Scriptapedia/Structure Elicitation

Structure Elicitation

This script is used to capture the key endogenous mechanisms elicited during a discussion that have the potential to explain the observed behaviors or dynamic hypotheses. This script is used after the break which follows the "Reference Mode Elicitation" script.


Best practices

Primary nature of group task:



Preparation time: 20 minutes

Time required during session: 90 minutes

Follow-up time: 0 minutes


  1. Chalk/whiteboard markers
  2. Flip chart/whiteboard


  • Prioritized list of variables
  • Behavior over time graphs (reference modes)


  • Basic stock and flow structure


  • Facilitator
  • Modeler


  1. During the break that follows the "Reference Mode Elicitation" script, the modeling team selects a couple of key behaviors from the reference mode elicitation exercise.
  2. The facilitator starts the structure elicitation by suggesting two stocks. The facilitator explains that these stocks are initial simplifications of the system.
  3. The facilitator asks the group to identify the variables that help to open or close the faucet of these two stocks. Participants suggest causal relations linked to these two initial stocks and their corresponding rates.
  4. The facilitator clarifies the nature of the causal relationships with the group while drawing them on the board.
  5. After adding a couple of variables and causal relations, the facilitator summarizes by telling the story embedded in the model so far. The facilitator then asks the group to add further causal explanations, stressing the importance of selective thinking about causality with the purpose of reaching a powerful and parsimonious explanation of the project success.

Evaluation Criteria:

  • A basic stock-flow structure has been produced
Example 1


Richardson and Andersen


Originally described in Luna-Reyes et al. (2006) and probably documented by Annaliese Calhoun in 2010.




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 script is based entirely on Luna-Reyes, et al.’s article. The main limitation of this script is the risk of having a discussion guided by the group facilitator. The main advantage is that it is flexible and easy to prepare. Initial aggregations can create conflict with the client group.

Usually, the facilitator or the reflector differentiates between detail complexity (many disaggregated processes) and feedback complexity (a rich feedback story with many loops), explaining that system dynamics modelers have found that it is much easier to increase the detail complexity once an appropriate level of feedback complexity has been reached than to increase feedback complexity when the desired level of detail complexity has been reached.

A very important element in the process is to write down (or erase) all group ideas on the board, even if they cannot be included easily as part of the feedback story.