Ten systems archetypes describe common patterns of behavior across all organizations. The SEI has undertaken an exploration of these archetypes as part of a continuing effort to identify and resolve patterns of failure in acquisition.
The systems archetypes are a set of general, recurring, systems-thinking patterns. These patterns have been found to have broad applicability across many different kinds of systems, including acquisition processes, as their descriptions reveal:
- Fixes that Fail—A quick fix that produces immediate positive results, but its unforeseen long-term consequences worsen the problem.
- Balancing Loop With Delay—The current state of a system is moved toward the desired state though repeated actions, but the delay raises doubts about their effectiveness.
- Shifting the Burden ("Addiction")—An expedient solution temporarily solves a problem, but its repeated use makes it harder to employ a more fundamental solution.
- Accidental Adversaries—Two parties destroy their relationship through escalating retaliations for perceived injuries.
- Escalation—Two parties compete for superiority, with each escalating its actions to get ahead.
- Drifting Goals—A gradual decline in performance or quality goals goes unnoticed, threatening the long-term future of the system.
- Growth and Underinvestment—Investments in a growing area aren't made, so growth stalls, which then rationalizes further underinvestment.
- Success to the Successful—When two parties compete for a limited resource, the initially more successful party receives more resources, increasing its success.
- Limits to Growth—Initially rapid growth slows because of an inherent capacity limit in the system that worsens with growth.
- Tragedy of the Commons—A shared resource is depleted as each party abuses it for individual gain, ultimately hurting all who share it.