There are about a dozen known systems archetypes with an interesting set of relationships among them. Watch Video
Whenever you undertake anything you really have only two options. You can create a goal seeking loop to bring a balance between what is and what you consider should be, or you can create a reinforcing loop to promote growth.
If there is a resource constraint progress will be linear until getting close to the goal. Then progress depends on the distance from the goal.
If you set out to fix a problem with a particular goal in mind and it takes a long time to progress toward the goal there is often a tendency to settle for less so it won't take so long.
If there are delays between the action and the result, or between the result and the time that result is perceived, it can be very easy to overreact and actually overshoot the goal. This then requires counter action to bring the overshoot back toward the goal. In extreme situations this structure may produce out of control oscillations.
If there are two balancing loops with delays acting against each other the result will most likely be continued oscillations. Imagine shooting at a pendulum while you're riding a different pendulum.
Two balancing loops that interact in such a way that one loop trying to attain balance creates a problem for the the other balancing loop. The second balancing loop attempts to attain balance which creates a problem for the first loop. The two balancing loops interact in such a way as to function as a single reinforcing loop. Typically this escalation structure results in a situation that neither loop desires.
Action is undertaken to deal with a situation and things are progressing though over time things seems to take a turn for the worse. There is some unintended consequence which is initiated by the action or the change in results which in turn acts against resolving the situation.
You set out to solve a problem and it seems that you have though after some time the problem actually returns and you end up fixing the problem over and over. This is a situation where the symptoms are being treated rather than actually solving the problem.
This is similar to the underlying cause not being addressed though somewhat worse because one becomes addicted to the action taken to deal with the symptoms making it even more difficult to deal with the underlying cause of the situation.
At times our efforts to promote growth actually lead to decline elsewhere. And growth in the area of our focus cause us to support it even more resulting in even more decline in the other area.
When partners for growth begin to promote their own success their activities to promote their own success can impact the success of partners for growth. When this happens partners have to compensate for the the impact from their supposed partners and their action often impacts their partners. As it turns out their actions to promote their own success end up limiting their success and their partners for growth.
Because nothing grows forever a growth situation will sooner or later run into a limit to growth.
The slowing of growth over time may be because there are limited resources shared by multiple users. And because these resources contribute directly to the success of the participants each participant is encouraged to use more of the resource. As such the resource is overused and thus limits the growth of all parties involved.
The situation may be that there exists more than one limit that needs to be addressed and they may not all arise at the same time. Thus as one limit is addressed it's best to begin looking for what will be the next one.
There are times when the limit is insufficient capacity of a type that takes time to develop and once the limit is experienced growth will subside before the capacity can be expanded. In this situation it is essential to plan for what's expected rather than waiting to react.
There is a special case of growth and underinvestment where there is an established standard which would drive the capacity development. Though because of the time required to develop additional capacity the standard will tend to slip thus the required capacity will never be developed.
It is hoped that this model provides a sense of how the simple balancing and reinforcing loops are likely to evolve. These frequently recurring structures are generally referred to as Systems Archetypes. Note that there are well defined strategies defined for dealing with the situation presented by each Systems Archetype.
Each graphic in the above network is really a link to a context within SysNet which provides access to a video about the Systems Archetype as well as links to Causal Loop and Simulation versions of the Systems Archetype.