feedback loop

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Feedback loops describe the cause and effect relationships between the parts of a system. Feedback loops are fundamental to systems. Without feedback loops, there is no system, no matter how many parts there are. A group of parts without cause and effect relationships between them is simply a ""heap of parts.""

Basic types of feedback loop --Source: O'Connor, 1997

Reinforcing feedback -- is when changes in elements of the system are fed back and result in an amplification of the change. The effect reinforces the cause. Reinforcing feedback causes the system to accelerate faster from its initial starting condition. A system will not accelerate faster indefinitely. Ultimately, balancing feedback will occur.

Balancing feedback -- is when changes in elements of the system are fed back opposing the original change result in a dampening effect. The effect opposes the cause. Balancing feedback causes the system to stabilize around its initial starting condition.

Reinforcing and balancing are the only two types of feedback loops systems have.

Feedforward -- is a special case of feedback that comes from our ability to anticipate the future. Fundamentally, it describes the effect of people's anticipations about the future creating the future they anticipate. The result of this effect is commonly called self-fulfilling prophecies.

Management implications of feedforward --
An organization, being a complex adaptive system, responds to feedback. Feedforward, a special case of feedback, is just as powerful as any other feedback. The organization will have a powerful tendency to create the future it anticipates. ""Thus the future reaches backwards to affect the present"" (O'Connor, 1997).

Therefore, the vision, mission, and strategy set forth and clearly communicated by organization leaders becomes a critical factor in the future the organization makes for itself.