Article Index

Changing systems

According to Donella Meadows the ways to change a system starting with the least effective and ending with the most effective are these:

12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards).
11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows.
10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures).
9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change.
8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against.
7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops.
6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information).
5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints).
4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure.
3. The goals of the system.
2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises.
1. The power to transcend paradigms.

This can be found here (Note: Places to Intervene in a System).

This finding supports the diagnosis that pursuing regulation is going to make change difficult, it concentrates on the least effective means of changing a system and is always open to being gamed. Much better to win the argument and create a climate of opinion that makes gaming the system unacceptable. We frequently hear that someone did not do anything wrong as an excuse for unacceptable but legal behaviour.