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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Observed Behaviors within System Archetypes

Xavier Lowe

At some point in our lives, we all have had the pleasure of watching an issue on the news, reading a newspaper article, or just overhearing a problem from word of mouth. Do you find yourself: How did they get to that decision? What all variables or factors influenced the behavior and/or decision in the first place? Or maybe you completely disagreed with the solution to the problem at hand. Typically, common misunderstandings of the problems promote the wrong solutions or feedback in response to the problem or system. In the cases where the decision is based on the wrong information or a lack of understanding, certain patterns of behavior tend to be produced that reflect that lack of understanding which will mostly likely result in negative consequences. However, there are ways to better understand systems and/or problems and know what kind of feedback to input into the system, but we have to be able to use improved thought processes and potential simulation to locate all potential influencing variables within the situation. “By using a Systems Archetypes, we can learn how to “structure” the details into a coherent picture of the forces at play.” – Peter Senge.

Based upon the above and previous quote; Ultimately, misunderstanding a system can be detrimental to finding a solution to the entire underlying issue at hand. In this assignment, I will give some background insight into 3 system archetypes and the patterns of behavior that are created when each received improper feedback. Real world examples along with discussion describing the system components and behavior in terms of variables and feedback loops will be presented in context to discuss how a change in decision or policy could have prevented or resolved the negative consequences of each example.

Before I go into my chosen archetypes, what is a System Archetype? An archetype is simply a misunderstanding of a system and its variables in the form of a pattern of behaviors that allows for feedback to be introduced that produce negative results similar to the pattern. With that being said the opening archetype that I would like to discuss is identified as Growth and Underinvestment. This can be a little more difficult to locate in comparison to other archetypes but in their particular archetype there are multiple feedback loops that all are in correlation with one another. Additionally, there is a delay in investment which in turn effects the secondly feedback loop and perceived investment action or amount. This results in a decline in the demand (due to investment) which ultimately is the end demise of the measurable.

A real-world example of this archetype that I think describes it well is underprivileged children and resources provided to them. By not investing in the unprivileged youth, this creates the feedback later on that due to the lack of resources, a high percentage of those same youth do not create something of themselves (as measured by social standard). This leads those who influence investment to consider that the youth aren't “performing” up to a previously decided standard of life and less investment is considered in the future due to the perception that underperforming is happening. Although there are many variables such as population in comparison to said resources, time allotted, even the measurable being considered. If there was an easier way to properly measure how much invested should use in order to prompt potential change, there would be less of a probability for initial underinvestment which may be an issue. Another change could be to implement policy that awards investment equally to all parties. This would increase the probability of correct investment using an already assumingly successful process but using those not considered “underprivileged” as the benchmark.

The next archetype I am going to perform an analysis is Fixes that Fail. In this system archetype, the behavior that is exemplified is just a lack of understanding from a number of areas. Limited understanding, quick actions and rapid implementation are all issues that cause additional negative consequences of this system. The Fixes that Fail archetype is illustrated when a solution is partly decided upon and implemented in response to negative symptoms of a problem that is deemed urgent. The "urgency" can be determined just based upon whatever variable a certain individual would like to use. The lack of understanding described above almost always results in unintended consequences the adds more symptoms to the original problem.

After careful consideration, a real-world illustration can be found when discussing an occurrence within my own employment organization. Provider Billing is processed at the end of every month for that month (e.g October is processed October 31st). Well over the last couple months, there have been a growing list of entities being billed twice for services. Multiple influencers coordinated a meeting to discuss what was to be done to fix the issue. As you could imagine due to my learning over the course of this class, I made the suggestion to fix discuss what is the issue that is causing this to occur? Is it confusion? Lack of effort? What processes can be put in place to 1.) Rectify and 2.) Cover bases in the future?  The assumption that we completely understood the reasoning behind the double billings is an appropriate illustration of both the Fixes that Fail archetype and leading statement into how a decision can prevent any additional issues. I believe that the change in decision to fully analyze the situation at hand and decide if there was a root that we had identified. Without proper acknowledgement of the true issue or more so the lack of understanding of the true issue, a solution truly can't be found as there isn't enough information to know what needs to be changed or effected. The consequence of doing so is not only not truly fixing the issue or problem but all producing other issues that will require solutions as well, making the system even more fragile and complex as feedback in continually introduced.

Lastly, the third archetype I have chosen is Drifting Goals. We all have been in situations where there is a goal or something that we are trying to obtain. It typically is something in our life that is easily measurable and used to keep up accountable for our actions or performance over time. When we don't hit those goals, we have two options: work harder to achieve the goal set in front of us or lower the goal; the latter is an example of Drifting Goals as demonstrated by research below.

Smith's (2000) journal presented to the International System Dynamics Society stated that “The drifting goals archetype occurs when there is a gap between desired performance, the goal, and current reality. It can be resolved by either taking corrective action or by lowering the goal. It can result in a continual lowering of the goal often without those involved even being aware that its occurring.”

For Example: A company may have specific sales goals for a new upcoming product launch in terms of adoption or sales. The product may not hit the goal initially created which would then be measured as unsuccessful or unsustainable. The goal could then be lowered due to the sense of the product being underperforming when in fact there is a possibility for the initial goal being deemed as unachievable when you look at the variables long with the situations. Things such as competition, ease of access, pricing, and demographic are all things that come into account.

In regard to above variables as they pertain to the example given, all these are things that every business must evaluate in some form or fashion before any product launch is scheduled. In terms of process, I just believe this process is something that takes time and multiple checks to get correct and in the correct arena. If a price is too high, it runs the risk of not selling and if it is too low, then the company loses money on production of the product. There isn't much room for error so research is key. Competitor pricing, cost of production, marketing, packaging, demographic and even word of mouth all play a factor in the analysis that can make my Drifting Goal example more efficient.

Overall, we often rely on a lack of understanding when analyzing system results. These “misunderstandings” can result in incorrect feedback being input into systems, although with the intent to correct but do more harm. The systems reflect patterns of behavior based upon actions input which illustrates the idea of System Archetypes. The three archetypes that I have decided to identify and explain for the purpose of this assignment are: Growth and Underinvestment, Fixes that Fail and Drifting Goals. Additionally, I have taken further analysis on the various concepts or variables that have influence and cane effect each system archetype, more specifically the real-world examples given. To conclude, systems are bound to have issues that require solutions. It is imperative that we truly understanding and can account for all the variables as well as be aware of our choices when input feedback to effect change in a system as there is always potential for more negative consequences waiting on the other side.

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