This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Places to Intervene in a System

A 1997 article by Donella Meadows has been reprinted in a software developer magazine, Places to Intervene in a System.  (Here's a fuller version from 1998.) 

Folks who do systems analysis have a great belief in "leverage points." These are places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.

The systems community has a lot of lore about leverage points. Those of us who were trained by the great Jay Forrester at MIT have absorbed one of his favorite stories. "People know intuitively where leverage points are. Time after time I've done an analysis of a company, and I've figured out a leverage point. Then I've gone to the company and discovered that everyone is pushing it in the wrong direction!"

[via Johanna Rothman]

The rest of the article and the places to intervene are a useful read.  It's interesting that she starts the list at the last place to intervene, rather than at the primary place.  The theory of constraints literature tries to get people thinking systematically right away, while also showing how their current mindset and thinking has created a lot of the negative behaviors that their system exhibits. 

Meadows was an important player in the systems thinking world.  She founded the Sustainability Institute, and she seems to have been at least peripherally involved with theory of constraints.  At the very least, she is another physicist who moved into systems thinking.

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