Understand system dynamics, system thinking, systemic approach, system example, applying System Thinking in IT environment.

From Peter Senge:

  • What Is Systems Thinking?

Whenever I’m trying to help people understand what this word ‘system’ means, I usually start by asking: ‘Are you a part of a family?’ Everybody is a part of a family. ‘Have you ever seen in a family, people producing consequences in the family, how people act, how people feel, that aren’t what anybody intends?’ Yes. ‘How does that happen?’ Well… then people tell their stories and think about it. But that then grounds people in not the jargon of ‘system’ or ‘systems thinking’ but the reality – that we live in webs of interdependence.”

  • What Is The Fundamental Rationale Of Systems Thinking?

The fundamental rationale of systems thinking] is to understand how it is that the problems that we all deal with, which are the most vexing, difficult and intransigent, come about, and to give us some perspective on those problems [in order to] give us some leverage and insight as to what we might do differently

  • Characteristics Of A Systems Thinking Approach
  1. A very deep and persistent commitment to ‘real learning.’
  2. I have to be prepared to be wrong. If it was pretty obvious what we ought to be doing, then we’d be already doing it. So I’m part of the problem, my own way of seeing things, my own sense of where there’s leverage, is probably part of the problem. This is the domain we’ve always called ‘mental models.’ If I’m not prepared to challenge my own mental models, then the likelihood of finding non-obvious areas of leverage are very low.
  3. The need to triangulate. You need to get different people, from different points of view, who are seeing different parts of the system to come together and collectively start to see something that individually none of them see.”
  • A Fundamental Principle Of Systems Thinking: Smart Individuals Are No Longer Needed, Collective Intelligence Is

We all have probably spent too much time thinking about ‘smart individuals.’ That’s one of the problems with schools. They are very individualistic, very much about ‘the smart kids and the dumb kids.’ That’s not the kind of smartness we need.

The smartness we need is collective. We need cities that work differently. We need industrial sectors that work differently. We need value change and supply change that are managed from the beginning until the end to purely produce social, ecological and economic well-being. That is the concept of intelligence we need, and it will never be achieved by a handful of smart individuals.

It’s not about ‘the smartest guys in the room.’ It’s about what we can do collectively. So the intelligence that matters is collective intelligence, and that’s the concept of ‘smart’ that I think will really tell the tale.”


Why System Dynamics?

The general approach is to always think in a single dimension and sequentially. Most of the time, time is spent addressing single elements without understanding relationship and impact with other areas and elements of the system.

The dynamics within which a system operates (time and space) are not clearly understood undermining system performance. Emerging properties that are generated are not considered or not properly understood.

From a business perspective: extensive investments are made but no real efficiency and effectiveness improvements are derived, productivity objective are not achieved.

*   Efficiency doing more with less, generating more revenue with less costs

*   Effectiveness generating more profit

System perspective is not just relevant to an organization but it is in everything. Some examples of systems:

  1. Business organization : Beer Copany, Windows, Apple ect…
  2. European Union Economic System and individual country economic system
  3. Human body as a system
  4. Formula 1 Motor racing

In the above examples one must always maximize the system rather than the individual elements. The dangers of focusing on individual elements and not understanding emerging properties can result in the following.

Senge’s 11 Laws of Systems

In The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Senge suggests 11 laws of systems that support that essential understanding:

  1. Today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions. Leaders are happy to solve problems, but don’t always think about intended and unintended consequences. Too often our solutions strike back to create new problems.
  2. The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back. Humans have a stubborn tendency to bully our way through tough situations when things are not working out as we would hope. We charge ahead without taking time to think through solutions to find better alternatives. Sometimes we solve problems; more often, especially in the current environment, we find ourselves up to our ears in more problems.
  3. Behavior grows better before it grows worse. Short-term solutions give temporary improvement at best but never eliminate fundamental issues and problems. These underlying problems will make the situation worse in the long run.
  4. The easy way out leads back in. Leaders often have a few quick fixes in their “quiver” of solutions that have brought quick and easy success in the past. Too often, the easy way out is retrofitting these fixes to any situation without regard to the unique contexts, people and timing.
  5. The cure can be worse than the disease. Often, the easy and familiar solution is not only ineffective but addictive and dangerous. It might even induce dependency.
  6. Faster is slower. At the first taste of success, it is tempting to advance at full speed without caution. Remember that the optimal rate of growth or change is far slower than the fastest growth or change that is possible.
  7. Cause and effect are not always closely related in time and space. We are good at finding causes, even if they are just symptoms unrelated to root causes.
  8. Small changes can produce big results — but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious. The most grand and splashy solutions — like changing company policy, vision, branding or tagline — seldom work for transforming change. Small, ordinary but consistent and repetitive changes can make a huge difference.
  9. You can have your cake and eat it too — but not all at once. Rigid “either-or” choices are not uncommon. Remember that this is not a dilemma if we change our perspective or the “rules” of the system.
  10. Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants. As a leader, you can fail to see the system as a whole at your peril.. This flaw in perception and vision often leads to suboptimal decisions, repeated tasks, lost time and energy, and maybe even losing followers.
  11. There is no blame. People and organizations like to blame, point fingers and raise suspicions about events, situations, problems, errors and mistakes. Sometimes we even believe the blame we throw around. In reality, we and the cause of events, situations, problems, errors and mistakes are part of the system.

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