Why Do Meetings Start Late?
A workshop exercise to introduce systems thinking
Everyone can identify with meetings that start
late. To introduce formal systems thinking we often ask a group the question,
“why do meetings start late,” and map their responses on flip chart paper
using “word and arrow” diagrams. As their thinking progresses, we show how
the diagram evolves to include more and more complexity and feedback loops.
At some point we might shift to using software to represent the emerging
Why-Do-Meetings-Start-Late.pdf illustrates this progression from a series of hand-drawn flip charts to a
series of more formal diagrams (made in Microsoft Excel using the Draw
This series of diagrams shows the development of a system
diagram, not a "finished" model. (Even in the last diagram there is
a "thought cloud" that raises a question about the completeness of
For a group that is learning about systems thinking, it is intended to
show that it's "OK" (indeed, necessary) to start out small, sloppy,
and poorly thought out, and then make changes, rethink the elements,
rearrange the appearance, and so on.