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Systems Analysis

A system* is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something. If you look at that definition closely for a minute, you can see that a system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose.

  • A system is more than the sum of its parts. It may exhibit adaptive, dynamic, goal-seeking, self-preserving, and sometimes evolutionary behavior.
  • Many of the interconnections in systems operate through the flow of information. Information holds systems together and plays a great role in determining how they operate
  • The best way to deduce the system’s purpose is to watch for a while to see how the system behaves

Once we see the relationship between structure and behavior, we can begin to understand how systems work, what makes them produce poor results, and how to shift them into better behavior patterns.

A diverse system with multiple pathways and redundancies is more stable and less vulnerable to external shock than a uniform system with little diversity.

The behavior of a system cannot be known just by knowing the elements of which the system is made.



Meadows, D. H. Thinking in Systems: A Primer. (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008).