5.2 System dynamics

Author(s): 
Wendy.Christiaens

System dynamics are a toolbox to model the dynamics of complex systems (Vandenbroeck 2015). System dynamic models are used in many different fields (e.g. climate change). Key to the system dynamics approach is that it understands the behavior of a system as the result of cause and effect relationships between parts of a system (Vandenbroeck 2015). Feedback and delays are the core mechanisms which enable simulation of complex non-linear dynamic systems’ behavior. Peter Senge applied system dynamics to bottlenecks in organisations (Senge et al. 1994).

 

In what follows we present tools to analyse a problematic situation from a systems thinking perspective. Some of them owe to system dynamics as used by Peter Senge (Senge 1990) to understand and elicit organizational change. The iceberg, reinforcing and balancing feedback loops are explained, archetypes are presented and Senge et al.’s seven steps for breaking through organizational gridlock are described. These tools are especially valuable to identify patterns and feedback processes and how they can generate (problematic) patterns of behavior within organizations or systems at large.