MGMT 8007M: Week 3: Systems Dynamics Overview Essay Assignment Paper

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MGMT 8007M: Week 3: Systems Dynamics Overview Essay Assignment Paper

MGMT 8007M: Complexity and Applied Systems Thinking | Week 3

Although systems thinking is seen by many as a powerful problem-solving tool, we believe it is more powerful as a language, augmenting, and changing the ordinary ways we think and talk about complex issues.

—Senge, Ross, Smith, Roberts, and Kleiner (1994, p. 88)

How does systems thinking help us to understand the organizations we are part of, such as our company, our community, our city, or our family? There are many definitions of systems, but most include the characteristics of several interacting parts (a network) that perform some function. An organization is a system, as is a city or a country. A person is a system. For example, humans have inputs of food and liquids, and processes, such as growth and change. Humans also have many subsystems, such as the circulatory and immune systems. Within each person there is a synchronization of muscles, cells, and organs, such as the heart. Consider that the heart is not a single organ; rather, it is all the muscle cells expanding and contracting at the same time. Now, reflect upon how this unifying concept can be used to describe how other things work.

This week, you consider systems dynamics concepts within organizations and how those concepts may influence leadership and management. Then, you explore the systems dynamics within your selected organization for your Final Project.

Learning Objectives

This week, you will:

  • Evaluate organizations using systems thinking
  • Evaluate how stocks, flows, and feedback loops may affect decision making


You will develop the following skills:

  • Systems thinking
  • Model systems dynamics

Learning Resources

Recommended Readings

Meadows, D. H. (2008). Thinking in systems: A primer. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.

  • Chapter 1, “The Basics” (pp. 11–34)
  • Chapter 2, “A Brief Visit to the Systems Zoo” (pp. 35–72)
  • Chapter 3, “Why Systems Work So Well” (pp. 75–85)

Recommended Media

Woodlock, D. (2009). Introduction to system dynamics [Video file]. Retrieved from

Note: The approximate length of this media piece is 10 minutes.

Woodlock, D. (2010). Introduction to stock and flow diagrams [Video file]. Retrieved from

Note: The approximate length of this media piece is 8 minutes.

There is no formal Discussion this week.

There will be an open forum to discuss questions about the Final Project Component.

Final Project Component: Section 2–Systems Dynamics

Systems Dynamics: Stocks, Flows, and Feedback Loops

This week, you continue the Consultancy Report for the executive leadership of their selected organization.

This assignment is important, as it continues the development of the organizational model started last week. Models are representations of reality; for example, a map is not the territory, but a map is useful when traveling or exploring over time. Additionally, developing models is helpful in gaining a better understanding of whatever is being modeled. To the extent that a model can be digitized, simulation may be possible to gain additional understanding of how the dynamics play out, instead of having just a static model. Software packages such as NetLogo, iThink, Stella, and to some extent, Excel, are useful in exploring systems dynamics over time.

Stocks are accumulators in this context; they are not financial instruments. In systems terms, stocks are inventories of raw materials, finished goods, cash on hand, the number of employees, and so on. Flows illustrate the material, information, and energy that are input to and from stocks.

Feedback loops are either positive (amplifying) or negative (goal-seeking) structures that affect flows and stocks. More specifically, flows represent the rate of change in stocks and are measured over time. For example, a company might have $1,000,000 cash on hand in a bank account earning 2% interest. A positive feedback loop would be adding the 2% interest to the account each time period and not taking anything out. The interest rate remains the same, but as 2% is continually added, the principle becomes larger, and the 2% of this larger amount becomes larger as well, thus increasing the size of the bank account. An example of a negative feedback loop is a company of 500 people looking to hire 20 more employees. Thus, 20 employees is the target, and people are hired until reaching 20.

Review the Final Project Template for details about this week’s Final Project component.

Please include the following in 2–3 pages:

  • Evaluate at least three stocks and associated flows in your selected organization.
  • Evaluate at least one positive feedback loop in your selected organization.
  • Evaluate at least two examples of how understanding stocks, flows, and feedback loops might improve decision making within the organization.
  • Include proper APA citations to support all statements by referencing sources from relevant peer-reviewed articles published within the last 5 years.

By Day 7

Submit Sections 1 and 2 of your Final Project.

Note: Stocks in this context are not stocks as in stocks and bonds! Stocks are something that can be accumulated, and, yes, stocks can be accumulated or aggregated in a stock portfolio. Thus, while perhaps weird, you could have stock of stocks! But stock is an accumulation, not a financial instrument in this class and in systems science.


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