Free course

Diagramming for development 1 - Bounding realities

Free statement of participation on completion
Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled, and a recent version of Flash Player to be installed and enabled.
Skip transcript: Animation 3

Transcript: Animation 3

Page 1
Like other systems diagram types, systems maps are used as thinking tools. They can also be used as communication tools. Systems maps have a very simple form, consisting of blobs and words, and they’re used to show the structure of a system of interest at a point in time. They show this structure as a hierarchy of groupings.
Page 2
If I regard this session as a system for telling you about systems maps, then I might use a systems map to plan the session, and also to show you the structure of what I’m going to cover.
Page 3
Here’s the boundary of the system - in this case this session on systems maps. Inside the boundary will be the things I’m going to cover.
Page 4
But my thinking about the system is likely to include other things too, like the way I’m going to cover it, the examples and ideas I have to draw on, the way I ask you to interact with the session, and how I’m going to construct it. These might all be thought of as sub-systems of my system of interest.
Page 5
Outside the boundary will be things that are not part of the system. This might include things I’m not going to cover. For example, I’m not going to talk about the history of systems maps, or describe similar forms such as Venn diagrams; and I’m not going to discuss the process of drawing a systems map as this is covered in a later session.
Page 6
In a systems map, the region beyond the boundary is known as the environment of the system. Components in the environment are not part of the system, but they may influence it, so it can be important to consider them. For example, your prior knowledge of systems maps - or of similar diagram forms, is likely to influence how you respond to this session.
Page 7
Now the bit I want to focus on is this sub-system, so I’m going to go down a level in my hierarchy of groupings. If I were working on paper, this would mean starting a new sheet.
Page 8
In this session I want to talk about the purpose of systems maps - what they do, why this is useful, and when it is useful.
Page 9
I want to cover their form, and what makes a good systems map.
Page 10
And I want to draw your attention to a number of key systems concepts associated with systems maps.
Page 11
This makes me realise that I’ve got too much to cover in one session, and I’ll need to cover some of it in a second session.
Page 12
I said at the start that systems maps show the structure of a system of interest at a point in time. And that they show this structure as a hierarchy of groupings. You’ve seen how these groupings are shown, and just now you saw me move down a level in the hierarchy of groupings from the top level of my system, to look in more detail at a sub-system. In the next session you’ll be able to move up and down the levels of this hierarchy, and click on the blobs that require further explanation.
Page 13
But what exactly is meant by structure? You can use a systems map to model an existing explicit structure - for example if you were trying to understand an existing hierarchy within a complex organisation. But a more powerful way of using systems maps is to create a new mental model, one that names and groups components according to the purpose you have in mind - not just components that are ‘out there’ and that anyone can see, but any type of thing that you think it’s important to consider.
Page 14
This enables you to structure your thinking about the system, and to discuss it with others. It’s like a map of the system. Systems maps show only structure, so once you start thinking about the processes that occur in this territory - about relationships, sequence, influence, cause and effect - then you need to go on to a different diagram type which shows connections between these components.
End transcript: Animation 3
Animation 3

 2.1 When to use each diagram

Skip Your course resources