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The truth about balancing loops



'Balancing loops' are one of the two fundamental 'building blocks' of causal loop diagrams, the most powerful way of capturing the behaviour of complex systems - the other is the 'reinforcing loop'. And, as every text-book states (including mine!), balancing loops are all about how a 'gap' between a 'target' and an 'actual' drives an 'action', the result of which is to change the 'actual' to become more in line with the 'target'. Accordingly, over time, the 'actual' becomes equal to the 'target', the 'gap' is reduced to zero, the 'action' stops, and the system stabilises.

That's exactly how the thermostat in a domestic heating system works, opening or closing the flow of hot water through the system to maintain the required temperature; that's exactly how conventional budgeting systems work, as managers take whatever action is required to bring their 'actuals' into line with their 'targets'.

Or is it? What happens is the 'manager' does not accept the 'target' as valid? Or if the 'manager' just doesn't care how big any 'gap' might be? Yes, those who are 'programmed' with business-school mentality find those possibilities hard to imagine. But not everyone has an MBA... and, yes, teachers can behave badly...

What, then, is the truth about balancing loops? And about teachers behaving badly? Click on the image to find out...

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What a real balancing loop looks like
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