Analysing system failure


Analysing failure with multiple cause diagrams

Imagine that as the manager of a hospital you have the problem that patients are spending an unacceptable time on trolleys in a corridor next to the admissions unit, sometimes hours or even days. The following have been identified as relevant factors:

  • patients waiting in corridor
  • too many people being admitted
  • too many people are presenting at A&E
  • too many accidents and incidents
  • no beds are available in the wards
  • there are insufficient beds for the population
  • beds are blocked by elderly patients
  • some patients have no carer at their home
  • transport provision is unreliable and patients cannot be discharged
  • there is no accommodation available in residential homes

(a) Arrange these factors into a multiple cause diagram

(b) Put pluses and minuses on your arrows to make a sign graph

You may have to adjust your multiple cause diagram to make it into a sign diagram. This reflects the usual evolutionary nature of systems thinking. The diagramming tools in these exercises often help and inform the process of reflection on a system and its behaviour.

You can share your drawings and receive comments on them on a Padlet wall here. Click the back button to return here.

When you have finished move on to the next step to see our diagrams.

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This article is from the free online course:

Systems Thinking and Complexity

UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus