Today's post is about Systems Thinking, and a systems diagram that resonated with me on a personal level, after reading a book called The Fifth Discipline. (The book covers a much broader set of topics and I'm not ready to give it my full endorsement yet, but it certainly had some worthwhile nuggets inside it).
System thinking, in a nutshell, is about taking a step back and looking at the larger patterns of behavior at work. In broad strokes, it views the world as interacting sets of feedback loops and the feedback loops often include a time delay.
Systems tend to fall into a set of "archetypes", and you're probably familiar with many of them, like escalating cycles of violence, the tragedy of the commons, and virtuous cycles where success leads to more success, and various other patterns.
One particular pattern is called "Eroding Goals." I use a gym analogy to explain it, say a goal to do ten pullups. So you start practicing pullups, and find that it takes time to get that strong, and you can't do ten pullups right away. Falling short of your goals doesn't feel good, so maybe you tell yourself, you should change the goal, and you're satisfied with the number of pullups you can do today. There's no longer a gap between your goal and your current state, so balance is restored.
The book showed a diagram that looked a lot like this.
Something about that diagram really resonated with me, because it made me realize I've given up on things without giving myself the time to get through the delay portion of the loop, or giving myself time to learn, or build metaphorical muscle. (Marketing is one of those things. Marketing is hard.)
I decided that I liked the diagram so much that I wanted to turn it into a poster and put it on my wall, but I wanted something nicer than the sketch above.
This is the poster.
Hang in there! It takes time to build muscle!
aka THE Awkward Engineer