Programme Advanced Beginner: Deepening The Systems Thinking Discipline Practice

The programme is custom-designed from the part of the
programme found in Module 1 and 2 of the STLDi programme.

#Scope of The SessionDate
 PRE-SESSION QUIZ 
1

Why the five disciplines? Why not others?

What would happen as an organization, should an organisation advance the five disciplines as their practice? What happens when they do not?

Introduction to the framework of tools, practices and essence of the five disciplines of Learning Organizations: 

– The Three-legged stool
– Introducing the 60 tools of Learning Organization
– Structural Tension Model 
Group Work: Seeing Our World Together
 
 

LEARNING TEAM ASSIGNMENT #1:
#1 In his first study Arie de Geus, “The Living Company”, he discovers on average 90% of organizations do not survive their 40th birthday.

In a more recent study, Arie de Geus discovers that that average number of years has changed. What is the new number? Which year was the study conducted?

What is the longest surviving organization that you can find in your search?

What three things do you notice that had allowed these organizations to grow for as long as they have and to still continue doing so today?

Consider what these organizations have had to learn both as individuals, teams within it as well as an organization so as to grow? What had allowed them to breathe life into their organization?

Articulate your thoughts on a one-page response stating your reasons clearly and post on the Google Drive shared folder, marked ‘Team Assignments‘.

#2 The disciplines of mental models and team learning allow teams to create generative or learningful conversations? Describe the discipline that allows for such conversations to happen for practitioners of the five disciplines?

 

 
2Sharings of I/S work learnings
Definition of Systems Thinking
Introducing the concept of circles of causality
Reinforcing Causal Loop
Balancing Causal Loop
 
I/S #I

LEARNING TEAM ASSIGNMENT #2:
#3 I had mentioned male mammals that become sexually more active in a system, tend to produce female progeny (more females are born in the population). What causes it to happen?
(Tip: Conduct online research)

#4 Reinforcing Causal Loop (RL) and Balancing Causal Loop (BL) loops represent the build blocks of any one of the system archetypes.

What would the RL loop look like when it plays itself out? Plot it as a graph over time.

#5 What would the BL loop look like when it plays itself out? Plot it as a graph over time.

Paper Fold Exercise
#6 What happens when you fold a paper in half by 40 times? How high will it get?  What is the significance of this exercise in helping you understand the nature of the building blocks of Systems Thinking?

 

 
3

Sharings of I/S work learnings
FOCUS: To train the mind and discipline it in recognizing pattern or behaviours of causal structures over time.  Unlike flow charts, causal structures are best understood when we appreciate its dynamic nature, that it is constantly at work and in motion.  Like the wheels of a bicycle in motion.  It never stops.  At all times, it is ahead of us.  The discipline is allowing us to catch up with it.  Learn to notice the two causal loops in our everyday living:
– Learning to see and understand distinctions in the building blocks of system thinking. Learning to recognize patterns (graphs).
– Understanding the distinctions between detailed and dynamic complexities.
– See and anchor the understanding of the behaviour of patterns over time for systemic issues.

 
 

LEARNING TEAM ASSIGNMENT #3:
You have just been gifted with a new pair of eyes. That is, to look around you and discover the worlds of reinforcing and balancing loops playing up, right in front of you. Congratulations! Use this gift to guide you with the works in the assignments below. Don’t forget, when you are done so, to go back to training those eyes on everything it sees. Till our next session, happy discovering your new world!

#7 List three organizational (vision or mission) statements that showcase behaviors consistent with that of the reinforcing loop (3 statements) as well as that of the balancing loop (3 statements) structures.
(Tip: Conduct online research)

#8 Identify three BOT graphs (from any aspect) each that suggest reinforcing loops (3 BOTs) and balancing loops (3 BOTs) are at play. (Tip: Conduct online research)

#9 We watched as the rates of births per woman in the population of the nation slide from six (6) children in 1957 to close to one (1) child in 2007 (see Figure 1 below).  This represents a drop in the rate of children born to a woman, over the course of 50 years, by five (5).
We saw the impact the knowledge we acquire in understanding the nature of reinforcing loops can help us in appreciating the reason for the decline.  That is from a systemic perspective (keeping an eye on the forest).
What would the issue look like from the perspective of “the tree”? What conversations, habits, norms and practices that occur within households, families and as individuals, if any, could feed the growth of the reinforcing loop (and therefore the decline).
PS: We are formulating a hypothesis at this stage. The results of the formulation will become useful as content for purposes of testing with the population, either as part of surveys or dialogue sessions.

#10 Uncover the circular causal structure that could cause the level of the water tables (surface and underground) to decline consistently over time? (Note: “Level of the Water Table” is a variable/factor within the reinforcing circle of this causality). See Figure 2.

#11 Showcase two examples of detailed complexities as well as the corresponding dynamic complexities that the detailed complexities were acting as a response to. Refer to the 9/11 interventions vis-a-vis the war that the terrorists (from each side) were waging against each other, as an example. (Tip: Conduct online research)
What do you notice? Which of the two types of complexities acts as a response to the balancing loop at play? And which one to the reinforcing loop?
What conclusions can you draw from the three exercises here so far (#1, #2, #3) about the intent the discipline of the Systems Thinking has compared to most other professions in the world?

 

#12  Browse through the global SDGs and organise them in a two-columnar table showing those whose language descriptions are consistent with the reinforcing causal loop and those whose language descriptions that are consistent with the balancing causal loop.

 

#13  Which comes first or is it a chicken and egg situation?  Balancing causal loops or reinforcing causal loops?  Make your case.

 

 
4Sharings of I/S work learnings
Learning to deal with dynamic complexities
– The Healing Poison Story
 
 

LEARNING TEAM ASSIGNMENT #4:
#14 Complete the assignment of questions (Q2-4) listed against the Healing Poison story. In the course of describing the story, I had mentioned that the longer the vicious cycle has persisted, the longer it would take for a systems thinking strategist to turn the circle of causality around from its vicious to virtuous nature. What would you present are reasons that cause the delay? What could help to reduce that delay to an instant?

 

 
5Learning to work with the Laws of Dynamic Complexity (Law #1 and 11)
Learning to discover System Archetypes
 
I/S #II

LEARNING TEAM ASSIGNMENT #5:
#15 Look for a news story that to you illustrates the intentions of any one of the Laws of Dynamic Complexity that has been covered so far. Name the law. Explain your reasons for the choice. (Tip: Conduct online research)

#16 Complete mapping the story of the production manager and discover the process Peter Senge and his team had used to begin to uncover the system archetypes. Present the final causal map.
Post your team responses to the assignments on the Google Drive shared folder, marked as ‘Team Assignments‘.

 

 
6Learning to work with the Laws of Dynamic Complexity (Law #2 and 9)
Deepening Fixes that Backfire (FtB) System Archetype,
Plotting of storyline and Behaviour Over Time (BOT);
Identifying strategic intervention
 
 

LEARNING TEAM ASSIGNMENT #6:
You have now been gifted with yet another new pair of eyes. The one that now combines the behaviour of reinforcing and balancing loops over time and see them playoff in different combinations, right in front of your eyes. Let the new world come alive for you. Congratulations!

Use this gift to guide you with the works in the assignments below. Don’t forget, when you are done so, to go back to “training those eyes” on everything it sees. Till our next session, happy discovering more of your new world!

#17 Look for a news story that to you illustrates the intentions of any one of the four Laws of Dynamic Complexity that has been covered so far. Name the law. Explain your reasons for the choice. (Tip: Conduct online research)

#18 In the “Goody Bag” (see page 45) case study, what experiences had they had happened for the first volunteer would cause him to become an advocate for volunteerism without being an advocate himself“. Until, the first tipping over happens, what would need to happen? If you were the uncle, what would that mean in turning the story around? What would you do more of? Do less of?

#19 Share two newspaper articles that cover archetypes to-date.

 

 
7Sharings of I/S work learnings
Learning to work with the Laws of Dynamic Complexity (Law #3, #4, #5 & #6 )
Deepening Shifting the Burden (StB) System Archetypes,
Plotting of storyline and BOT;
Identifying strategic intervention
 
 

LEARNING TEAM ASSIGNMENT #7:
#20 Look for a news story that to you illustrates the intentions of any one of the four Laws of Dynamic Complexity that has been covered so far. Name the law. Explain your reasons for the choice. (Tip: Conduct online research)

#21 Read the “Scanner” story (see page 47) and plot it onto the Shifting the Burden archetype. On completing the plotting of the systemic structure, map the vicious reinforcing cycle, in red ink, and indicate where on the loop, if you were the uncle, would you intervene in the story to turn the vicious nature of the structure around?

#22 Share two newspaper articles that cover archetypes to-date.

 

 
8Sharings of I/S work learnings
Continuing: Laws of Dynamic Complexity: #7, #8, #10
Urgent File Case Study: Identifying strategic intervention
Deepening Limits to Growth (LtG) System Archetypes,
Plotting of storyline and BOT;
Identifying strategic intervention
 
 

LEARNING TEAM ASSIGNMENT #8:

In this assignment keep your focus on sharpening your practice on defining variables. Click here. Build up your own checklist and keep by your desk. Divide them into tangible and non-tangible variables.

A TIP TO IDENTIFYING SYSTEMIC INTERVENTIONS. The area of highest leverage is often not any specific part of a systemic structure. Now, being able to ‘hold the entire structure in our mind’s eye’ can be of itself the highest leverage as till before it was uncovered, it was the least obvious.

Having said so, when we combine that perspective with the part of the structure today that we are not paying attention to (e.g. nobody voted for it, few are working or thinking about it, or even paying attention to it), turning the systemic structure around given so, becomes a very powerful process. Happy thinking about it!

#23 Look for a news story that to you illustrates the intentions of any one of the four Laws of Dynamic Complexity that has been covered so far. Name the law. Explain your reasons for the choice. (Tip: Conduct online research)

#24 Plot the “Marketing & Servicing & Repairs Departments” story (see page 49). Identify the causal variables that map the vicious reinforcing cycle in the structure, in red ink. What would a systemic intervention look like in the case of the Limits to Growth archetype?

#25 Look for news stories that to you illustrates the intentions of any one of the four Laws of Dynamic Complexity (Law #7, 8, and 10) that were covered this session. Name the law. Explain your reasons for the choice. (Tip: Conduct online research).

#26 Share two newspaper articles that cover archetypes to-date.

#27  The results of Systems Thinking as a discipline is not replicable. That no two persons would arrive at the same answer. True or false? State your arguments.

#28  Systems Thinking is the discipline reserved for the CEOs and the intelligent. True or false? If your own thinking around that statement has shifted for you, indicate the ways they had changed for you.  State your arguments.

#29 Share two newspaper articles that cover archetypes to-date.

 

 
9Sharings of I/S work learnings
Introducing, Drifting Goals (DG), Tragedy of the Commons (ToC) System Archetypes,
Plotting of storyline and BOT;
Identifying strategic intervention
 
 

LEARNING TEAM ASSIGNMENT #9:

#30 In the “SARS” (see page 56 and here) storyline, plot the story on to the archetype. Identify the causal variables that map the vicious reinforcing cycle in the structure, in red ink.

What would a systemic intervention look like in the case of the Drifting Goals archetype? If you were the uncle, what actions would you take that would mean turning the story around in losing the vicious nature of the structure and letting the structure assume a virtuous behaviour? What would you do more of? What would you do less of?

Seek a newspaper article or a story in a public profile that illustrates the behaviour of this archetype over time. Research or seek data over time, if available, to affirm your view.

#31 In the “land overgrazing” (see page 58 and here) storyline, plot the story on to the archetype. Identify the causal variables that map the vicious reinforcing cycle in the structure, in red ink.

What would a systemic intervention look like in the case of the Tragedy of the Commons archetype? If you were the uncle, what actions would you take that would mean turning the story around in losing the vicious nature of the structure and letting the structure assume a virtuous behaviour? What would you do more of? What would you do less of?

Seek a newspaper article or a story in a public profile that illustrates the behaviour of this archetype over time. Research or seek data over time, if available, to affirm your view.

#32 Systems Thinking is often perceived as “that thing they do”, because “they are a bunch of people who are just not brave enough to take the leap, that they are “too scared” to make mistakes and therefore in wanting to absolve responsibilities ‘involve everyone (on the planet, literally. See Paris Agreement, and look it still came to nothing much happening there)” or really are people who think if they do not stand up and advocate for the downtrodden (the poor, the unemployed and the victims) and the silent (e.g. environment), then who will. We folks (the rest of us in the world, who are not systems thinkers) who are fearless and therefore willing to take that leap into the unknown, don’t need that (and anyways it is too difficult) thing. We are good and set.”

What is your newfound understanding of this work can you consider in thinking through the divide between the believers and non-believers? Use the statement above here as a guide.

What next steps can you make given the above? What would you do more of? Do less of? Present your argument here using two sets of thinking. What if you were “the daughter-in-law”, what would you have done? If you were “the uncle”, what would you consider doing? (Tip: Review the “Dance of Change” texts).

#33 Share two newspaper articles that cover archetypes to-date.

 

 
10Sharings of I/S work learnings
Introducing Success-to-the-Successful (StS), Escalation (Esc), Accidental Adversaries (AA), System Archetypes,
Plotting of storyline and BOT;
Identifying strategic intervention
Learning to work with the onion.
 
P/S

LEARNING TEAM ASSIGNMENT #10:

#34 In the “Officers A and B” (see page 50) storyline, plot the story on to the archetype. Identify the causal variables that map the vicious reinforcing cycle in the structure, in red ink.

What would a systemic intervention look like in the case of the Sucess to the Successful archetype? If you were the uncle, what actions would you take that would mean turning the story around in losing the vicious nature of the structure and letting the structure assume a virtuous behaviour? What would you do more of? What would you do less of?

Seek a newspaper article or a story in a public profile that illustrates the behaviour of this archetype over time. Research or seek data over time, if available, to affirm your view.

#35 In the “Joo Chiat neighbours” (see page 52 and here) storyline, plot the story on to the archetype. Identify the causal variables that map the vicious reinforcing cycle in the structure, in red ink.

What would a systemic intervention look like in the case of the Escalation archetype? If you were the uncle, what actions would you take that would mean turning the story around in losing the vicious nature of the structure and letting the structure assume a virtuous behaviour? What would you do more of? What would you do less of?

Seek a newspaper article or a story in a public profile that illustrates the behaviour of this archetype over time. Research or seek data over time, if available, to affirm your view.

#36 This is a personal exercise. Go over the Growth and Underinvestment Archetype. Have a chat with your Learning Partner if all of you reach the same understanding about the structure. No submission is required.

#37 In the urgent file case study, what would a systemic intervention look like? Tip: A systemic intervention does not seek to reduce the number of urgent files. Instead, it’s the focus is to treat the system structure (reinforcing loops) such that the structure loses its proclivity over time to want to produce more urgent files.

#38 Could it be possible that we can have more than the nine system archetypes identified so far?  What have you noticed so far in the ways the balancing and reinforcing loops can play off each other other than the nine?  What will you include?  Thoughts and reactions?  Share your thoughts.  This question is also meant to stay open for your thinking in the coming year.  Come back a year later here and share your views. Mark your diaries now!  I have.

#39 We noticed causalities between the Success to the Successful archetype and Escalation. When one grows, it feeds the growth of the other. Also those between Shifting the Burden and Fixes That Backfire archetypes. In what order would you lineup the rest?  The question to ask would be, which archetype would create or feed into the next one?  What would your storyline look like? Where is the larger reinforcing behaviour that drives them around and back? Why so?

 

 
Figure 1

TABLE NOTES:

  • There are two sessions for each day of the programme
  • I/S = Intersession works

 

PROGRAMME ORGANIZING NOTES:

  • Log into the zoom call (Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/479714222215 minutes before starting time.  Test that your connections are working well with the team.
  • Each session is 3 hours long.  The programme is ten sessions long.
  • Have one person be assigned to record each session of the programme, organize the recordings, label them appropriately and keep in a shared online folder for the group.
  • There be time allocation every hour for 5-10 minutes of Q&A sessions.  The trainer will do a check from time-to-time for ongoing clarity with the team.
  • Members are encouraged to drop individual or team questions at the following email address for further clarifications: parcforlos@gmail.com.
  • Build a shared google doc folder for posting and storing inter-session assignments by sessions numbers.
  • Sure, some housekeeping rules are here.

 

LEARNING TEAM ORGANIZING NOTES:

  1. Join a Learning Team
  2. Have one other partner or at most two persons as part of the team
  3. The team serves as a fallback position to clarify any aspect of the live session with each other that was not as clear for yourself or you had felt was not allowing you to see the thoughts, process or the information line-up for you as well as you had wished. We know, that we best learn when we also teach.
  4. It is however not a fall-back position for unattended sessions. Those would need to be completed to allow you to participate more fully as a Learning Partner.
  5. It is also the group with whom you may build clarity upon and allow you to develop the first cuts of any inter-sessions works
  6. Encourage your partner and allow your partner to encourage your learning journey.

 

PERSONAL ORGANIZING NOTES:

  • Complete the assignments.
  • Do pace and reflect on them during the intersession.  Do what your time allows you.  The assignments are intended to make up for the hours you are not getting otherwise and to anchor key points of the sessions that will allow you to better remember the work as you deepen with the session.
  • My own journey with Systems Thinking is not consistent with most practitioners, especially those, who have a background in engineering.  The discipline is not intended to be ‘technical’.  Yet, that has allowed me to develop the onion and to work with large-scale systemic interventions for nations. All I am doing is sharing that process that has grown for me with you and your team.
  • And so now, for the most important point. Be prepared to face the unexpected as the programme and materials unfold or even realize afterwards that you had forgotten entire segments of the programme.  This work is counter-intuitive.  That is all you need to be prepared for at this stage.  Take it in your stride.  It will grow on you.  Try the fold-arm exercise.   If a presentation surprised you, and the reason is not presented or understood immediately, raise your discomfort with the discussion or lookout for reasons in the follow-up sessions.
  • At this stage, you are not expected to determine the ways the work integrates with your current organization practices. Create the space (including time) and the willingness instead for you to deep dive with the work and when you emerge, you will be guided in taking the understanding you have gained, to your practices. When the understanding of the five disciplines happens and it becomes clear how the five really works together (not separately) well, you would begin to have a much clearer understanding of ways to apply them that would be of use for your organizations.
  • For beginning reading materials:  click here.  Read the definition of Systems Thinking.  Notice what the discipline is.  The session has started!

Reference: The Fifth Discipline, Chaps 1-8

 

ASSIGNMENT SUGGESTED RESPONSE SHEETS:

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