systems change

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Changing a system is challenging due to its complexity. This complexity calls for a true understanding of the system before one is able to know how to change the system effectively. Complex systems can also be very stable, meaning attempts to change them result in very little actual change.

Systems and change --

  • Systems tend to be resistant to change. The interconnections between the parts tends to stay in place as any given part is changed, or attempted to be changed.
  • Stable systems, those with predictable outcomes over time, will be resistant to change. The system is geared to fulfill a particular function and will tend to continue to do so.
  • Systems have discontinuities, thresholds, and tipping points. A significant effort to change it, the changing of one element may have little effect on the system as a whole until a limit of sorts is reached. Then, with just a little additional effort, the system as a whole changes dramatically.
  • Systems have breaking points. If an effort is mounted long and hard enough to change, or destroy, a system, it will collapse.
  • Understanding how a system truly works, knowing how the cause and effect between the parts works (feedback loops), enables one to change a system effectively with little effort
  • All systems changes will have side-effects, those effects beyond those that were directly sought. This is because the part interrelationship changes ripple throughout the system via the feedback loops which ultimately interconnect every part of the system.
  • Managing system change requires multiple perspectives, from both inside and outside the system, in order to understand what to change and to assess whether the actions taken are having the intended effect.