Systemic Behaviour

How the System Behaves

No system or element operates independently. Every system relies on a set of resources, such as cash, people, skills, inventory, raw material, equipment condition, and maturity or quality of interrelationships between them. Resource levels change over time and in their operating environment, and as they change, they impact other resource levels through the relationships in the system, growth rates and decay rates and feedback.

Overall system performance depends on:
  • The balance between the necessary resources. A deficiency in one, even if it is temporary, can become a critical constraint. For instance, production cycles need to be coordinated with marketing campaigns. Skill development must match the introduction of new equipment. Types and quantities of replacement parts must match maintenance skills and repair frequencies.
  • The integrity of the connections between the elements of the system, by which the system attempts to control itself over time. As the web of interdependence grows more complex, we find that relationships are becoming increasingly critical not only to performance, but to survival.

It is not sufficient to know the initial or even existing states of each of the resources. We need to know how, and how quickly, they respond to changes in demand. It is important to know, with respect to system resources:
  • Is the System CAPABLE of doing what it is supposed to do?
  • What are the element response times?
  • What are the most LIMITING factors?
A competent action plan to develop continuous sustainable improvement, must be based on well developed and shared language and understanding of implicit and explicit assumptions about how the system works. In particular, if the people in the system are to achieve a high level of maturity in their roles and functions, they must share understanding of:
  • Operational definitions,
  • Validity of assumptions,
  • Cause and effect, particularly for proposed strategies,
  • System delays and non linear responses, and
  • Feedback.
Armed with this collective understanding, an organisation can confidently plan what data is needed, collect it consistently, and use it to manage improvement.


The rate of learning and hence improvement : is proportional to : relevance and timeliness of feedback.

Direct and relevant feedback is essential for continuous improvement. It also has to be provided before the experience of doing the work is forgotten. Also the quantity, frequency and timeliness of feedback must be related to what was planned if it is to have value.

  • Too often, a lack of appropriate information about outcomes prevents evaluation of why some processes went right and some went wrong.
  • Often, the 'system' does not intend to collect information that would enable evaluation of its processes, or typically the performance criteria that are applied are not related to the way the work is done.
  • Sometimes, people do not have the tools or discipline to enable them to evaluate the information that is available. Planning information and performance measurement data should be consistent.
Dynamic Modelling

Dynamic modelling is designed to manage collective understanding of the system. This means:
  • collecting information about how the system works,
  • quantifying realistic expectations of the systemís output,
  • storing and retrieving the information about particular inputs, processes or performance parameters, and
  • communicating and sharing definitions, assumptions and understanding of interactions and relationships.
Tallowillow uses dynamic modelling techniques in a workshop environment to share and build collective understanding about the business and expectations. We then use the model to test assumptions and proposed strategies in optimising system design before expense of scenario testing is incurred. The algorithms from the resulting 'goal' model are then translated into operational procedures for planning, execution, monitoring and controlling outcomes at any level in the organisation.

Specific training and coaching can be provided to enable the people who use the system to get the most out of it.

The modelling process, and the optimised system, are designed to be learning environments, continuously engaged in evaluating and implementing sustainable improvements.

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