Use of Systemigrams in System Template Development: An Example in Disaster Management

Use of Systemigrams in System Template Development: An Example in Disaster Management

Client: Systems Thinking; National Policy Communities

Assessing a problem from a strategic perspective requires one to step back and look at the bigger picture. The Applied Systems Thinking (ASysT) Institute, a research institute of Analytic Services, was created out of a recognized need to apply systems thinking principles to problems of national and international significance. ASysT specializes in using a systems thinking approach to understand problems and further the discipline’s use. A recent paper published by ASysT titled “The Use of Systemigrams in System Template Development: An Example in Disaster Management” set out to comprehend the differences and similarities of disaster management systems. Within the paper, ASysT embarked on analyzing the following tragedies:

  • 2008 Chinese earthquake
  • 2010 Haitian earthquake
  • 2010 Chilean earthquake
  • 2010 American Gulf oil spill

To visualize each government’s response and their challenges, ASysT developed a systemigram template to analyze disaster management systems and weaknesses in each response. The template possessed the following characteristics:

  • Classification of elements of disaster management systems
  • Flexible applicability to a variety of disasters
  • Factors to facilitate quick definition of events
  • Procedures for making qualitative determinations

Systemigrams serve as a tool to illustrate problems and processes, and our template seeks to enhance disaster response comprehension.  As Leonardo da Vinci once said, “The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” ASysT undertook this effort as it’s committed to helping the global community understand its problems.

Systems Thinking

Around the time of WWII, scientists, engineers, and technologists—in fact, all thinkers—began to realize that reductionism was not always effective. Sometimes when systems or activities were reduced to their smallest parts, the systems no longer existed. There was also a realization that reductionism trivialized the synergistic contributions of parts working together, particularly in human-activity systems and systems with a strong human-technology mix. Thus, the systems-age came to the fore.  Addressing complex problems requires a holistic approach to defining the actual system and conceptualizing how its relevant subsystems will interact with one another. ASysT has and will continue to promote this approach, thus honoring our corporation’s commitment to maintain an enduring capacity for public service.

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Applied Systems Thinking