Systems Concepts in Action: A Practitioner's Toolkit

Systems Concepts in Action: A Practitioner's Toolkit

Systems Concepts in Action: A Practitioner's Toolkit

Systems Concepts in Action: A Practitioner's Toolkit


Systems Concepts in Action: A Practitioner's Toolkit explores the application of systems ideas to investigate, evaluate, and intervene in complex and messy situations. The text serves as a field guide, with each chapter representing a method for describing and analyzing; learning about; or changing and managing a challenge or set of problems.

The book is the first to cover in detail such a wide range of methods from so many different parts of the systems field. The book's Introduction gives an overview of systems thinking, its origins, and its major subfields. In addition, the introductory text to each of the book's three parts provides background information on the selected methods. Systems Concepts in Action may serve as a workbook, offering a selection of tools that readers can use immediately. The approaches presented can also be investigated more profoundly, using the recommended readings provided. While these methods are not intended to serve as "recipes," they do serve as a menu of options from which to choose. Readers are invited to combine these instruments in a creative manner in order to assemble a mix that is appropriate for their own strategic needs.


What are the key variables in the situation that interests us?

How do they link to each other?

How do they affect each other? Does each variable have a reinforcing or
dampening effect on the variables to which it is linked?


Causal loop diagrams (CLDs) provide a language for articulating our understanding of dynamic, interconnected situations. They can be considered sentences that are constructed by linking together key variables and indicating the causal relationship between them. By connecting several CLDs, a coherent story can be told about a particular situation or issue.

CLDs visualize variables and their relationships over time. They permit us not only to analyze current states and relational patterns but also to make assumptions about the dynamic behavior. They allow us to look beyond individual events and to reach a higher—one might say more systemic—level of understanding, by mapping the structure that is responsible for producing recurring patterns of events over time.

CLDs are based on the concept of “feedback,” which was originally developed in the 1940s as part of the emerging science of cybernetics. Feedback is the transmission or return of information, and a feedback loop is a closed sequence of causes and effects: variable X is affecting Y and Y in turn affecting . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.