International Journal of Business and Social Science

ISSN 2219-1933 (Print), 2219-6021 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijbss

Obstacles to Managing Dynamic Systems. The Systems Thinking Approach
Adalberto Rangone, PhD; Piero Mella

The world is a dynamic system composed of a system of dynamic systems of different sizes, nested at multiple levels and interfering with each other: environmental, social, political, economic systems, ecosystems, organizations, companies, groups,parties and interacting individuals. Systems Thinking is a methodological approach that offers tools for understanding and, most importantly, controllingdynamic systems of any kind in any field, building models to understand, simulate andabove all“control”the incessant movementsand continual transformations and evolution dynamic systems. In many situations, no matter how much time and energy managers dedicate to this task, the control of dynamic systems is not possible or is impeded by certain conditions that make it nearly “impossible to control” the dynamic world with all its dynamic processes and interconnections. By describing brief “metaphors”, this study will present six of the conditions that make it “difficult, if not impossible, to perceive dynamics”, thus impedingmanagersfrom “understanding” and “controlling” the world.Some processes are so slow that managersare not able to perceive their dynamics; by the time they become aware of their effects it is too late to control them, and we end up like a boiled frog (first metaphor). At other times, processes are so fast, explosive and exponential that by the time managersbecome aware of them there is no time to undertake any control (second metaphor ofthe water lilies). Some processes derive from the concatenation of many loops, which are contained in other loops. When, in a far-off land, a butterfly flutters its wings, it can unleash a chain of vortices which, gradually gaining in strength, can set off a storm in another part of the world (third metaphor). At times, some variables depend on the myopic behaviour of many agents who prefer to repeat behavior that produces short-term, individual and local advantages, thus ignoring the long-term, collective and global disadvantages such behavior inexorably produces (fourth metaphor). The monodirectional view(fifth metaphor) blocks managersfrom understanding the interactions and dynamics of events. Systems Thinking encounters an often-insurmountable obstacle in structural complexity of non-trivial dynamic systems (sixth metaphor).

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