Trying to make sense out of organizational life can be very challenging, but attempting to make sense out of organizational life through linear thinking may not only make it more difficult, but may actually create an inaccurate understanding that leads to completely counterproductive decisions. Making inappropriate simplifications of organizational life can prove disastrous for the health and life of an organization. This is where causal loop diagrams can provide invaluable insight to make better decisions.
Causal loop diagrams provide a language for articulating understanding of the dynamic, interconnected nature of the world and organizational life (Kim, 1992). Though it may not be as simple as a linear diagram, it provides the simplicity of a linear diagram with the higher degree of accuracy for insight. Causal loop diagrams help create sentences which are constructed by linking together key variable and indicating the causal relationships between them (Kim, 1992). Causal loops can be as simple as a balancing loop between two variables, or as complex as multiple variables with several interlinking arrows showing balancing and reinforcing loops (Anderson & Johnson, 1997).
For a church seeking to build a new building, there are many variables to consider. Whether diagrammed out, or just in conversation, many ministry leaders would look at this as attendance going up leads to the need to build a building leading to an increase in giving and finally the ability to build a building. A causal loop diagram provides the ability to see that attendance is not the only indicator that it is time to build a building, but also the desire of the congregation to build a building. This desire is connected to the need to build, which is connected to available space, which influences giving to a building fund. More clarity provides wiser and more dynamic decisions.
Anderson, V., & Johnson, L. (1997). Systems thinking basics: from concepts to causal loops. Cambridge, Mass: Pegasus Communications.
Kim, D. H. (1992). Guidelines for Drawing Causal Loop Diagrams. The Systems Thinker, 3(iss. 1), 5–6.