Abstract for:A Tale of Two Managers: testing mental models of an intractable business problem

A local office of a multinational consultancy company had been failing to meet its profit target over a period of six years despite the efforts of two managers. Using qualitative and quantitative modelling techniques following the system dynamics method, this paper focuses on exploring the mental models of the two managers. A bespoke method was devised to gather information about the two managersí mental models, which were then conceptualised using causal loop diagrams. These representations were then translated into stock and flow diagrams using an established framework to enable the models to be tested quantitatively. The results illustrated that the conceptual structures of the two managersí mental models could not explain why the real problem persisted. It was therefore concluded that the two managersí mental models could be considered inaccurate representations of the actual causal structure underlying the office business system. This was proposed as an explanation for why their policies were unsuccessful and the profit problem persisted despite their efforts. This paper provides insights for the company relevant to improving its performance, reassures the use of system dynamics for mental model interpretation, and contributes a case study to the evolving methodological discussion on mental model research practice.