T he System Archetypes are highly effective tools for gaining insight into patterns of behavior, themselves reflective of the underlying structure of the system being studied. The archetypes can be applied in two ways – diagnostically and prospectively. Diagnostically, archetypes help managers recognize patterns of behavior that are already present in their organizations. They serve as the means for gaining insight into the underlying systems structures from which the archetypal behavior emerges.
This is the most common use of the archetype. Archetypes are effective tools for beginning to answer the question, “Why do we keep seeing the same problems recur over time?” Archetypes are also useful prospectively for planning. As managers formulate the means by which they expect to accomplish their organizational ends, the archetypes can be applied to test whether policies and structures under consideration may be altering the organizational structure in such manner as to produce the archetypal behavior. If managers find this to be the case, they can take remedial action before the changes are adopted and embedded in the organization’s structure.