Systems Thinking
Leadership
Bob Powell, Ph.D., MBA
exponentialimprovement.com
Leadership Pikes Peak 9/20/07
What is Systems Thinking?
• Seeking to
understand system
behavior by
examining "the whole"
• … instead of by
analyzing the parts.
• An unusual approach
raises concerns:
This is risky ...
Systems Thinking
is not …
… that’s because it’s
based on
principles
fundamental
to the
nature of reality.
It’s organic.
It’s about feedback
loops with delays.
What’s the Problem?
• Problems
• Messes
• Wicked Messes
• How do you deal with them?
• Problems … easy
• Messes … systems thinking
• Wicked Messes … political action,
guided by systems thinking
Who’s the Leader on an Airplane?
•
•
•
•
Pilot
Navigator
Steward
other ….
• Talk with a partner for a few minutes …
The ST Perspective:
Leader as “Designer”
• … in order that the
airplane / organization / community
can “fly stably” under turbulent conditions.
• It’s not about
“preparing for a predicted future.”
• It’s about designing …
“creating an imagined, desired future.”
The LPP
Leadership Perspective
• In your LPP Journal:
• “Being a trustholder of the community means
serving it as you would a good steward.
• … to pass the gift to future generations in a
better state than that in which it was
received.”
• Stewards aren’t designers, but they provide
valuable input to the policy makers and
organizational leaders who are the designers.
A Bell
• Why does a bell ring?
• Talk with a partner for a minute …
• A bell rings because it’s a bell … its
behavior is determined by its structure.
• A bell is a structure just waiting to ring.
An Example of Structure
u n d e rs ta n d
s tru c tu re
u n d e rs ta n d
b e h a v io r
d e s ig n
p o lic y
System as Cause
& System Leverage
Leverage to Influence
EVENTS
Low
PATTERNS
OF EVENTS
SYSTEM
STRUCTURE
MENTAL
MODELS
High
The Leadership Hierarchy
Values & Concept
Purpose
Vision
Mental
Models
System
Structure
Patterns of Events
Events
Preserve
the Core
Stimulate
Progress
Create
Tangible
Mechanisms
Reap Rewards
or
Pay the Price
http://www.exponentialimprovement.com/cms/STLeader.shtml
On Values,
Purpose, Vision,
& Tangible
Mechanisms,
see
Collins & Porras,
Built to Last
… but
“mechanisms”
isn’t the best
metaphor …
“organic” is.
Community & the “Common Good”
• In your LPP Journal:
• “Community Trusteeship involves holding the
entire community trust, or taking responsibility
for and acting on behalf of, the common good.”
• This is itself controversial … very controversial.
• It’s a “fundamental source of conflict”:
the individual vs. the collective.
• Are you an “individual” or “part of a collective”?
• You’re BOTH!
“Either-Or” vs. “Both-And”
• Systems thinking is not
“either-or” thinking, it’s “both-and” thinking.
• “Either-or” thinking is
misleading at best … destructive at worst.
• “Both-and” thinking is valuable in
promoting diversity …
• … for integrating (from LPP Journal)
“diverse voices” & “contradictory positions”
What Causes What?
S
Self
Confidence
R1
S
Athletic or
Academic
Performance
S = change in the
“Same” direction
This is a Reinforcing Loop
Language Example: A Popular Restaurant
o
Length
of Line
S
Customer
Traffic
S
S
B1
Nobody
Goes There
Anymore
Perceived
Service
Quality
o
"That place is too popular.
o
Nobody goes there
anymore."
Yogi Berra
S
Expected
Wait Time
Wait
Time
O
Service
Quality
S
S = same
direction
O = opposite
direction
o
This is a Balancing Loop
Long-lived Systems
• In long-lived systems are there more
reinforcing or balancing feedback loops?
• Talk with a partner for a minute …
• There are more balancing loops.
• We'd better understand system structure
(feedback loops & delays)
… or change initiatives will fail.
o
Hip Hop Example
S
Prevalence of
Thug Lifestyle
w/Violence &
Killings
S
Prevalence of
HipHop Music
R1
Hip Hop
Violence
S
Language that
promotes criminal
behavior and
demeans women
Attracts gang
members &
criminal activity
o
o
S
o
Hip-Hop Story Variables
o
o
S
work in a
team for 5
minutes
Prevalence of
HipHop Music
S
Prevalence of
Thug Lifestyle
w/Violence &
Killings
*
R1
Hip Hop
Violence
*
Language that
promotes criminal
behavior and
demeans women
S
Confrontations
with Police
S
*
Attracts gang
members &
criminal activity
Hispanic
Frustration
Belief that
Hip Hop
Leads to
Violence
*
Tolerance
for Diversity
Diversity
Ignorance of
minority cultures
and problems
o
chasm
between
the city &
minority
youth
*
then we’ll
present
examples
… begin by
deciding
who will
present
*
*
benign
neglect
toward
minorities
History of
ignorance of
minority cultures
and problems
o
o
Hip-Hop “Diversity & Violence”
S
Prevalence of
Thug Lifestyle
w/Violence &
Killings
S
S
Confrontations
with Police
S
Hispanic
Frustration
Prevalence of
HipHop Music
R1
Hip Hop
Violence
S
Language that
promotes criminal
behavior and
demeans women
Attracts gang
members &
criminal activity
S
Belief that Hip
Hop Leads to
Violence
S
O
R2
Diversity &
Violence
Tolerance
for Diversity
S
S
Ignorance of
minority
cultures and
problems
o
o
Diversity
S
chasm
between
the city &
minority
youth
O
o
o
Hip-Hop External Influences
S
Prevalence of
Thug Lifestyle
w/Violence &
Killings
S
S
Confrontations
with Police
S
Hispanic
Frustration
Prevalence of
HipHop Music
R1
Hip Hop
Violence
S
Language that
promotes criminal
behavior and
demeans women
Attracts gang
members &
criminal activity
S
Belief that Hip
Hop Leads to
Violence
S
O
R2
Diversity &
Violence
Tolerance
for Diversity
S
S
Ignorance of
minority
cultures and
problems
o
o
Diversity
S
chasm
between
the city &
minority
youth
O
S
benign
neglect
toward
minorities
S
History of ignorance of
minority cultures and
problems
o
o
Hip-Hop “Diversity Appreciation”
S
Prevalence of
Thug Lifestyle
w/Violence &
Killings
S
S
Confrontations
with Police
S
Hispanic
Frustration
Prevalence of
HipHop Music
R1
Hip Hop
Violence
o
S
Language that
promotes criminal
behavior and
demeans women
Attracts gang
members &
criminal activity
S
Belief that Hip
Hop Leads to
Violence
S
O
R2
Diversity &
Violence
S
O
Diversity
S
chasm
between
the city &
minority
youth
Tolerance
for Diversity
S
R3
Ignorance of
minority
cultures and
problems
o
Diversity
O
S
benign
neglect
toward
minorities
S
History of ignorance of
minority cultures and
problems
o
So How to Improve System Behavior?
o
o
S
Prevalence of
Thug Lifestyle
w/Violence &
Killings
S
S
Confrontations
with Police
S
Hispanic
Frustration
Prevalence of
HipHop Music
R1
Hip Hop
Violence
Attracts gang
members &
criminal activity
S
Belief that Hip
Hop Leads to
Violence
S
O
R2
Diversity &
Violence
S
O
Diversity
S
chasm
between
the city &
minority
youth
Tolerance
for Diversity
S
R3
Ignorance of
minority
cultures and
problems
o
S
Language that
promotes criminal
behavior and
demeans women
Diversity
O
S
benign
neglect
toward
minorities
S
Identify actions
& policies to
create desired
behaviors and
outcomes.
work in a
team for 2
minutes
then we’ll
discuss
History of ignorance of
minority cultures and
problems
o
Systems Thinking
• Systems thinking:
Seeking to understand behavior by
examining the whole instead of the parts.
• It’s not that we don’t look at the parts …
• It’s that we look at the whole to see how
the system itself is creating the observed
behavior.
A Critical Structure to Understand:
The Attractiveness Principle
invest in
“Value
service
capacity
S
B7
service Service
Proposition”
O
capacity
Service
Quality
Burden
S
costs
S
demand
generating
S
activity
Net Revenue
(funds available
R1
to generate
O
Demand
demand)
S Generation
S
price
B8
Product
Quality
Burden
On website, see
“Create Strategic Focus”
S
Focus
S
service
demand
S
S
customer S
demand
B2
B5
O service
quality
Service Quality
Erosion
service
quality
standard
S
Overall
Product/Service O
Attractiveness
Product Quality
S
Erosion
product
S
development
product
B3
quality
product
quality
standard
O
B6
demand
S
product Product
O
development Focus
B4
S
Scarcity
capability invest in product
Premium
S
development
capability
It’s a Reality Fact of Life
“There is no utopia in social systems”
• No restaurant can be all things to all people.
• Can’t have all at once:
lowest price, best quality, best service
• The same is true for regions of the country
• A corollary: Given free migration, no place can
long remain more attractive than any other place
• We must think in terms of how we’ll become
unattractive … “strategic unattractiveness”
• It’s a “Gilda Radnor world” …
That’s Why We Sometimes Feel:
To Learn, We Need
Language
Brain
Learning
To describe relationships
Causal Loop
Diagrams
To describe fundamental
distinction between
flows & accumulations
The Archetypes
To handle dynamic complexity:
multiple non-linear feedbacks
with long and variable delays
Stock & Flow
Mapping
Stock & Flow
Simulation
Models
Thinking
Skills
Systems Skills: dynamic, system-as-cause, forest,
thinking operational, closed-loop, quantitative, &
scientific. Practice: CLD, S&F, Learn'g Labs
skills
Memory
Store & retrieve experience:
success & failure
Learning
Histories
Reality concepts, ladder of
Motivation
& Aspiration
See relevance & inference, dialogue, Mod. II ToA,
utility ... unleash group facil. grnd rules, personal
these qualities
mastery, winning strategy
Learning Requires Languages, Brains, & Skills
http://www.exponentialimprovement.com/cms/learning.shtml
Traditional Business
Thinking Skills
Systems Thinking
Skills
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Static thinking
System-as-effect thinking
Tree thinking
Factor thinking
Linear thinking
Measurement thinking
Proving-truth thinking
*
Dynamic thinking
System-as-cause thinking
Forest thinking
Operational thinking
Closed-loop thinking
Quantitative thinking
Scientific thinking
* physical condition: simultanagnosia
Causal Loop Diagrams are Theories
… But How to Make Them Practical?
Going from Loops to Action
Key Success Loops & Driving Forces
Group or
Individual
ITS
Loop R9
Loop R3
Loop B5 a,b,c
Loop
IT/College
Education &
Staff/Maintenance XX
Strategic
Prevention
/Infrastructure
Feedback Reduces Problems
Support Costs
Driving
Force
YY
Summary
of Strategy
for each
Function
President
Development
Human
Resources
Other
Summary of
Strategy for
Each Loop or
Driving Force
.
Long Delays in Complex Systems
Require Long-term, Systems Thinking
“Dynamic complexity” is when we have
multiple feedback loops and long delays.
Systems Thinking:
Not easy, but easier than this!
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Systems Thinking Leadership