Scriptapedia/Presenting the Reference Mode

Presenting the Reference Mode

The purpose of this script is to propose and develop consensus on a reference mode after dynamics have been described by participants.


Best practice

Primary nature of group task:



Preparation time: 10 minutes

Time required during session: 30 minutes

Follow-up time: 0 minutes

Materials needed:

White or black board or flip chart with markers (or chalk) for drawing one or more reference modes


Dynamics identified from previous activity (e.g., graphs over time)


Reference modes


  • Modeler to introduce the concept of a reference mode and propose a reference mode for discussion
  • Facilitator to manage the conversation


  1. Prior to the exercise (e.g., during a break), the team meets to review the dynamics that have been identified during the previous session, and then identifies one more more dynamics as candidates for reference modes.
  2. The modeler then introduces the reference mode and presents one or more behavior over time graphs as the reference modes.
  3. The facilitator then asks participants if this is correct or we should be focusing on something else.
  4. As participants clarify their understanding of what a reference mode is and what is should be, the modeler redraws the reference mode.
  5. The facilitator ends the exercise when participants have reached consensus.

Evaluation Criteria:

  1. A reference mode has been identified.
  2. There is an initial consensus on what the dynamic problem is.
Example 1


David Andersen and George Richardson


Identifying a reference mode is a common activity. This script was based on a version of identifying a reference mode in Luna-Reyes et al. 2006.




Luna-Reyes, L. F., Martinez-Moyano, I. J., Pardo, T. A., Cresswell, A. M., Andersen, D. F., & Richardson, G. P. (2006). Anatomy of a group model-building intervention: Building dynamic theory from case study research. System Dynamics Review, 22(4), 291-320.


This exercise may reproduce or reinforce group power dynamics. As a way to reduce that possibility, taking time to allow all participants to speak can be a platform for open communication between individuals and subgroups.

If the group is not coming to a consensus you can either extend the session to be longer or wrap up the session summarizing the key ideas participants have been discussing, making sure as a facilitator that everyone feels included. The facilitator and modeler can be the best reference mode to move forward with based on what was discussed on the group model building session or take the ideas back to the core modeling team and may determine to have another session with participants, depending on the problem.