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Unformatted text preview: C H A P T E R 1 SystemBehaviorand CausalLoopDiagrams H uman beings are quick problem solvers. From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes senseif a sabertooth tiger is bounding toward you, you need to quickly decide on a course of action, or you wont be around for long. Thus, quick problem solvers were the ones who survived. We quickly determine a cause for any event that we think is a problem. Usually we conclude that the cause is another event. For example, if sales are poor (the event that is a problem), then we may conclude that this is because the sales force is insufficiently motivated (the event that is the cause of the problem). This approach works well for simple problems, but it works less well as the problems get more complex, for example in addressing management problems which are cross-functional or strategic. General Motors illustrates the issue. For over half a century, GM dominated the automotive industry. GMs difficulties did not come from a lightning attack by Japanese auto manufacturers. GM had a couple of decades to adapt, but today it is still attempting to find a way to its former dominance, more than three decades after the start of Japanese auto- mobile importation. During this period, many of GMs employees and managers have turned over, but the company still has difficulty adjusting. There seems to be something about the way that GM is put together that makes its behavior hard to change. 1.1 Systems Thinking The methods of systems thinking provide us with tools for better understand- ing these dif ficult management problems. The methods have been used for over thirty years (Forrester 1961) and are now well established. However, these approaches require a shift in the way we think about the performance of an orga- nization. In particular, they require that we move away from looking at isolated events and their causes (usually assumed to be some other events), and start to look at the organization as a system made up of interacting parts. 2 CHAPTER 1 SYSTEM BEHAVIOR AND CAUSAL LOOP DIAGRAMS Figure 1.1 Looking for high leverage We use the term system to mean an interdependent group of items forming a unified pattern. Since our interest here is in business processes, we will focus on systems of people and technology intended to design, market, produce, and distribute products or services. Almost everything that goes on in business is part of one or more systems. As noted above, when we face a management problem we tend to assume that some external event caused it. With a systems approach, we take an alternative viewpointnamely that the internal structure of the system is often more important than external events in generating the problem....
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- Spring '11