‘Structure’ represents the bones of a system.
All natural systems have frameworks that provide relatively fixed and unchanging support structures for more dynamic aspects of the system. Forests are based on the tall, enduring biological structure of trees. Higher animals have strong bone skeletons and lower animals like insects have rigid exoskeletons. Even relatively soft biological cells have cytoskeletons that maintain their structural integrity. What role do structures play within a system? Think about what an organisation would be like if its legal frameworks changed frequently or were removed altogether. Think also about what it would be like if these legal frameworks never changed and remained the same now as they were hundreds of years ago. How do unwritten, but well understood, codes of behaviour provide stability within families? When do these sorts of structures start to cause problems? How could you balance an existing Structure or integrate a new one into a system in your life to improve how it is organised? How do structures serve to organise systems?
Significance:The Structure Pattern represents the solid, relatively unchanging, frameworks, scaffolding or ‘bones’ of a system.
Role:The role of Structure is to support the more active and changeable aspects of systems.
Effect: Structure demonstrates the effectiveness of having enduring frameworks that support the more dynamic aspects of systems.
Balance:Structural frameworks, on the one hand, must be the most solid, unchanging, and enduring aspects of a system, but, on the other hand, they must also have some capacity for ready, if limited, flexibility.
The thick amber colored lines represent the solid and relatively fixed nature of structures and frameworks. The two inner shapes represent ‘parts’ that are encompassed by the larger oval into a ‘whole’ system. This basic part/whole configuration indicates the role of Structure as an Aspect of Source.
The enduring frameworks of systems.
The principle of effective frameworks:
The enduring health and evolution of any system depends on the appropriate balance and integration of:
- the structural capacity for rigidity with the ability for appropriate, if limited, flexibility,for a given context.
Structure is one of the 7 primary Aspects of Source, the most foundational Pattern in the PatternDynamics™ framework.
Nature: Organisms, Ecosystems, and Biosphere
Organism:All higher animals have interior structural frameworks called skeletons. Their job is to provide support for the rest of the components of the body. If the bones of a creature’s skeleton become too brittle and lose all flexibility, they may break too easily. If bones are too flexible and soft they will not be able to support the weight of the other elements of the body.
Inquiry: Is it a problem when bones lack an ability to flex enough to absorb and adjust to everyday stresses?
Ecosystem:Mangrove trees are the central structural element in tidal wetlands. They hold the shifting sands and sediments in place with their multi-stalked aerial root systems. Mangrove trees have evolved to provide enough structure to hold the more mobile components of the ecosystem in place, but they are not so rigid that they cannot flex in high winds or with tidal currents.
Inquiry: If Mangrove trees had more brittle stalks what might be the consequence for fish populations?
Culture: Individuals, Organisations, and Socio/Economic Systems
Organization:Companies are governed by organisational structures called constitutions. These documents provide the enduring framework of rules and regulations that shareholders, directors and executives agree to follow in participating in the dynamic operation of the business. If the corporate constitution changes too frequently or radically it may undermine the integrity of the agreements that allow people to work together effectively. If it is too rigid and does not possess the capacity for reasonable exceptions or small adjustments over time, the business may not be able to adapt to changing circumstances.
Inquiry: Should it generally be easy or hard to make changes to a company’s constitution?
Economy:All modern economies measure the level and success of their activities through financial frameworks called accounting systems. If accounting structures are changed arbitrarily or without good reason, it can lead to inaccurate financial reporting, misallocation of resources, and fraud. If accounting frameworks are too static and they are not changed at all over time, they may become irrelevant in an evolving economy.
Inquiry: Have some more radical changes to accounting standards caused problems in the past?