Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline) uses a simulation called The Beer Game to illustrate the impact of the system on behaviour and how, in turn, that behaviour results in sub-optimisation of the system.

Lessons from The Beer Game:

1. Structure influences behaviour

Different people in the same structure produce similar results. When they experience problems, they blame people in other parts of the system.

2. Structure in human systems is subtle

The things that control behaviour are various – decision-making, policies, procedures, goals, information, rules, measures, norms (we call these things system conditions).

3. Leverage comes from new ways of thinking

You cannot achieve leverage by focusing on departmental decisions and ignoring how they affect other parts of the system.

The system causes its own behaviour.

The people in the system usually do not perceive themselves as having the power to change it (they work to the rules).

In other words, bad managers change the people, good managers change the system. We have system problems not people problems.