|In a balancing system, the system is naturally seeking stability - the system has its own agenda - a
self-correction to maintain some goal or target. If the system's goal is one you like, you will be
happy. If it is not, you will find all your efforts to change matters frustrated - until you can either
change the goal or weaken its influence.
As A increases it causes B to increase. However an increase in B causes A to decrease. If you use
your hands to represent A and B, watch the see-saw in motion, hence the name balancing loop.
Behind every balancing loop is a goal-seeking system. The system has an intended goal and you
also notice the current actual situation. If both are the same, then we do not have a gap. If any
one of them is different, then we experience a gap. When the system experiences a gap, it now
begins to drive actions that moves the 'current actual' to begin to look like the intended goal.
Notice that the directions of the arrows in the 2nd figure look exactly the same as the first!
|Behaviour over time
||The system rises quickly so as to achieve the
intended goal and when it reaches the goal, it adjusts
its' action (often the system stops taking any further
action) so as to stabilize the system at the intended
|Commonly used words or
early warning symptoms
|"Feel for every step I take there is a counter-balancing effect."
||This is a goal-seeking system, just like how an airconditioner with a thermostat works. At anytime
the room temperature (actual) varies from the thermostat setting (goal), the gap between the
two increases kicking (increases) the airconditioner into action a series of steps to reduce the
difference (the gap) in the temperature to zero, bringing the temperature of the room to exactly
the same temperature as the setting of the thermostat. Most mechanistic systems (iron, heating
coil, etc.) works on this principle.
We can also see these loops in our mission statements. E.g. the mission of the police force is to
uphold the law, so as to keep peace in the country (do you hear a balancing loop; the goal is to
"keep peace in the country); the mission of the military is to protect the sovereignty (goal) of the
country; the judiciary exists so as to 'uphold rightful citizenry' (goal).
Most regulatory systems (governed by rules and regulations, i.e. typically government
organizations) are balancing loops.
|Tips to note when using
||What makes balancing processes so difficult in management is that the goals are often implicit and
no recognizes that the balancing process exists at all. The state-controlled economy fails because
it severs the multiple self-correcting processes that operate in a free-market system. That is why
corporate managers fail. Though simple in concept, balancing processes can generate surprising
and problematic behaviour if they go undetected. Often balancing loops are harder to see than
reinforcing loops because it looks like nothing is happening. It maintains the status quo even
when all participants want change.
Whenever there is "resistance to change", you can count on there being one or more "hidden"
balancing processes. Resistance almost always arises from threats to traditional norms and ways
of doing things. Often these norms are woven into the fabric of established power relationships.
Artful leaders rather than push harder to overcome resistance to change, discern the source of
the resistance and focus directly on the implicit norms and powerful relationships within which the
norms are embedded.
|What is the thinking?
||“It feels it is growing with a view to seek out a goal and then it stabilises”
"It feels like needing "all the running you can do to keep in the same place"
|Managing the intervention
||TO DESIGN SYSTEMS SEEKING STABILITY
Whereas snowballing effect of reinforcing loops destabilises system (that is, puts them out of
equilibrium), balancing loops are generally stabilizing or goal-seeking. They resist change in one
direction by producing change in the opposite direction (compensating feedback), which negates
the previous effects.
Intervention to overcome inertia:
To become aware the role (especially intrinsic) goals can have an impact on the direction
corrective actions may go. Until this goal is recognized, the change effort is doomed to failure.
If balancing loops are not desirable, then learn to uncover and suspend the intrinsic goals (our
mental models) as a way to loosen its grip on one’s action.