What is a system
Systems are bounded. Many things can draw the boundaries. Boundaries define who we think influences a system. Systems are nested - scale matters. Micro, meso, macro
One way to consider a system is through Complexity.
Types of system
There are simple, complicated and complex systems. They can be understood through this framework:
Understanding of the problem Utility of the rules Outcome Expertise Success
This is adapted from Getting to maybe: how the world has changed (Westley, Zimmerman and Patton, 2006)
Features of complex systems
- Non linear (Effects not proportional to scale of change)
- Feedback loops (Parts in relationship become reinforcing)
- Resilient (Snaps back from changes or external forces)
- Purpose (Organisation of the system works together)
- Delays (effects may not be immediate)
- Self-organising (organising from apparent randomness into patterns)
- Emergent (Patterns as consequence of many parts interacting)
- Adaptive (capable of learning from feedback and reacting to changes in context)
- Scale (patterns are replicated at different scales)
Characteristics of complex systems
- Unpredictable - Non-linearity means changes in one part cause changes in distant others
- Unknowable - No single person can know the whole system
- Unsolvable - attempts at change are absorbed into status quo
Intentionally nudging, changing, influencing and incentivising systems to work better for people, places and communities.
The emergence of a new pattern of organisation or structure.
Addresses root causes - deep structures underlying patterns of the system that can hold a problem in place.
'The waters of system change' is a paper that discusses six conditions of systems change. These range from explicit - policies, practices, resource flows, semi-explicit - relationships & connections, power dynamics, to implicit - mental models.
It is not a change in a part in isolation, but a change in a relationship between parts to create a different dynamic.
There are nested scales of systemic change:
- Transformative change - fundamental shift of status quo by altering elemental form and function of a system (long-term, uncoordinated, multi-actor processes)
- Emergent change (ongoing, evolving, cumulative)
Emergent leads to transformative.
Working adaptively to affect system change
- Identify the desired future state (better outcomes for people)
- Identify signals (hints the system is shifting)
- Affirm our leverage point is in service of this future state. Check assumptions!
- Continuous experimentation through a portfolio of experiments (real world testing)
- Monitoring change signals
- Reflect, learn and adapt (real time adjustment)
Last update: 07-03-2022 09:03