T H E SYST E M S T O O L K I T I N A CT I O N All models are simplifications of the real world. It’s up to you to decide how much detail to illustrate. There are no right answers. Mapping out a system will reveal a set of potential actions you may take. As you become more a more proficient systems thinker, you’ll begin to recognize the consequences of different interventions. Cause and effect will not be closely related in time and space. Don't look for leverage near the symptoms of your problem. Good results in a complex system depend on bringing in as many perspectives as possible. Consider who else you can bring in to make your system model more informed. Use your intuition when you work with archetypes. It's not critical that you pick the right archetype - as long as it rings true with your story, it's good enough as a starting point. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 30
  • 31. A good systems thinker avoids traps by looking for multiple levels operating simultaneously. LEVERAGE FOR LASTING CHANGE MENTAL MODELS SYSTEMS PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOR EVENTS ADAPTED FROM THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE FIELDBOOK BY PETER M. SENGE ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 31
  • 32. Good Systems Thinkers Make Good Strategists A ST O RY O F H O W ST RA T E GY D E F E A T E D 1: 2 5 O D D S On October 26, 1597, the Korean admiral Yi Sun-sin famously defeated the Japanese fleet of 333 units with only Admiral Yi: a badass 13 ships at his disposal. systems thinker. Yi strategically chose the Myeongnyang Strait as the arena for his last stand with the Japanese based on its strong currents, narrowness, rough tides and surrounding shadowy hillsides. By reading the environment as a system, admiral Yi used it to his advantage. No other naval battle involving fleets of this size, has resulted in a victory for such a proportionately small force, also making it one of the greatest military achievements in world history. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 32
  • 33. Cancer (?) The challenges society faces are growing. Measles (1963) Smallpox (1796) ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 33
  • 34. In order to meet those challenges, we need to explore new ways of thinking. Systems thinking is the cornerstone of how adaptive organizations think about their world. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 34
  • 35. Designing a Systems Workshop PUT T I NG SYST EMS T H I NK I NG I NT O PRA CT I CE Tackling a huge problem? Systems analysis will help elucidate multiple sides of the issue and identify areas of opportunity. Workshops or brainstorms are great forums for this type of analysis. Below is a (very) general overview of a good workshop: Study up: Learn your links, loops and archetypes. For practice, sketch out systems diagrams of popular problems, like Global Warming or Poverty. Event Prep: Invite stakeholders from all levels of the organization; Unique perspectives will make the analysis more robust. Choose a room with a white board and bring your markers! Facilitation: In general, spend 1/4 of the time introducing the concept and creating a safe space for open discussion. Spend 1/2 of the time analyzing the problem on the white Darth suggests you use the “Five Whys” to help the group discover deeper board with the Systems Toolkit, and spend the remaining 1/4 interactions between elements. looking for possible interventions in your diagram. ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 35
  • 36. “It’s like the old expression, ‘You are what you eat’. If you start thinking differently, you see things differently. And all your actions start to change.” - Pat Walls, FedEx Are you ready to switch to a loops-based diet? ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE. 36
  • 37. Special thanks to our mentors and friends at
  • 38. Systems Thinking Lessons From The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Senge, Kleiker, Roberts, Ross and Smith Presentation by Joanna Beltowska @jbeltowska Amy Rae @elucidateamy ©2 011 JOAN N A B ELTO WSK A AN D AMY RAE.