Presented by Dave Nicolette and Marc Evers


We've noticed that many companies call to request specific services, such as coaching their testing team or their development teams to "be more agile" or to show them how to use specific tools the company has already purchased. In most cases, the solutions do not match the problems. It seems as if many managers don't know how to assess their own problems. They just react to whatever they can see on the surface. By the time they call someone to ask for help, they've already invested so much in the wrong solution that they have no flexibility to change.

Systems Thinking tools are useful for identifying the true root causes of problems. The Diagrams of Effects technique is especially useful for finding the reasons why "things never change no matter what we do."

In this session we'll show (& practice!) how Diagrams of Effects can help you make sense of what's happening in an organization and find out what is keeping the system the way it is, so that you are able to tackle root causes of problems and make sure changes will stick. We present systems thinking as a collective sensemaking technique: it's something you do together with the involved stakeholders, so that you get to see the situation from different perspectives and build a shared understanding.

Format and length:

Workshop, 90 minutes

Intended audience and prerequisites:

Anyone who's trying to bring change to his work (or anywhere else), including managers, internal/external consultants & scrum masters. This session has no specific prerequisites.

Objectives of the session:

  • Reinforce the importance of understanding which problem to solve before implementing a solution.
  • Introduce the concept of a Causal Loop; in particular, Reinforcing Loops and Balancing Loops.
  • Learn a technique, Diagram of Effects, that helps expose Causal Loops in organizations that tend to hold existing problems in place and make it difficult to solve them.

Benefits, for the participants and the presenters:

For participants:

  • Be able to distinguish between symptoms and causes so that you can focus your attention on the right issues.
  • Improve your ability to expose the organizational forces that tend to reinforce and sustain undesirable behaviors and outcomes.
  • Be able to identify situations when Causal Loops can cancel out the effects of point solutions, and how the DOE can supplement the standard Systems Thinking tools, Current Reality Tree (CRT) and Future Reality Tree (FRT), to help expose Causal Loops.

For presenters:

  • Learn about complex problems in different organizations and how they can occur.
  • Improve our ability to understand and analyze complex organizational problems.
  • Help colleagues discover new ways to address the problems they face in their workplaces.