Causal Loop Diagrams – a powerful systems thinking problem solving tool

Causal Loop Diagram

Today @Vinaya and I approached a challenge using the Causal Loop diagram technique. We tried it for the first time and it was refreshing and fun. If you already know what Causal Loop Diagrams are, its great; if not suggest you have a look Causal Loop Diagram – Wikipedia and causal loop diagrams little known analytical tool.

I would say I liked this modelling technique for the following main reasons:

All variables / nodes are considered more or less equal

You are putting everything on the table and what matters more is the linking. This is especially fulfilling when you discover a loop around a variable that seemed insignificant initially and most likely could be the place for intervention.

Modelling variable inter-dependencies / cause and effect relationships

This is a simple and intuitive way to model inter-dependencies and the positive or negative influence of the variables on each other, especially in areas where you have to build some kind of a mental model that is subjective and oriented around behavior of stakeholders involved.

Closed Feedback Loop & result oriented thinking

Trying to close the loop helps to focus the discussion and bring out more practical and actionable model – than just blabbering or wishful thinking. Once a loop has been identified, it channels the discussion to finding from the variables involved, which are more suitable for intervention.  Not all variables will be suitable for intervention, but seeing them all together with their inter relationships helps to figure out which one would be the most optimum.

Identifying a system’s major variables, their cause and effect relationships and their behavior as a system  is key to a deeper understanding of what causes the problems and the influencing variables that could offer an opportunity to solve them. Causal Loop Diagrams allow to do just that in a very structured, simple and intuitive way. A useful technique indeed.

Hrishikesh Karekar

Hrishikesh is an enterprise agile coach with interests in varied disciplines. Frequently writing on Agile and Lean related topics, he also occasionally ventures into other stuff like Artificial Intelligence as well..