Re: Examples

Richard Karash (
Sun, 25 Sep 1994 20:56:18 +0059 (EDT)

I've been thinking about how to reply to your request...

I work regularly with groups in a workshop or consulting context with the
Senge and Argyris concepts. Although quantitative measures are rare, we
get good reviews from the groups with whom we work; they say that the
material helps them to see things differently. After the fact, they say
that they are interacting with each other differently and feel that they
are more effective. Individuals say they are clearer, feel more energy,

A common situation is two people (or groups or companies) that want to
work well together -- or *must* work well together -- but are having
trouble. There is blame and frustration. Each feels the other "doesn't
understand" or worse.

Through Senge (or Argyris) we would recognize that there must be a
reinforcing loop situation here. If things are bad, they must be doing it
to each other, probably unknowingly. We look for what each party is doing
that messes things up for the other. And why they are taking such actions,
often in response to actions by the other. Seeing and naming the whole
mutually reinforcing loop structure, noticing that it is not intentional
-- this is often the understanding needed to launch new responses and new

I find, IMHO, that most people and most groups are not used to seeing
such reinforcing loop structures, they tend to look for relatively simple
causal explanations (e.g., "They're just greedy...").

After a pretty intense 3-day workshop on Systems Thinking, one group said,

"These darn loops are everywhere!
...and we hadn't seen them before."

A very specific example of the companies fighting (described generically
above) is the alliance between P&G and WalMart, written up by my colleague
Jennifer Kemeny in The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook pp. 145-148. Jenny has
named this archetype "Accidental Adversaries."

I find that Senge and Argyris must be practiced, that you actually have
to have the experience of looking at a situation, drawing the diagram,
seeing the "system" and explaining it to someone. That no amount of
reading, hearing someone else's examples, etc. does the same thing as
actually practicing it. This was my personal experience and what I see in
my work.

Hope this helps! Let's share stories of systemic insights on this list...
I'll post a couple, but everyone else should join in!

On Tue, 20 Sep 1994, Neal Laybhen wrote:

> I'm very interested in learning of specific examples where Senge and
> Argyris concepts have been successfully APPLIED, especially in (but not
> limited to) the areas of systems thinking/systems archetypes/causal loop
> diagrams and single/double loop learning.

BTW, Art Kleiner who has posted here is one of the authors of the Fifth
Discipline Field book. Jenny and I and several others contributed
sections to the book.

Richard Karash | (o) 508-879-8301 | Golf * Flying
Innovation Associates, Inc. | (fax) 508-626-2205 | Systems Thinking
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