Systems and complexitySystems thinking and modelling

Developing understanding: Models 10-11 [Systems thinking & modelling series]

This is part 14 of a series of articles featuring the book Beyond Connecting the Dots, Modeling for Meaningful Results.

Maintaining Personnel Resources

When things are going just the way we want them to we tend to stop paying attention to them. Experience has been telling us for a long time this is not a good idea. Are we learning from the experience? The “Maintaining Personnel Resources” simulation provides insights into a situation where an established policy for hiring new employees won’t suffice in the face of other changes.

Interactive model: Maintaining Personnel Resources

Why things aren’t where you think they are.

Maintaining Personnel Resources

Need help? See the Model instructions

Any time there are delays in the relationships (which actually occurs any time there is a stock involved), we are easily deceived into believing that we know the implications of the interactions. The Maintaining Personnel Resources model should have put that assumption to rest. The model serves again to point out that there are things we simply can’t get a sense of from a picture. Only a simulation will inform us to the extent necessary to understand the situation.

The Fix Overshoots the Goal

In pursuing a goal have you ever overshot it and had to back up to get to the goal? The “Balancing Loop with Delay” model is a variation of the standard Balancing Loop. The variation is there are one or more delays in the structure that produce (as will be demonstrated) a very different behavior pattern than the standard Balancing Loop.

Interactive model: Balancing Loop with Delay

Delay in a structure can make it almost impossible to intuit the implications of the interactions.

Balancing Loop with Delay

Need help? See the Model instructions

You might ask how it could take 4 days for someone to understand the results of the previous actions. That would be a good question. It’s probably difficult to find a situation where this is realistic in days. What’s important to realize is that this structure operates in this manner whether the time units are hours, minutes, seconds, or microseconds.

Exercise 2-6
How could you deal with the delay in this structure to avoid efforts to correct the situation after the goal is exceeded?

Answer available >

Next edition: Developing understanding: Models 12-13.

Article sources: Beyond Connecting the Dots, Insight Maker. Reproduced by permission.

Header image source: Beyond Connecting the Dots.

Scott Fortmann-Roe and Gene Bellinger

Scott Fortmann-Roe, creator of Insight Maker, and Gene Bellinger, creator of SystemsWiki, have written the innovative interactive book "Beyond Connecting the Dots" to demystify systems thinking and modelling.

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