Management and Leadership

Business Dynamics: MIT's Approach to Diagnosing and Solving Complex Business Problems

Dates: Jun 02-06, 2014

Certificate Track: Management and Leadership

Participant Ratings


| 4.7


| 4.6


| 4.6


| 4.7

In a world of growing complexity, many of the most vexing problems facing managers arise from the unanticipated side-effects of their own past actions. In response, organizations struggle to speed learning and adopt a more systemic approach. The challenge is to move past slogans about accelerating learning and “thinking systemically” to practical tools that help managers understand complexity, design better operating policies, and guide effective change.

This program introduces participants to system dynamics, a powerful framework for identifying, designing, and implementing high-leverage interventions for sustained success in complex systems. It has been used successfully in diverse industries and organizations, such as Airbus, Compaq, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Merck. Developed at MIT more than thirty years ago by computer pioneer Jay Forrester, system dynamics led to the creation of management flight simulators that allow managers to experience the long-term side effects of decisions, accelerate learning, and design structures and strategies for greater success.

Through intensive, hands-on workshops and interactive experiments, participants will be exposed to the principles of systems thinking and practical methods for putting them into action. They will be introduced to a variety of tools, including mapping techniques, simulation models, and MIT’s management flight simulators, which they can apply to their own business environment as soon as they complete the program. Throughout the week, participants work in small groups and interact closely with the course leaders, Professors Sterman and Repenning.

Participants will experience the Beer Game, a table game, developed in the late 1950s by Jay Forrester. Played with pen, paper, printed plastic tablecloths, and poker chips, it simulates the supply chain of the beer industry. In so doing, it illuminates aspects of system dynamics, a signature mode of MIT thought: it illustrates the nonlinear complexities of supply chains and the way individuals are circumscribed by the systems in which they act.

Join the MySloanExecEd Community Group for this program to network with past, present, and future participants.

Effective decision making and learning require tools to better understand how the structure of complex systems influences the behavior of individuals within them and the overall outcomes. The concepts and frameworks covered in Business Dynamics will enable participants to:

  • discover why dysfunctional dynamics persist in organizations
  • understand why success in one area often means trouble for other areas, and how to avoid this problem
  • identify and understand complex situations and the dynamics they produce
  • assess in advance the likely impact of different policies and decisions on the growth, stability, and behavior of organizations
  • design integrated growth strategies
  • reduce critical delays in new product development and introduction
  • make strategic decisions that result in outcomes consistent with overall objectives
  • develop the ability to think systemically and dynamically
  • implement successful change initiatives

Business Dynamics is designed for executives, managers, planners, strategists, and consultants who work with management teams. It also benefits administrators of public and not-for-profit organizations, management scientists, and educators.

Titles of past participants have included:

  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Vice President, Learning and Innovation
  • Chief Investment Officer
  • Decision Consultant
  • Manager, Continuous Improvement
  • Director, Forecasting and Market Intelligence
  • Quality and Process Director
  • Vice President, Performance Measurement and Management
  • Director of Process Management
  • Senior Quality and Business Excellence Consultant
  • Director of Programs and Strategic Planning
  • Manager, IT Strategy and Competencies Development
  • Director, Corporate Planning
  • Change Manager
  • Director, Customer Investment Program
  • Operations Improvement Manager
  • Director, Enterprise Risk Management
  • Professor
  • Director, Process Improvements Initiatives
  • Vice President, Global Network Services
  • Director, Sustaining and Process Engineering
  • Manager of Corporate Planning
  • Operations Research Analyst

The benefits of the program are reinforced when three or more participants from the same organization attend. Companies are encouraged to sponsor cross-functional team participation.

08:00 AM - 08:30 AMIntroduction and Course Outline
08:30 AM - 10:30 AMBeer Distribution Game
11:00 AM - 12:30 PMGame Results and Discussion
12:30 PM - 01:30 PMLuncheon
01:30 PM - 03:00 PMFeedback Loops and Simple Structures
03:30 PM - 05:30 PMSimulation Workshop: Exploring Simple Structures
05:30 PM - 06:30 PMReception
08:30 AM - 10:30 AMTools for Systems Thinking
10:30 AM - 12:00 PMDynamics of Process Development
12:00 PM - 01:00 PMLuncheon
01:00 PM - 03:00 PMModeling and Policy Design
03:30 PM - 05:00 PMModeling and Policy Design Workshop
08:30 AM - 10:00 AMLate, Expensive and Wrong
10:30 AM - 12:00 PMProject Management Dynamics (session 1)
12:00 PM - 01:00 PMLuncheon
01:00 PM - 02:30 PMProject Management Dynamics (session 2)
03:30 PM - 05:00 PMReThink Health Management Flight Simulator
08:30 AM - 10:00 AMClimate Policy Simulator
10:30 AM - 12:00 PMPeople Express Management Flight Simulator
12:00 PM - 01:00 PMLuncheon
01:00 PM - 03:00 PMPeople Express Conceptualization and Policy Design
03:30 PM - 06:00 PMPeople Express Conceptualization and Policy Design (session 2)
06:00 PM - 07:30 PMMIT Campus Tour
07:30 PM - 09:00 PMReception and Dinner at MIT Museum
08:30 AM - 10:00 AMSystems Dynamics in Action: The GM Experience
10:30 AM - 12:00 PMSystems Dynamics in Action: The Implementation Challenge
12:00 PM - 12:30 PMWhat do I do Monday morning? How to Keep on Learning



    The course, though I paid from my personal purse, has been one of best courses I have attended in all my life so far. Why? The team around John Sterman, Nelson Repenning, Peter Senge and Jay Forrester provided us with more than just the normal lessons, but pulled us really into group learning. With several dozen of mid-level executives, and c-level executives from around the world one not only had the challenge to learn a new toolset for one's own work back home, but also got a quick intro to global cultures, and different industries. I'd recommend this course to anybody who is seriously passionate about solving complex business problems (also way beyond the organization's boundaries). The several k $ are well invested. And I have to disclose that this course made me fuel to lead several projects at my former employer to set the foundation for cross-production use of system dynamics at a later stage. Kind regards, Ralf Lippold

    I've just returned to Saudi Arabia, and have had some time to reflect on the course and my learnings last week. I want to thank John Sterman and Nelson Repenning for putting together and delivering a highly applied and engaging course. I'm a facilitator myself, and I know how demanding it is to coral a diverse and large group such potentially complex subject matter. There was a nice mix of applied cases, guest speakers, software, and lecture. The topic of Systems Dynamics is so vast, I found the facilitators did an outstanding job of both conveying the power of the theory, as well as the responsibility of applying the thinking in real world cases. I believe it would be easy to take a course on Systems Dynamics that would completely miss the mark, and focus on the mechanics. Sterman and Repenning were careful to frame the usefulness of the thinking, and demonstrate its applicability while teaching the participants how to manage the value in the model, the analysis and client engagements. I can't imagine a better source for this material. It would have been nice to have more time to discuss and debate with the other participants on the cases or our own experience, but that would then turn into a 2-week course! Thanks gentlemen, Neil.

    Exellent program. I could learn a lot and it will be very useful for my job.

    The program was a very good eye opener right from the start. A good healthy thinking is required during each session and the application to the manufacturing industry is strait forward. I strongly recommend this course for people in leadership position that are dealing with complex situation.

    I have never learned about anything in my life that is more useful than System Thinkings. A truly mind-blowing course!