Thinking in Systems
Systems remain in a constant state of change. If we want them to change in a favorable way we much use the most effective point of leverage available to us.
The leverage points – in order of effectiveness:
- Numbers: have a minor effect on the system, unless they represent concrete goals or limits in the overall system. All minor adjustments get compensated for by other aspects of the system.
- Buffers: work to change the system because they control the resiliency of a system by changing the levels of stock available. They aren’t an effective means of managing systems, however, because they are usually physical thus extremely hard or time consuming to change.
- Delays: can have major effects on systems. Most of the time, however, They stem from physical limitations and therefore lay outside anyone’s control.
- Balancing feedback loops: modify an aspect of a system when they become strengthened or made to react at different speeds.
- Reinforcing feedback loops: have a larger effect on a system than balancing feedback loops because of the exponential nature of reinforcing feedback loops.
- Information flows: can simultaneously change multiple aspects of the system by creating entirely need feedback loops between system components.
- Rules: encourage or discourage particular behaviors in the system. Since they rarely come from physical limitations, they can be easily changed with dramatic effects on the system.
- Self-organization: gives an easy way to move the system forward from within. By adding, subtracting, or evolving components, rippling effects are created in the entire system.
- Goals: drive the behavior of all the components in the system. If you can modify a goal of a system, the entire nature of the system can change.
- Paradigms: are the unspoken rules and goals in the system. They drive behavior of a system at the most basic level. If you can shift a paradigm, then you can have an impact on multiple goals and components at once.
- Transcending paradigms: allows an actor or a system to adapt to it’s surrounding without becoming tied down to any one paradigm. This is the hardest change to achieve. But, if you can reach this point, you will have a harmonious system that can exist friction free in the ever changing world around it.
As the effectiveness of leverage points grows, so does the difficulty of implementing them. Any established system will resist change, especially change as radical as a paradigm shift.