Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops
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Introduction to Systems Thinking and Causal Loops. Todd Little. LEARNING ORGANIZATIONS. THE FIVE DISCIPLINES. Personal Mastery. Shared Vision. Mental Models. Systems Thinking. Team Learning. MECHANISTIC VIEW. Universe is a machine Analytic method leads to reductionism

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Introduction to Systems Thinking and Causal Loops

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Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

Introduction to Systems Thinking and Causal Loops

Todd Little


The five disciplines

LEARNING ORGANIZATIONS

THE FIVE DISCIPLINES

Personal

Mastery

Shared

Vision

Mental

Models

Systems

Thinking

Team

Learning


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

MECHANISTIC VIEW

  • Universe is a machine

  • Analytic method leads to reductionism

  • Very effective when change is slow

CAUSE

EFFECT

  • Management intervention for Cause-Effect

    • Mitigate the Effect (Fire-Fight)

    • Eliminate the Cause (Better not happen again)

    • Run Away (and hide)


Mechanistic extrapolation

MECHANISTIC EXTRAPOLATION


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

SYSTEMS VIEW

  • Focusing on principle of organization, particularly interdependent relationships

  • Dealing with detail complexity and dynamic complexity

  • Seeing processes of change rather than snapshots


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

WHAT IS A SYSTEM?

  • A collection of people and/or parts which interact with each other to function as a whole


System integrity

SYSTEM INTEGRITY

Dividing a cow in half does not give you two smaller cows


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

WHY A SYSTEMS PERSPECTIVE?

  • Facilitates leadership by leveraged action

  • integrating competing priorities

  • acknowledging and handling unintended consequences

  • Problems facing us are more complexdue to increase in

  • information flow

  • interdependencies

  • rate of change


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

“The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which they were created.”

- Albert Einstein


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

WHAT IS SYSTEMS THINKING?

  •  Examining how

    • WE CREATE OUR OWN PROBLEMS

  •  Seeing the

  • BIG PICTURE

  •  Recognizing that

  • STRUCTURE INFLUENCES PERFORMANCE


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

  • ASPECTS OF STRUCTURE

Fire-fighting

Events

Crises

Tasks

Anticipating

Trends

Patterns

Materials

Flows

Emotions

Habits, Norms,

Expectations,

Perceptions

“Hot Buttons”

Structure

Designing

Work

Processes

Written Rules

Values and

Beliefs

Control Mechanisms

Unwritten Rules

Procedures/Policies

Reward Systems

People’s Mental Models


Events patterns and structure

EVENTS, PATTERNS, AND STRUCTURE


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

SYSTEMS THINKING TOOLS

  • Causal Loop Diagrams - a useful way to represent dynamic interrelationships

  • Provide a visual representation with which to communicate that understanding

  • Make explicit one's understanding of a system structure - Capture the mental model


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

Behavior Over Time

Supportive Behavior

Perf.

Level

Unsupportive

Behavior

Time

REINFORCING LOOP

Structure

Employee

Performance

Employee

Performance

S

S

Supervisor’s

Supportive

Behavior

Supervisor’s

Supportive

Behavior

Your Software Sucks!

Your Software Really Sucks!


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

Behavior Over Time

Actual Inventory

100 ++

Desired Inventory

100

100 - -

Time

BALANCING LOOP

Structure

Desired

Inventory

S

Discrepancy

O

S

Actual

Inventory

Inventory

Adjustment

S


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

SYSTEMSARCHETYPES

  • A class of tools that capture the "common stories” in systems thinking

  • Powerful tools for diagnosing problems and identifying high leverage interventions that creates fundamental change


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

SYSTEMS ARCHETYPES

  • Drifting Goals

  • Escalation

  • Fixes that Fail / Backfire

  • Growth and Underinvestment

  • Limits to Success

  • Shifting the Burden / Addiction

  • Success to the Successful

  • Tragedy of the Commons


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

Behavior Over Time

Time

FIXES THAT FAIL / BACKFIRE

S

Problem

Symptom

Fix

O

Delay

S

S

Unintended

Consequences


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

Dilbert Learns Causal Loops


Introduction to systems thinking and causal loops

THE SOFTWARE BUG FIX

S

Number of

Bugs in Software

Reward for Fixing

Software Bugs

O

S

S

Incentive to

Write Software

with Bugs


Fixes that fail

Fixes that Fail

  • Breaking a “Fixes that Fail” cycle usually requires two actions: acknowledging that the fix is merely alleviating a symptom, and making a commitment to solve the real problem now.

  • A two pronged attack of applying the fix and planning out the fundamental solution will help ensure that you don’t get caught in a perpetual cycle of solving yesterdays “solutions”


Drifting goals

Goal

Time

Drifting Goals

O

Goal

Pressure to

Lower Goal

S

S

Gap

S

O

Actual

Corrective Action

S

Delay


The boiled frog

THE BOILED FROG

  • If you put a frog in boiling water, it will hop out immediately

  • If you put a frog in cold water and slowly bring the water to boil, the frog will unwittingly enjoy its last blissful warm bath


The boiled frog1

Time

THE BOILED FROG

S

Warning

Do not try

this at home!

Perceived Desired

Temperature

Tolerance for

Temperature

O

Temp

S

Temperature

Gap

S

O

Hop Out


Drifting goals1

Drifting Goals

  • Drifting performance figures are indicators that the “Drifting Goals” archetype is at work and that real corrective actions are not being taken.

  • Understand how goals are set


Success to the successful

A

B

Time

Time

Success to the Successful

Success of B

Success of A

S

S

S

S

Allocation to AInstead of B

Resources

to B

S

S

Resources

to A


Success to the successful1

Success to the Successful

  • Look for reasons why the system was set up to create just one “winner”

  • Find ways to make teams collaborators rather than competitors


Success to the successful nih syndrome

Redo

Reuse

Time

Time

Success to the SuccessfulNIH Syndrome

Confidence in

Ability to redo

Success of reuse

S

S

S

S

Desire to redo

vs. desire to reuse

Amount of

reuse

S

S

Amount of

redo


Limits to success

Limits to Success

Behavior Over Time

Employee

Performance

Perf.

Level

S

S

Supervisor’s

Supportive

Behavior

Time

Structure

“Burnout”

S

Energy

Level

Diminishing

Returns

O

Hours

Worked

Positive

Reinforcement

S


Limits to sales success

Limits to Sales Success

Market Exposure

to Potential

Customers

S

Market

Size

S

S

Potential

Customers

S

Sales

O


Systems dynamics models

Systems Dynamics Models

customer with non

non customer

customer contacts

contacts

SALES FRACTION

customer

prevalence

CONTACT RATE

Potential

Customers

Customers

sales

INITIAL CUSTOMERS

total market


Legal disclaimer

Legal Disclaimer

  • The following is fiction.

  • Any resemblance to any leading oil & gas software development company is purely coincidental.


Systems dynamics models1

Systems Dynamics Models

customer with non

non customer

customer contacts

contacts

SALES FRACTION

customer

prevalence

CONTACT RATE

Potential

Customers

Customers

sales

INITIAL CUSTOMERS

total market

Ex-Customers


Tragedy of the commons

Tragedy of the Commons


Tragedy of the commons1

Net Gains

for A

S

A

A’s Activity

S

B

S

B’s Activity

Time

Time

Net Gains

for B

S

Tragedy of the Commons

Resource

Limit

S

S

S

Gain per

Individual

Activity

O

Total Activity

S

S


Tragedy of integration

A

B

Time

Time

Tragedy of Integration

Fixed

Budget

S

Investment

in features

S

O

Success from

Product

Investment

O

Investment

in Integration

S

Perceived

Success from

Integration

S

DELAY

Investment

in Integration

S

Success from

Product

Investment

O

O

S

Investment

in features

Fixed

Budget

S


Tragedy of the commons2

Tragedy of the Commons

  • Solutions for a “Tragedy of the Commons” never lie at the individual level (The Libertarian Nightmare)

  • What are the incentives for individuals to persist in their actions?

  • Can the long-term collective loss be made more real?

  • Find ways to reconcile short-term individual rewards with long-term cumulative consequences


Software integration

Software Integration

Landmark

Marketing

Vision

S

Customer demand

for Integration

O

S

S

S

ISG Interest

in Integration

S

ISG push

of Integration

IPG Interest

in Integration

S

Level of

Integration

Investment in

Integration

S

S


Software integration1

Software Integration

Interest in

Integration

S

S

O

  • Limits to Growth

  • Success to the Successful

Investment

in Integration

O

Success from

Integration

S

O

Frustration

with Dependencies

and Legacy Integration

Investment

in features

Success from

Features

S


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