Newspaper Column #13: Why do some problems defy, no, NOT change? – Part V

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on Sunday Jan 20, 2013 edition.

Change Happens at the Speed of Thinking about the Whole Rather than of Our Individual Parts

How did “Uncle solve the problem”?  Ignoring is not solving.

Should we see a fire at the corner of our house, caused say, by dry leaves, we know what to do.

We would find ways to put it out by cutting off the supply of oxygen that feeds the fire.  We can do that because our effort to correct it, i.e. beating it down with sticks, or throwing sand or water on it can be greater than the effort by the fuel that feeds the fire.  It is easy said and done.

But imagine this, if the fire is caused by a gas pipe from afar that is growing steadily in size and supplies fuel at a rate faster than the effort we can make to put it out.  Dousing it even with foam by fire engines, will not make much difference.  And, to make matters worse, we can’t see the pipe.  This is now easier said than done.

The thinking that says, “Put out the fire” stops working here.  It even becomes life threatening.

The thinking that says, “What is causing the fire?”, and deal with the cause, now becomes relevant to change.  Even lifesaving.


Many persistent issues of the day are like the second type of fire.  There are things happening, beyond what we can see (the obvious fire) that keeps ‘feeding the  issue’.  These keep bringing the problem back, stronger each time.

I find one murderer or rapist or fraudster or thief and put him behind bars.  That does not mean that another is not ‘being created’ somewhere else.

Any police (as well as military and judiciary) organizations in the world have not only existed but grown as much as they have today, because we have not asked the question, “What is causing the fire?”  At least not yet.

We had been with the question, “How do we put out the fire that we can see?”  It is a necessary correction but not a solution.  We would need to expect the problem to return despite our efforts.

There are tons more in every nation:  water shortages, health concerns, industrial growth, unemployment, destitution, labour conflicts, economic diversification (or its lack of), wildlife diseases, poaching, land use conflicts, food security, pollution, divorces, work productivity, HIV/AIDs epidemics, floods, droughts, debts, household income levels, crop production, just to name a few are examples of persistent issues.  These are issues political parties everywhere find ways to pick bones with each other and feed off its fire.

The story of the mother-in-law (MIL) and daughter-in-law (DIL) (The full ‘Healing Poison’ story first appeared in the column on Jan 13, 2013), is a classic example of the second kind of fire.

We find the story of MIL-DIL resonate the world over.  They do not share the same MIL or DIL, but they share the same story.   They do not enjoy a relationship the way they do with their own mothers or daughters which typically grows better over time.  In some societies, they may even go so far as to kill off each other.  Literally.  In others, we avoid this phenomenon altogether by choosing not to marry at all.

But choosing to ignore it (e.g. staying apart), does not mean the problem is solved.  It may  postpone it by “sweeping it under the carpet”.  But that does not mean the problem is gone.  Should we “lift the carpet”, the problem is still there.  Just out of sight.  For now.

In the story, we know the uncle solved the problem.  Quietly but surely.  What would you say he did to keep it solved?  Last week we explored the metaphor of the boiled frog and we said,

“For frogs to be boiled, the frogs must not know they are being boiled.

For change to happen (completely), change must not know it is happening.”

So, the uncle, boiled “the frogs” between MIL and DIL.  What would you say he was boiling?  Did you say their attitudes?  Yes, you are right!

How did he do that?  Remember, he was not even ‘at the scene of the crime’?  How did he manage to change their attitudes, without managing (think performance management, coaching, mentoring, etc.) their performance?

And I mentioned there were ten things that happened in the story between MIL and DIL  In this edition we will explore a few of them.  What were they?

No judgment

Most uncles, should the DIL complain to him about MIL, would either take things in his hand and set up a terse meeting with the MIL or take the DIL to task and say, that’s not how a DIL should behave and then set the rules.

How about this uncle?  He says, “You want to kill MIL?  Wait here, we will do it together!”

Should he have judged the DIL, it would have been quite easy for the DIL to say, “Wrong uncle!  Go need to find the right one.”

What allowed him not to judge either side?  Notice he paid less attention to what they said or did but rather to look for the vicious cycle that has now taken over and is ruling their lives viciously.  He needed to find a way to ‘heal the circle of causality’ and turn it around.  When the cycle turns around (cycles are both good and bad news), the events go away themselves.   That’s the healing in the “Healing Poison” story.

Start small

Notice he created steps not to ‘jerk’ the system for a quick correction.  Cycles do not respond to such corrections.  Events may.  But not cycles.  Should he have called for an urgent meeting, ‘the frogs would have jumped out’.  They would have either absconded the meeting or appears and agrees but does not carry out the actions (it is the same as absconding) to full.

He needed to boil their attitudes to change.  To do so, he had to start small.  How small was it?  As small as a smile.  The longer the cycle had been running, the smaller the action needs to be, to reverse the effects of the cycle.  That’s the nature of causality.

Work smart with delays

The uncle devised a way for the DIL to continue with the act of smiling.  To do so, he tricked her into believing that if she did not do carry out the act for six months, or tried to change things too quickly, somebody might suspect it is her.

Why?  This is to allow, the timed needed for changes in the story to lead on in ways that give the people the choice to make their own change, as a result of changes that are happening to them by their realities.

Of course, the change between MIL and DIL will happen even faster when the two can see the circular causality that is causing them to run in circles.  Just as the uncle could “see it”.  Change will then happen in a snap!  That’s how fast change can really be.  But till we see the cycle, the change has not changed yet.

What do you think are the remaining seven things that happened in the story?

Next week, we open a brand new subject and deepen these lessons in turn.  We will explore HIV/AIDs and what causes its viral nature regardless of anywhere in the world, be it India, China, Europe, America or here in Africa.

Meanwhile, google its behaviour of growth over time.  Go back to the 1980s.  What do you notice?  Has it been stubborn?  “What is causing the fire?”  What does the gas pipe look like?  And we know, it is not the truck drivers.  Yet they do make an interesting metaphor for the cause.  Smile.

Wishing you a great week ahead of discovery and learning.

Ms Sheila Damodaran, from Singapore works as a national Strategy Development Consultant working with national planning commissions.  She welcomes comments at  For upcoming programmes, refer to

Newspaper Column #12: Why do some problems defy, no, NOT change? – Part IV

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on Sunday Jan 20, 2013 edition.

Change Happens at the Speed of Thinking about the Whole Rather than of Our Parts

What causes the change to stay changed?

If we have managed change and it has happened, it should not go back to its old ways.  Yes?

If it does, then, change, as the meaning of the word stands, really has not happened.  And there is a reason.  We have not yet understood how change happens.

Over the past two editions of this column, we ran a story of the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and with the uncle’s help; we saw the relationship between the two turn from that which was sour and ugly to one where they have now became the best of friends.

Here’s a before and after summary of that story.

Mindset “All mother-in-laws (MIL) are bad!”“All daughter-in-laws (DIL) are here to rob me of my family’s wealth” “Mother-in-law can be my friend”“What great DIL I have!  What would we do without her?”
Structure:  MIL-DIL1   MIL-DIL2
Pattern of quality of their  relationship over time MIL_Graph1 MIL_Graph2
  • Gets upset with each other
  • Slamming of doors
  • DIL washes her own laundry
  • MIL does cooking for herself
  • MIL sits down and has tea with DIL
  • Both go for shopping and movies together
  • They have picnics with both their families

I left you with a question at the end of that story.  How did the story help to bring about the changes in their situation?

Here’s a quick summary of the story:

As DIL began to smile at her MIL every night while she served her with a hot cup of milk, and MIL drank the milk it led MIL to feel more energized over time.  As a result, things began to look up for the MIL who returns favour by cooking supper for her DIL.  This leads to a chain of reactions that eventually sees the boss of the DIL praising her for a job well done with promises of a job promotion.

As things began to look up for DIL, she returns the favour to MIL by spring-cleaning the whole hose.  When the MIL returns, she could not believe her eyes how all of their lives have transformed in a short four months and decides to call it truce between them.  I left the story at the point MIL sitting down with DIL on the verandah enjoying their tea together.

How did a story that was going nowhere except horribly wrong (think crop or animal wipeouts, or budget deficits, or unemployment, or destitute not graduating or crimes not abating) turn around and as we speak enjoy a splendid outcome with all signs that anything from the past is now no more.  How was that possible?  What caused it?

Question is what caused the circle to stay turned around?

The Boiled Frog

Have you heard of the parable of the “boiled frog”?  It is a metaphor that is very commonly used in Systems Thinking circles to understand how change happens in reality and to appreciate why corporates and nations die-off suddenly or what causes them to grow from strength-to-strength.  In fact, we can’t appreciate systemic thinking without first appreciating this concept.

Boiling Frog

Boiling Frog (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Many changes when they start, is not sudden or abrupt as many of us believe.  They start very slowly and changes are often not perceptible on our radars and sometimes even dismissed off as one-off events.  And yet, these small changes over time, often build themselves up eventually to crisis-level proportions.

It is a maladaptation on our part to recognize gradually building threats.  Our minds and bodies are typically conditioned to see and react when a fire has become large.  Not when it starts small.

How do we boil a frog?  Yes, a frog!  Not quite the ones we see around here.  But the green slippery, wet species that live in water (not sand).  Because if we attempted to catch them, they slip through our fingers.  Literally.  If we attempted to throw them in hot water, they jump off easily.  So how then do we boil them (I did not ask, how do we eat them, smile).

Well, to boil them (like any change), it has start with where the frog is.  They are cold-blooded animals and so when we place them in water, we place them in a cold pot of water.  They sit there quietly.  They are comfortable there.  And then?

Well, then, we start with ONE piece of hot firewood.  Place it under the pot.  And since, it is only one piece; the water does not boil over suddenly.  It boils gradually.  So gradual that it allows the frog to adapt itself to the new temperature.  It thinks to itself, “Haa … winter is over and spring has finally come.”  But it sits in the pot.  It does not jump out.

And then we bring on another piece of firewood.  Again, the temperature in the pot rises gradually, but persistently.  The frog has time to adapt again to its gradually changing surroundings.  It even says to itself, “Summer is already here”.  But it stays put in the pot.

And then, we bring on another piece of firewood.  What do you think, the frog will say this time?  You guessed it right! “Summer is really, really hot this times, is it not?”  But it had time to adapt again.   It is becoming groggy.  But it stays put on the land, I mean, in the pot.

And when we bring on finally one more piece of firewood, well … the water is now boiling but the same frog that had first jumped out of the hot water when we first threw in it, continues to stay there.  It does nothing.  What has happened to it?

Well, it did not even know …. well, you know, died!

Why?  Because the frog’s internal apparatus for sensing threats to survival is geared to sudden changes in his environment, not to slow, gradual changes.  As a result, it did not react, and it got boiled.

Just as earth’s atmosphere when it warmed gradually over from the 70s nobody (on earth) thought much of it, because it was gradual and we adapted without being aware we were doing so.  It was sub-conscious.  While, we boiled (literally, sometimes), like the frog, the change too for the atmosphere, was boiling slowly, just like the frog in the parable.

For frogs to be boiled, the frogs must not know they are being boiled.

For change to happen, change must not know it is happening.

So, was the uncle, boiling “the frogs” between MIL and DIL?  What was he boiling?  Did you say their attitudes? Sure, you are right?

How did he do that?  Remember, he was not even ‘at the scene of the crime’?  How did he manage change, without managing (think performance management, coaching, mentoring, etc.) it?

There were ten things that happened in the story between MIL and DIL (refer to the story in the column’s edition dated Sunday Standard, Jan 13, 2013) that made the change possible.  What were they?

This will make a great supper discussion with your own family, would it not?  That will be the subject of discussion in Part V of this instalment.

Psst …. Are you still wondering what came of the liquid in the bottle?  Well, the uncle admits later.  It was not actually poison.  It was Vitamin C.  Yes!  So the MIL is not only having a great relationship with her DIL, she is also now in the pink of health!  Smile.

Wishing you a great week ahead of discovery and learning.  Don’t forget the question?  What were ten things that happened in the story between MIL and DIL that brought about a change in their lives?

Ms Sheila Damodaran, from Singapore and based here, is an international Strategy Development Consultant working with national planning commissions tasked with national strategy development.  She welcomes comments at  For upcoming programmes, refer to

Newspaper Column #11: Why do some problems defy, no, NOT change? – Part III

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on Sunday Jan 13, 2013 edition.

Change Happens at the Speed of Thinking about the Whole rather than of Our Part

What causes change to be real?  Understanding it with a story: “The Healing Poison”

Hope all of you had fabulous New Year festivities with family loved ones!  And of course, wishing all of you a bright and promising year in 2013!

Just before Christmas, this column began running the story of the uncle, the daughter-in-law and mother-in-law.  Over the holidays, I had many of you asking how does the story end.  I am sure you have figured how it ends!

It was meant to illustrate how we turn around and solve persistent issues.  These are issues that resist efforts to change.   In short, for any causality cycle that is vicious, are they unemployment or greening the country or HIV or crime.

Well, here’s a recap of the beginning of that story.

The Story

Both daughter-in-law (DIL) and mother-in-law (MIL) started their relationship with each other really well.  As we all do.  Except over time, they find themselves in an increasingly difficult relationship!  That happens too.

In frustration, the DIL shares her problem with her favorite uncle.  She now believes if she gets rid of MIL, she would have got rid of the problem.  She has come to her uncle to seek for help on how to get rid of her MIL.

The uncle advises her, giving her first a small bottle with some liquid inside, that she drops two drops of it in a hot cup of milk and present the cup of milk to her MIL.  She must make sure that MIL drinks one cup for every night for the next six months.

And when she hands the cup of milk to her MIL, she must do so, with a smile.  He assured her that by the end of six months, the MIL will be gone.

So, what do you think happened next?

Well, as difficult as it was now to smile at her MIL, the DIL had been so bent on getting rid of the problem; she decides to put the plan to action right away.

That night, just before her MIL approached her bed-time, she carefully boiled a cup of milk on the stove, dropped the two drops of the liquid her uncle gave her and she proceeded to her MIL’s room.

On the way, she spots a mirror, preens into it and tests her smile in the reflection.  Happy with what she saw, she then knocks on the door and steps into her MIL’s room.  With a smile.  Just as the uncle prescribed it!

She then says, “MIL, I have prepared a hot cup of milk for you.  I know how tired you must be after a hard day at work for all of us.  Please drink it.

Being her first night at this, she left the cup of milk next to the MIL’s bedside and quickly walked out of the room.  Except, she was not sure, if the MIL actually drank it.  She could not sleep the whole night.

The next day, she made her way back to her MIL’s room.  To check.  True enough.  The MIL had drunk the milk.

MIL had been tired and so she actually welcomed the drink.  When she drank she had a restful sleep.

Smiling quietly, the DIL thinks, “Good one night down, six more months to go!”  And so, the DIL resolves to make this a nightly ritual with her MIL for the next six months.

So, what do you think happened next?

Well, let’s switch the story over to MIL.  What does she see?  She sees her DIL present the cup of milk with a smile.  And when she drinks it, she finds her sleep improves and she now sleeps like a baby.  When she gets up in the morning, she is refreshed.

Over time, as her body rejuvenates, she finds herself completing the daily chores in a jiffy and even finds time to spend with her two grandchildren. In the past, she would feel tired to do so, but these days she enjoys their time together.

A few weeks later, as her moods begin to lift, she decides to gather a group of her close friends to dabble in her favourite past time – a round of cards.  And because she sleeps better, she finds herself concentrating better on the game and soon learns to win better with each try.

Since they play for the money, after just a few weeks, she was learning to bring home a tidy sum of money.   A few months on, she was actually, bringing in 500 pula each time!  She was overjoyed.  This was at month No. 2.

One afternoon, as she sipped her tea on the veranda, she began to realize that life indeed seems to feel different.  She is energized these days and she is now enjoying her time with family and friends and she wondered, what caused it.

She then realized things had begun to change, from the time her DIL started giving her the cup of milk.  She felt grateful for the action.  And then, there is something about when our attitudes go up by themselves, our willingness to return that favour on our volition (choice), goes up too.

The next day, she decides she should return the favour to DIL.  So that evening, when the DIL returns home, tired and hungry from work, she spots a hot piping supper on the table.  She could not believe her eyes!

The MIL comes out of the kitchen and says to her, “I have prepared this meal for you.  Do have it.”  The MIL then pops back into the kitchen.  Out of gratitude, the DIL sits down at the table, to have the meal.  When the MIL comes out a few minutes later, she notices that the DIL has accepted the meal.  She feels happy, and decides she will continue to make the meal for her DIL.

So, what do you think happened next?

Well, the DIL finds she does not need to make supper, she decides to use that time to help her children with their schoolworks.  And because the mother has time to inspire their learning, the children find it easier to focus in the classroom, and soon find their grades improve.

When the grades began to grow, the mother finds herself better able to focus at the workplace.  With improved focus, she finds herself diligent not just completing but also leading her work.  When the boss notices the change in her, he is pleased and says to her, “Keep that up, and you will be promoted”.  This was now month No. 4.

The DIL could not believe her ears!  The boss had always been on her back, but these days, he is talking about her promotion!  What happened?  Her relations in the family and at work are improving and she has never been happier.  What caused it, she wonders.

She then realizes that things began to change, when her MIL began to prepare her supper.  She felt grateful for the action.  And then, there is something about when our attitudes go up by themselves, our willingness to return that favour on our volition (choice), goes up too.

The next day, DIL decides, she should return that favour to MIL.  MIL is already out of the house, playing cards with her friends.  When she returns, with now 900 pula in her pockets and she crosses the threshold into the house, a gasp escapes her lips.  She notices a very clean and tidy house!  DIL has cleaned the whole house and she is stunned by its beauty.  She says to herself, “What a great DIL  I have!”

As she moves around admiring the newly spanked home, she begins to wonder to herself, “Why are we still quarrelling?”

And then she decides (herself), she is going to change things once and for all.

She quickly goes to the kitchen, boils two cups of tea and proceeds to look for her DIL.  When she finds her, she sits down with her, and with a smile she asks, “Shall we call it truce?”

The DIL was delighted, of course!  ….

What do you think happened next?  Have things changed?  For good?

This concept of managing change is new to most of us.  We could escape ourselves by miring in addictions or resign to stay in depressions, but there is another way.   And it can start with anyone or anywhere.

As we learn to see and turn the cycle around, the cycle takes over and helps to create new experiences that are felt by its participants.  This gives birth to new attitudes from within the participants and therefore these lead to new actions by the participants themselves.

Since it is led by experiences that are real for them rather than suggested or set for them, the change will not revert.

Otherwise, nothing would have changed, would it?

Do you remember how it all started?  Question is, what caused the change?  What caused the circle to turn around?

This will make a great supper discussion with your own family, would it not?  That will be the subject of discussion in Part IV of this instalment.

Psst …. Did you ask you want to know what came of the liquid in the bottle?  That’s coming next week!  Smile.

Wishing you a great week ahead of discovery and learning.

Ms Sheila Damodaran, originally from Singapore, is an international Strategy Development Consultant focussed on assisting national commissions tasked with strategy development.  She welcomes comments at  For upcoming programmes, refer to

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Newspaper Column #10: Why do some problems defy, no, NOT change? – Part II

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday Dec 23, 2012 edition.

Seeing the Trees and the Forest

If the problem is solved, it should not come back.  Period!  We would be seeing results.

If it recurs, then this is a sign that we have not solved it.  Yet.  Period!

Last week, we ran a story of the occurrence (an event) of 9/11, and then we learned it was actually a re-ocurrence (pattern) of an issue that has now become persistent or as we say, stubborn.  The event was not meant to be one-off.

Of course, we know that now.

The more one ‘did this’, the more the other ‘did that back’, which in turn led one to ‘do this’ and so on (see figure).  Similar stories run between the eastern and the western worlds.  Between locals and foreigners, between husband and wife, families, neighbours, communities, organizations, nations, between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, and so on.  You can substitute A and B for any of the above, and it will explain its recurrence.  Try it.

Reinforcing Loop

The purpose of the recurrences is to point to the need to learn of another way to solve stubborn problems.  We learn these by watching its behaviour over time, even before our lifetimes.

Characteristics of vicious cycles

Firstly, the more the cycle runs viciously, the more it becomes expensive.  Think the 2008 economic global recession.  Some would say, we are still feeling its effects, today in 2012.

In circular causality there is NO starting or ending points.  The root cause has a cause.  I know this defies everything we have learned.  This reasoning is important as it will help us appreciate that the starting point is not in any one part of the cycle.

For example, the thinking rainfall causes vegetation is part true.  It is part true, because, vegetation too in turn causes rainfall.  This can also mean we cannot get away by saying that the developed countries have ‘caused’ global warming.  Their TVs and phones are in our homes.  If we did not demand for them, they would not have been producing it.

But unlike a wheel that retards on friction, this one gathers its strength with each iteration of the cycle.  It grows stronger.

The land appears drier.  More youths walk on the streets for jobs.  More adults succumb to HIV.  School grades continue to decline.  Couples divorce.  Addictions increase.  Crime and corruption increases.  And so on.  It is now behaving like a bullet that has just been released from its gun.  It continues to stay on its course and resist our efforts to change it until we are able to see and learn to work with the cycle as a whole.

Yet, separately, both sides would find it difficult to see the interwoven and vicious nature of this circle of causality between the two.

It was obviously difficult for ‘Bush and Bin Laden’ to sit side-by-side with each other, to see for themselves this non-stopping (and vicious) nature of this cycle that keeps all of us in a spin.  It is still difficult today.  It happens to the best of us.  Often, we become too busy either looking out at ourselves or at the other party.  Yet, till we do so, the issue remains unresolved.

Ten years on, from 2011, we now know that this is true.  How about ten years from today?

Lastly, the trick is not about working at it harder.  We have done so exactly that since biblical times.  Having said so, it will be difficult to appreciate this failure, in just seeing our lifetime of experiences.

The solution

But if this circle of causality is the real culprit, then blaming any one side of it will really not solve the problem.  While we could blame the people or government or a sector separately for our woes, we really do so because it is the easier way out.  It is easy because it is the part of the circle of causality that is obvious to us.  We are usually oblivious to the rest of the the circle of causality.

Blaming is therefore not a solution.

Can vicious cycles of causality turn around by itself?  No!

It is like a wheel that has been set into motion.  Like a bullet released from the gun.  It does not reverse its course on its own.

To solve it, first the circle needs to become more obvious to our perceptions.

The solution to this interwoven complexity then lies in working with the interwoven nature of the problem as a whole.  Not directly at the problem per se or parts of the causality.

How do we do then treat these vicious cycles?

Here’s a story to illustrate how this may be done.  This is Part I.  Part II will be presented in the next insert.

The title of the story is, “The Healing Poison”.

A Story

This daughter-in-law (DIL) finds herself in a difficult relationship with her mother-in-law (MIL) (see figure)!

She (DIL) had done everything possible to try and bridge the gap between the two, except the more she tried, the worse their relationship seems to become.  She has now arrived at a point where she has concluded that “The problem is mother-in-law (MIL).  So, if I wish to get rid of the problem, then all I have to do is to get rid of mother-in-law”.

Except, it was not easy, to get rid of MIL.  The more she tried, the more she worried that somebody might suspect it was her.  One afternoon at wits end, as she sat down to rest, she suddenly thought of her favourite uncle.  Someone, whom as she grew up took care of her problems for her and she gas come to respect him for his wisdom.  She decided, she should pay him a visit the very next day to seek help to her current problem.

The uncle was delighted to see her.  As they settled down, she starts talking.  “What is happening?” asks the uncle.  The DIL spills her beans.  So when the uncle asks, “What do you want to do?”, she shares that she’s arrived at this conclusion that should we get rid of the MIL, the problem will be solved!  The uncles probes and asks, so “What do you want me to do about this?”  She quips, “I would like you to help me get rid of MIL!”

“I see.  Wait here”, says the uncle.

A few minutes later, he pops back and this time, he is holding a small bottle with some liquid inside.  He then adds, “Here’s what you need to do.  Every day, drop two drops of this liquid, in a hot cup of milk.  Present the cup of milk to her, one for every night for the next six months, and make sure that she drinks it.”

“Well, that’s easy.  Is there anything else I have to do?”, asks the DIL.

“Yes, there is one more thing you have to do.”  “What is that?” she asks.

“Well,” adds the uncle.  “Every night, when you present the milk to your MIL, you must make sure that you smile.  Because if you do not, somebody might suspect it was you.”

Hmm …. that’s going to be tough.  To smile.  “Are you sure she will be gone, at the end of six months?”  “Yes!”, assured the uncle.” “Well, in that case, I shall do it!”

On that note, the uncle hands the bottle to her and wishes her well.  As the DIL turns quickly to walk back home, you could almost detect a twinkle in the uncle’s eye and a smile on his lips!

Could the uncle see the circle of causality between the two?  Does he see the trees and the forest at the same time?  How about the DIL?  The MIL?  How do you think the story would end?

These will be the subject of discussion of this column in the new year.  Happy discovering and learning with your family and friends over the holidays!

Merry Christmas and of course, wishing you ahead, may everything you wish for, become real for you in the New Year!

Ms Sheila Damodaran, an international strategy development consultant for national planning commissions, welcomes comments at  For upcoming programmes, refer to

Newspaper Column #9: Why do some problems defy, no, NOT change? – Part I

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday Dec 16, 2012 edition.

Dynamic Complexity vs. Detail Complexity

We face problems daily.  And, we do not doubt our ability to deal with them.

Sometimes, this confidence can pull wool over our heads that we can deal even with the stubborn ones, in much the same way.  We would say to ourselves, just work harder.  We will overcome it.

Stubborn problems are issues that despite efforts to manage or contain it, while it first they may look like they are relenting, the results are short-lived (two-to-three years).  And, then it comes back again, this time harder and faster.

For example, in our efforts to survive arid conditions, we engage in pastoral farming.  Except, over time, such practices wipe out the greens (as when livestock consume grass) that would otherwise encourage rainfall.  In some countries, this means it gets only summer rainfall.  This causes conditions to become arid even further.

Notice, however, when droughts strike, they wipe out the livestock numbers.  This is an attempt by the system to do a correction, so as to recover itself.  The correction by the system is usually not that visible to us.  We now have a stubborn problem in our hands.

Can you tell, who comes across as more stubborn?

Can you tell, who comes across as more stubborn?

I am sure you can think of lots of other examples of stubborn problems.  Economic growth declines.  Lack of wage increases.  Divorce rates.  Rainfall levels and/or water tables (Nov/Dec 2012 series of this column).  New HIV/AIDs infection (coming in Jan 2013).  Unemployment (October 2012 series).  National school grades.  Performance in agriculture, manufacturing and retail sectors.  Economic diversification.  Crime.  Obesity.  Diabetes.  Road accidents.  Poaching.  Budget deficits.  Wars.  These are some, among others.

Firstly, the stubborn nature in such issues is usually not that easily visible at the onset, till we have had to face them for years on end, sometimes even decades.  It escapes our attention even for the best of us when tasked to manage them for the short-term (three-to-five years).

As legislatures, managers and enforcers we believe in the power of our word or our hands and feet to make a difference to such problems.  We become effective at doling out corrections each time the problem surfaces.

And when we fail to do so, it looks like project implementation is not taking off or the officer or the function is not performing well.  The enemy is out there.  Or, we may sometimes, shrug them off as ‘things that are beyond our borders and therefore our control’.

Where such problems exist, managing one time occurrences are easy.  Recurrence makes them tough.

Two kinds

However, to understand why such problems resist change, we need to first understand what causes their persistence.  To do so, it helps to appreciate that there are two kinds of complexity.  Detail and dynamic complexity.

Most organizations (and professions) are designed to deal with the first kind.  Detail complexity.  As it would be, when one “drills down”.  How many baskets did we sell last month?  What was our profit this year?  How many permits did we issue?  How many crimes were committed?

We are not quite organized to deal with the second.  What causes sales or profits to keep falling?  Or why does crime keep rising?

But first, what does the word complexity mean here?  The dictionary says “it consists of related parts” (as in composites) or “complicated” (as in a complex problem).

But it is perhaps the Latin word “complexus” from which this word derives its meaning that sets it apart for us.  It says “embracing, interwoven”.

To see the interwoven nature of a problem, it would require our minds to “zoom out” from the problem.  However, our years of drilling our minds down to details, makes the experience of letting go of the problem to see its dynamic nature, a new and rather anxious one for many of us.  It is understandable.

However, when we do not see the interwoven nature of these issues, it makes some of the most persistent issues of the day, well … remain stubborn.   Yet the solutions to some of our most pressing issues lie in learning to see and work with this interwoven nature.  There is no easy way out.  No shortcuts.  No magic pill.  Unfortunately.

First, let’s see what the interwoven nature of a problem would look like.

Interwoven nature of reality

We shall use an example.

Let’s go back to 2001.  9/11: The day when the two planes hit the World Trade Centre.  Notice what happened.  Overnight, airports around the world responded in exactly the same way.  First stunned.  And then a mad scramble to ‘shore its security’.  Yes?

Overnight, we saw passengers snake their way over two-hour waits to security screens.  No belt, shoe or stone were left unturned.  Do you remember those days?

One passenger underwent several levels of security screenings.  A typical airport would have thousands of passengers passing through its doors in a single day.  In a month or in a year, we would say well, that was a lot of work!

What would you call that kind of complexity?  This is what we refer to as ‘Detail Complexity’.

Most professions and performance management systems have their focus on this.

Systemic Thinking on the other hand, focusses its attention on ‘Dynamic Complexity’.

Let’s go back to the same context.

To find the dynamic complexity we start by asking, ‘why did we do what we did’?  Why did we build those screens?

Well we say it was important to do that so as to ‘weed the terrorists out’.

Yet, should we go across to “the enemy”, and ask the question, “From your view, who would you say, is the terrorist?”  What do you think would be their answer?  Did somebody whisper, “The other side”.  You bet!

So what do you notice?

Can you see what causes its recurrence?  Some might add, the recurrence has been happening since biblical times.  If so, will doing ‘corrections’ by one side acting on the other’ ever put a stop to the other side doing its corrections to us?   We know, that will not stop the problem.  And continuing to fight ‘the other side’, becomes very expensive.

But notice this dynamic complexity view becomes clearer to see when we zoom away from the bustle of managing the activities at the airports.

Why is it important to see this inter-relationship?  How then, do we handle such problems?  How do we handle Dynamic Complexities?

This will be the subject of the 2nd part of this article.

Ms Sheila Damodaran, an international strategy development consultant for national planning commissions welcomes comments at  For upcoming programmes, refer to

Newspaper Column #8: Have Greens, Will Rain! – Part V

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday Dec 9, 2012 edition.

Actions have consequences

When we bring a bowser to a place that needs water, is that a solution to, or a relief from the problem?

The test will be, if that’s the only time we have had to do it.  Then it is a solution.  Otherwise, it is a measure to stop the gap.  But the gap remains there.

To take care of recurrent (persistent) nature of water shortages of a nation, we would have to take care of the water cycle.  The whole cycle.  Not parts of it (as excerpted from Part IV of this series).

Except the truth is, most of us and organizations, be they units, departments, sometimes even whole Ministries are not designed to do so.  We work at best in parts.  And, as citizens, we have not mandated anyone to do so, otherwise.  Not as yet.

This allows stubborn problems to slip away from our focus, but they return to haunt us (you and I) more deeply each year.  It is a reminder of work to be done as yet.

The water cycle is one example of circles of causality, we have been ignoring for decades.  There are many more.

Nature of cycles

The cycle can go two ways (see Picture 1).


They could either reinforce positively or negatively.  When the cycle reinforces positively, we would see the world around us look more like the Amazons.  When the same cycle reinforces the other way, we would see the Sahara unfold right in front of our eyes.  The outcomes may be different.  But the circular causality is the same.  The difference is in knowing which way the cycle is reinforcing for us?

Causes of reality

In the last article, I left a question:  What are the consequences of the following actions on the water cycle?  Run a test against the cycle.  (see Table 1)

Table 1: What are the impacts over time of the following actions on the water cycle?

Action Plan Given and constraints Consequence Impact
Growing drought-resistant varieties of crops? Given there are already large-scale existence of drought-resistant plants that we grow in our gardens, and as vegetation and forests on the land. Persistent growth of such varieties cause persistent reduction of transpiration by plants and therefore the atmospheric moisture in the region Negative.  Would see reduced levels of rainfall and water tables over time
Producing livestock that depend on greens? When number of livestock exceeds carrying capacity of the land, it leads animals (including wildlife) to consume greens at rates faster than at which they may rejuvenate. Sees wipe outs of greens and humus in the topsoil needed to see sustained growth of vegetation leading to non-sustainable levels of transpiration. Negative.  Would see reduced levels of rainfall and water table over time
Production of brews? It can take up to ten cans of water to produce one can of beer.   When the consumption of water exceeds the water table recharge levels, it causes the distance between the topsoil and the water table to increase. Sees wipe outs of greens and humus in the topsoil needed to see sustained growth of vegetation.  The land appears drier, leading to non-sustainable levels of transpiration. Negative.  Would see reduced levels of rainfall and water table over time
Drilling or deepening of boreholes? When the rate of extraction of water table exceeds recharge levels, it causes the gaps between topsoil and the water table to increase. Sees wipe outs of greens and humus in the topsoil needed to see sustained growth of vegetation.  The land appears drier, leading to non-sustainable levels of transpiration. Negative.  Would see reduced levels of rainfall and water table over time
Presence of dams? One dam-full of water could see up to two-thirds of its water evaporate from its surfaces. The rate of evaporation is too fast unlike the more organic pace of transpiration by plants.  The land appears drier, leading to non- sustainable levels of transpiration. Negative.  Would see reduced levels of rainfall and water table over time

What do you notice?  While our actions were intended to be a response to declining water tables, continuing to take these actions, actually deepens the decline even further!

And as we do so, rainfall levels pushes downwards further.  On the surface, it would look like as if public and private sector initiatives and project implementation efforts are not taking off (see Table 2).

Table 2: What are the consequences (from over 20, 30, 40 year periods ago) of a negatively reinforcing water cycle on the following?

Growing of crops and raw materials (primary industries)  Negative
Food security  Negative
Sustained growth of secondary industries  Negative
Sustained growth of tertiary industries  Negative
Capacity to diversify and develop a manufacturing base  Negative
Competitiveness / Growth of profit margins of retail sector organizations  Negative
Growth of tax revenues from agriculture, manufacturing &  retail sectors  Negative
Growth of wages  Negative
Growth of employment in the formal sectors  Negative
Growth of household incomes  Negative

The reality is not merely at the mercy of the terrains we live in.  They are also the consequences of our actions.

What is happening?

While these cycles are natural systems, they are leading us (yes, even the humans within the system) to take decisions, that reinforce the direction the cycle is already heading into.  It is the self-seeking nature of the cycle that causes that to us.

Unknown to us, our thinking is now becoming set within these cycles.  It happens to the best of us.

It is easy to blame organizations out there.  It is harder to blame our thinking here.  Systemic Thinking offers a way to catch ourselves being trapped in such thinking.

So, should we take off from the next corporate retreat with a solution that we come up with, or would we need to first uncover together the circle of causality that keeps returning these problems to us?

You are right!  We need to be mindful of the latter.

What would we need to do, to solve the problem of water shortages then?  The clue is in the circle of causality (see Picture 2).


Take another look at the cycle the parts before “Level of Rainfall” (bottom right corner).  What do you see is leading up to it?  Does it say “Level of vegetation and (top right corner) and further up in the cycle, “levels of surface and underground moisture”?

That becomes a systemic solution.  “Have more greens, will rain more”.

This is the final segment of this five part series of this article.   In the New Year, we will work on understanding the persistent nature of HIV, its causes and its effects and how we may turn it around.

Ms Sheila Damodaran, an international strategy development consultant for national planning commissions welcomes comments at  For upcoming programmes, refer to

Newspaper Column #7: Have Greens, Will Rain! – Part IV

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday December 2, 2012 edition.

All is not what it seems

So was your answer similar to or different from that of your friends?

In last week’s discussion (Part III) we saw gradual increases in rainfall levels rose levels of vegetation as well.   Vegetation begins to grow in sustained ways.

Still, this is linear thinking.  Rainfalls cause vegetation.  As farmers, most of us know this.

However, the key to understanding persistent or stubborn issues such as water shortages is when we see causality as a cycle (Part II).  At this point, the thinking shifts from linear to being systemic.

So, I left you with a question to complete the process of thinking.

Should levels of vegetation (along with surface waters) increase, what do you think will be their consequence on rainfall levels?

Would we see declining levels of rainfall? Or could such levels increase (gradually) over time?  Which types of vegetation would encourage rainfalls?  And which ones don’t?

Check if you got the following answer.  I am sure you did!

This is a story over time.

As more plants consume water and we see vegetation grow over time, we will begin to see a genre of plants that are broadleaved.  As more of such plants thrive on the lands, such plants transpire water vapour into the atmosphere.

The more persistent are those levels, the higher the likelihood of levels of atmospheric moisture rising across the region.  However, one plant, one hose-pipe or one dam does not make that change happen.  Instead one would have to imagine, miles and miles of such vegetation happening across the region.


What do you think will be the result?

The higher atmospheric moisture now begins to encourage precipitation and eventually rainfall.  Hence my title here, “have greens will rain”.

Positive Cycle

For rains to fall from above, it needs to figure a way to move from the earth’s surface to the atmosphere.  Surface waters and vegetation when they come together facilitates that process.  We as humans are parts of that instrument.  The result will be more levels of rainfall over time.

Additionally, as more plants grow out their life cycle, at the end of their life, they decompose and add nutrients to the earth.  This is key in helping the soil transform gradually from sandy to become loamy.  The land learns to become greener.  Potentially, we could even see the desert turn on its back.

As the supply of available water increases, cost of using it, will usually come down.  The reverse (Part I) is also true.  When the supply diminishes, the cost goes up.  Unfortunately, we will not be able to push these prices down, till we figure a way to increase its supply.  The answer can start in our backyards.  Literally, for everyone.

So, increased levels of vegetation, raises the levels of rainfall.  That’s your cycle (see Picture 2)!  In this case we refer to them as virtuous cycles.


The reverse is also true.

Negative Cycle

When plants do not consume water (see also Picture 2), over time, they gradually learn to do the opposite of all of the above, as they fight or adapt to stay alive.

These adaptations may include developing layers of wax or hairs on the leaves and stems or shrinking the size of its leaves to become thorns.  This is intended to prevent water losses so as to keep the water for themselves. This runs contrary to the nature of water, which is to flow.  These plants have adapted the inherent nature of water for its survival.  It does so at the expense of the system (or we say it has become individualistic).

The ultimate drought-resistant plant is cactus that grows in the hearts of most deserts of the world.  Think what you see when you crack a cactus open.  We see trapped water.  The little water it takes in, it keeps it for itself.

When they begin to appear in our environment, it suggests that the soil on the surface has long lost its ability (to build loamy soil) to support sustained vegetation.  Such variety of plants begin to thrive but causes rainfall levels to decline.  This is since, they do not transpire.  This causes the land to become even more dry which in turn encourages more of such plants.  This latter view is often hidden from us until we surface this thinking as a cycle.  Unlike earlier, these cycles are now becoming vicious in nature.

These vicious cycles do two things.

If we are not watching it, these cycles cause the issue to recur.  They bring the problem back defying our efforts to correct it and do so with greater intensity in each iteration of the cycle.  They typically throw our action plans off their courses.  We see project implementation efforts as if they were failing.

These are what we see on the surface.  That is the self-seeking nature of these cycles of causality.  All is not what it seems.

Winning the Cycle

So how would we deal with such systemic directions and expect to win it?

To take care of the problem of water shortages, we would then have to take care of the water cycle.  The whole cycle.  Not parts of it.

What we saw here today is while your household may start greening your backyard, the combined effect of doing this collectively can be very powerful for a region on both the causes and consequences of rainfall for the region.  This answer is not for just one country.  We need to figure a way not to give up or be afraid to reach this out there in the region to everyone.  I am sure you see that!

Given these, what would you say are the implications of some typical action plans that we make (and this happens to all countries), on such a cycle?  Such as:

  • Recommending the growth of drought-resistant varieties of crops?
  • Producing livestock that depend on greens?
  • Production of brews?
  • Drilling or deepening of boreholes?  Dam construction?

In each instance, would you see the rainfall levels increase or could it decrease over time?  Would water table levels increase or decrease? What would be their consequences on growing of crops, on food security, growing of raw materials and in diversifying and developing a manufacturing base in the country?  On employment?

Well, I am sure; you and your friends will figure these questions out!

This and their impact on the economy will be the subject of discussion next week in the final part of this series of the column on “Have Greens, Will Rain!”  Till then have a lovely week discovering and learning!

This is the 4th segment of a five part series of this article.  Each part will build on the earlier article to an eventual conclusion.  We invite you to participate in the column as well as do your ‘own homework’ – searching and discussing the issue to build your own conclusions.  Next month, we look at HIV, its causes and its effects.

Ms Sheila Damodaran, an international strategy development consultant for national planning commissions welcomes comments at  For upcoming programmes, refer to

Newspaper Column #6: Have Greens, Will Rain! – Part III

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday November 25, 2012 edition.

What goes around comes around. The Good and Bad.

 Today we move to the more exciting bits of this series!

We will uncover the vicious cycle causing water tables to decline and learn how they contribute to growing aridness to seeing the economy turn around.

The take-away from last week was if we take care of this long-term position, it will take care of the fast-changing short-term worlds for us (food security to household incomes).   We ignore this; the cycle brings the problem back harder and faster.  But such long-term positions do not happen by accident.  There is a reason.

I left you with a question at the end of the article.

What is the circle of causality that is pushing the water table down?

What did you see?  Perhaps you saw different versions of it.  Looking carefully, they were not quite circles but were straight-line thinking.   Linear thinking makes up parts of circular causal thinking.

So, let’s take a few examples.

Sometimes I get, the water table is down because our consumption levels have gone up.  This is because population numbers and therefore its related activities have gone up.  And this is because … and sometime we stop here.  In half-jest I proceed by adding, that ‘while fertility rates are up we are not dying fast enough’.  At this point, the class roars into laughter.  Mostly at the ludicrous reasoning.

We also know this is so, because we know of countries, whose population numbers and life expectancy are way higher than ours, yet do not see declining water table levels (see Picture 1).


So, here’s yet another tip.  Any causal factor used in a vicious cycle has to stand the tests of space and of time.  The above reasoning has not withstood the test of space.

At other times I see, water tables are going down because the rainfall levels are going down, and rainfall levels are going down because global warming levels are up.  Global warming levels are up because ….

Usually at this point, I would pause the group and question it.  Does this line of reasoning suggest that before the advent of global warming, while the water tables may have been higher then, than it is today, were its levels rising with each year.  Which means to say the water tables in 1960s or 70s were higher than it was in the 50s?

Stillness settles in the room.  Sometimes, it is because we do not know if this is true, mostly because we have not seen the data.  But again, it sounds like another ludicrous reasoning.  The reason is not passing the test of time.

So, what have been your thoughts about the cycle?  Had it looked like the above?  Not to worry.  It happens to the best of us.

So, what then is the circle of causality that is causing the water table to go down?  To uncover the cycle, we would need to learn to watch reality like watching a movie – as if without shutting our eyes.  Snapshots will not do.  So here we go.

Watching the reality like watching a movie

Rainfall is a part of the story.  Yes?  As more rains fall on the earth’s surface, they run off into rivers and seas.  And where they fall on land it sinks through the soil and seeps downwards.   As they do so, they help to recharge underground aquifers which in turn help to cause the water tables to rise.

The reverse is also true.

The less rains fall, the less there are seepages and recharges the water tables fall instead.  Here we have come back to last week’s question.  But notice; be it whether it is good news or bad news, the causality is the same.  So for now, we will continue watching the cycle as if it is positive.

Let’s go back to where we left off the cycle.  When the water tables rise, what does that lead to happening next?

Here, imagine the water tables across the region rising through the underground soil.  As they do so, we see more moisture in our soils and as they emerge through the surface, we would now have surface water.  They could either become a pond or your dam.  The more the underground water rises, the bigger the pond.  And so is the reverse.

What happens when surface water rises?  Just as when water levels drop in our dams, we impose water restrictions.  Well, we may say, this time we allow consumption of water … by humans, animals and plants.

When we do not have enough water, notice who we take off the list first?  Did you say plants?  That’s usually true or we introduce plants that resist droughts.  Then we try by as much as possible to share the available water resources between humans and animals.

To continue the thinking, we take it off from where we see plants consume water.  Should we leave them out of the story; it will be less than about the whole.  So, let us say plants consume water.  What happens to the cycle next?

We are now more than half-way around the cycle.  Remember we started with rising rainfall levels?  And we have now reached partway around the cycle to increased vegetation (see Picture 2).

When the vegetation increases over time alongside with surface water, what do you think will be their impact on rainfall levels in the next cycle?

These will be the subject of discussion in Part IV of this series in next week’s column “Have Greens, Will Rain!”  Well, I am sure; you and your friends will enjoy closing the cycle!  You may notice different responses along gender or age lines.  Try it out and notice.

Would rainfall levels decline?  Or could they increase?  What do you think?

Thinking ahead, what will be the impact of this causality on economic diversification?

Don’t forget the tips!

Till then have a lovely week discovering and learning!

This is the 3rdof a five part series of this article.  Each part will build on the earlier article to an eventual conclusion.  We invite you to participate in the column as well as do your ‘own homework’ – searching and discussing the issue to build your own conclusions.

Ms Sheila Damodaran, an international Strategy Development Consultant in the use of systemic thinking for managing national persistent issues, welcomes comments at  For upcoming programmes, refer to

Newspaper Column #5: Have Greens, Will Rain! – Part II

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday Nov 18, 2012 edition

Cycle?  What cycle?

In Part I last week, we were concluding that the water tables in the region were possibly declining.

This series of articles in November is a dedication to this subject.

It explores issues of primary industry (raw material) development to water consumption choices and their effects on families, the nature and the economies.  In short, it underscores the story of diversification of any economy.

All of this will be discussed as we take a trip around the water cycle in this series of the column.

Water tables even if they are underground are part of the water cycle, originating when part of the rain that falls on the Earth’s surface sinks through the soil and seeps downward to become groundwater.  Groundwater will eventually flow out of the ground, discharging into streams, springs, lakes, or the oceans, to complete the water cycle.  (See Picture 1)

When asked how high is the water table and how it has behaved over time, most of us picked Pattern C (refer to last week’s article.  See also red line here in Picture 1 below (refer to ‘Long-term depletion’, the line marked AB)).

That it has shown a general downward trend.

Such long-term trends become evident when we study past data spanning several decades.  They usually escape the best of us when our attention is on what’s happening today (refer to the lines CD).

Here’s the implication of seeing such patterns over time.

The long-term depletion worsens the position of each short-term variation.  We now have a persistent issue but is working its way to the levels of a crisis in the long-term.   Such issues usually resist change and defy our best planning and implementation efforts beyond the short-term.  It is a costly management process.

And if we imagined the water cycle, it would have begun to show signs of weakening intensity.  The local weather conditions could see the likes of droughts or even floods.  Of course, these conditions would reverse with long-term augmentation or increase.

In systemic thinking, we pay attention to these long-term positions rather than the short-term.  This is because of the following reasons:

  • It is these long-term positions that determine what happens in our day-to-day realities.  Ignore them and the realities get worse.  These will help us become more realistic in our planning and implementation efforts;
  • The reasons that cause the long-term position are often very different from those that cause short-term positions; and so,
  • When we find those reasons, they will present areas that will allow us to turn the situation around.  For good.  It saves our resources.

Boiled Frog

To get there, it helps that the country as a whole learns to see and understand such patterns together, with the disciplined eye of a hawk.  All of the time.  Should we not, then like a boiled frog, it would lead us to deeper crisis unawares.  We become the boiled frog instead.

And I left you with a question.  How do we know for sure, that the water tables are indeed declining?

I am sure you have figured this one out.

You might say, well it is when we notice farmers dig their bore-holes deeper.  And they do so, from time to time.  You are right!  This is an indication that the water table for his side of the land is behaving more like Pattern C and as the pattern continues to unfold the land becomes drier (a crisis is looming).

Does anyone know how deep some of the bore-holes in the Kgalagadi and possibly Namibia are?  They did not start that way.  They became that way.

The reverse, however, is true for the forests in the Amazon.  Both are happening at the same time each with its deliberate direction and goal.  This is what we, otherwise, call reality.

Uncovering the Cycle

However, most management concepts did not clarify that our straight-line goals are not designed to fight trends such as AB.  They are designed to fight the shorter-term trends like CD.  The latter, is an important view of the military and the fire-fighters.  Crisis management.

Now, if the long-term position is true, i.e. if the water tables are going down, then we have a circular causality in our hands.   This requires very different management tact.  We would need to uncover the elements of the cycle to address these long-term positions.

Therefore, rather than ask what we should do about it, the next question here is what is causing the water tables to go down?

Meaning to say, if we say the water table is going down (in the long term), what is causing that?  And in turn what is causing the cause?  And so on.  Think cycle.  Get the idea?

And remember, even when you think you have got to the “root cause”, in this work, we say, even the root cause has a cause.  Nothing exists without a reason.   It is whether we see the reason or we don’t.  In short, the 5Whys methodology does not work for persistent problems.

Do not forget to also go the other way in the cycle!  Should the water table go down, there are consequences.  Yes?  And then what are the consequences of the consequences?

Here’s a tip.  Should the circle not close in itself, then it is not the ‘right’ circle of causality.  Start again but with a different set of reasons.  This is a trick we use, before we understand more deeply the tools of this work.

Go ahead and try it!  There is something inherent about wanting to see vicious circles, as hard as it feels like to get there; it captures our curiosity and intrigue.

So, … what is the circle of causality that is causing the water table to go down?

Well, I am sure, you and your friends will keep trying and enjoy getting there!  This will be the subject of discussion next week in Part III of this series of the column on “Have Greens, Will Rain!”

Till then have a lovely week discovering and learning!

This is the 2nd of a five part series of this article.  Each part will build on the earlier article to an eventual conclusion.  We invite you to participate in the column as well as do your ‘own homework’ – searching and discussing the issue to build your own conclusions.

Ms Sheila Damodaran, an international Strategy Development Consultant in the use of systemic thinking for managing persistent issues at regional and sectoral levels, welcomes comments at  For upcoming programmes, refer to

Newspaper Column #4: Have Greens, Will Rain! – Part I

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday Nov 11, 2012 edition.

How high is the Water Table?

One of my favorite subjects of the work that I do here is working with the water cycle.

Well, all of us learned about it in school.  In Grade 5.

Evaporation leads to rainfall.  Rainfall leads to seepage and runoffs.  Runoffs into rivers and lakes lead to evaporation, and so on.

Except the one difference in a systemic approach is it recognizes that this cycle is not a static process.

This means they do not remain active at the same levels of intensity over time.  The intensities are dynamic.  We did not learn about this fact in school.

And therefore, the cycle has the potential to either cause the rainfall levels to increase or decrease over time.  These trends are not clear in the short-term.  The patterns become distinct over longer periods of time, usually in years.  But the shift is definitely happening.

We call it by different names including the likes of global warming today or periods of draughts or seeing unreliable rainfalls or when we have periods of more than average rainfalls.  Their persistent behaviour over time is in effect the consequence of the water cycle in silent action.

It is silent because we do not see the water cycle directly as it is unfolding before our eyes.

Cycles can go two ways.  They can either reinforce positively or negatively.

The next four articles in November is a dedication to this subject and it explores a range of issues from primary industry production to crop or raw material production to dairy and cattle production, water availability, water consumption choices and their effects on families, the nature and the economies.  All of this will be discussed as we take a trip around the water cycle.

Where I came from, in Singapore, we typically have quite a bit of rainfall and so; it was not as much an issue in my mind, until of course when we experience floods there.

Singapore sits right on the equator and so year round, it enjoys a hot and humid tropical weather.

The nature of water is to flow

The inherent nature of water is to flow.   The more it flows out naturally, the more it comes back to us.  Naturally.  When it is trapped, it dries up.

This is a subject that has become dear to my heart as I spent more time in the country.

And then something struck me.  That the excess of or lack of rainfall is not only as a result of the terrain.  There was also the inter-play of the reinforcing nature of these water cycles.  Its intensity to reinforce positively or negatively will vary with its surroundings.

A case in point is the spread of the forests in the Amazons of South America.  These span to the same latitude as that of Botswana.

[Insert picture of world map here – see Picture I below]

Chicken and egg

Question.  Is the Amazon green because it has more rainfall?  Or does having more greens cause more rainfall in the Amazons?  Or does it happen because both exist together?  Like the chicken and egg.  Both would need to be there for them to reinforce their continued growth.

One way to appreciate the existence of the cycle as a causality of rainfall levels is to take an issue that is related to it and watch its behaviour for persistence.

If it is persistent, we would see the peaks peaking higher or the troughs digging deeper each time.  This requires us to plot the past behaviour of the issue on an x-y axis.  The X-axis is always time.  The Y-axis plots the levels of its behaviour.

Should there be a persistent decline or incline on these graphs, then we know that these cycles or circles of causality are definitely at play.

So for the purpose of this exercise, we will take a factor.  Let us say the level of the water table.

What would you say has been the behaviour of this factor, in this part of the world over a forty-year period?  The further into time we plot these behaviours, the more it becomes clearer to us the persistent nature of these issues.

Would you say the water table levels have remained constant for the past forty years (Refer to Picture 2, Pattern A)?  Or would you say it has increased during the same period (Pattern B) or would you say, it looks more like Pattern C, i.e. the water table has declined over the years?

Which pattern would you pick?

[Insert Graphic 2 here]

Did you pick Pattern C?  Most of us do so, resoundedly.  I have not had a dissenting view to that choice since I had been doing these programmes.

Now, if pattern C is true, then we have a circle of causality in our hands and it is causing problems to recur right here on this land.  To take care of the problem of water shortages, we would have to take care of the water cycle.  The whole cycle.

But before that.  How can we say for sure that it is Pattern C?

Keep wondering.  This will be the subject of discussion in Part II of this series of the column on “Have Greens, Will Rain!”.  I am sure you will be listening to what we see and hear around us every day as you figure this question out.

Till then have a lovely week of discovery and learning!

This is the 1st of a four part series of this article.  Each part will build on the earlier article to an eventual conclusion.  We invite you to participate in the column as well as do your ‘own homework’ – searching and discussing the issue to build your own conclusions.

Ms Sheila Damodaran, an international Strategy Development Consultant in the use of systemic thinking for dealing with persistent issues at regional or sectoral levels, welcomes comments at  For more information, refer to

Newspaper Column #3: Is unemployment, the real problem? The Story of Supply of Labour – Part III

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday Nov 4, 2012 edition.

Labour is a cost

It can assist to generate revenue but it is firstly, a cost.  When we add them up, it can rack up into billions of dollars.  Easily.

Hence a situation of ‘that we have labour’, will not be enough reason why ‘jobs will be created’.  The jobs need to be paid.  When the money dries up, including borrowings, so does the job.  This will happen in the same way for any country.

The supply of labour however remains unchanged.  They are either more who are employed or more who are unemployed.

Next, think bottleneck.

When the supply of labour exceeds the demand for it, the demand becomes the ‘neck’ of the bottle.  It narrows the uptake of the supply. Competition and waiting for jobs are the inevitable consequences of the bottleneck.  As we release the bottleneck competition disappears.  And so would unemployment.

We would therefore require solutions on both sides of the ‘neck’ to solve the problem of persistent unemployment.

In the past two week’s editions of this column, we introduced two factors that influence persistent unemployment.  Should we create new jobs (i.e. there is demand for labour), unemployment goes down.  Should however, the numbers of births and immigration (i.e. the supply of labour) go up over time, so does unemployment.

We also discussed that the ability of sectors to create jobs is influenced by the health of profit margins of three interrelated industries, i.e. the primary, secondary and tertiary industries.   We discussed when the primary industry grows; they help to grow the secondary industries which in in turn help to grow the tertiary industries.

At this point, unemployment becomes resolved.  Hard as it may sound, it is a solution we cannot ignore.  The easy way out, would lead us back in, one way.  Back to the problem.

In today’s edition of the column, we explore the story of the supply side of unemployment and its solution.

This becomes important to help us see solutions that are digging us in deeper into the problem.  It will be ironical that what we had hoped will help the situation could actually be making them worse.  Things become better before they become worse.  At that point, we would have a situation spiralling out of hand.

A case in point is, if there are more of us than there are jobs available, skilling people without creating jobs will not make unemployment go away.  I know we do not like to hear this.  And neither do I.

Jobs do not stay vacant.  They are going to others.  And yes, while the best man may win, there is another man (or woman) out there.  That is the point.

If the problem does not budge despite resources, then it is a sign that all what we have done was to apply a solution to the consequence of the problem but not to its cause.  To deal with the cause, we would need to pull ourselves away from the fire to notice where the gas pipe is coming from.  A fireman cannot help us at this stage.

Supply of Labour

What causes the increase in the supply of labour?

One might say, well that’s easy.  It is caused by migration.  Well, that is certainly true.   For the short term.  Migration is just that.  Sometimes they are in.  And sometime they are out.

Sustained long-term increase in the supply of labour is caused by the rates at which locals add births to the population numbers within the country.   This impact is pre-determined.  It cannot be changed,  its effects are not felt immediately but they were set into motion twenty years ago.  They are felt twenty years later when the babies have grown into young adults and are about to join the employment pool of the country.

We therefore do not connect the problem to the cause since they are both distant in time and space from each other.  And when we do not see this relation, we disregard the cause and take the easier way out.  We look at immigration.  This happens for any country.

And so, if unemployment is persistent today, then this is an indication that numbers of those born twenty to thirty years ago and have now joined the labour pool, had been pushing up slowly but steadily.   Yesterday, we rejoiced each birth in our families.  Of course, we were not watching their total consequences on the nation for tomorrow.  Well, not yet.

As a nation, how many persons have we added to the pool of supply in the past forty years?  Yes, it may feel late to ask such a question.  It is meant as a way to face reality.

Let us say, should we produce 5,000 children per month, and that makes it 60,000 babies born in a year, then we can reasonably expect that twenty years from now (and 1.2 million people later), when they grow up, we would need to be preparing for an additional 60,000 jobs (given gender equality) for that cohort.

This is in addition to those already employed prior to them.  If we are seeing 30,000 retirees, we are still looking at creating an additional 30,000 or more new jobs for the cohort.  And do not forget these 60,000 do not stay at producing another 60,000.  Yes?  How many will they produce in ten to fifteen years from now?  That will become tomorrow’s reality.

How much would an additional 30,000 jobs (for that year) cost us?  Don’t forget the other years and other employees.

Who created the children?  You are right.  We did!

Who will create the jobs for them?

Creating Jobs

In a recent project on unemployment in a country, we saw the population of 35 year olds and younger, ballooned six folds in a thirty-year period.  On the other hand, job creation had not risen by anywhere near as much.  The population had disregarded these economic factors.  Of course, we can say, economic and bedroom choices do not always mix.

At rates of six-fold increases, just that layer of the population would quite easily add over another 1/3 million persons by the next generation.  These are figures before immigration.

So what is happening?

In short, we are now attempting to “fight” the problem somewhat oblivious to these realities. We saw the fire. But not what caused it! We had hoped that the supply of labour could influence the demand for labour. But that is just not economics.

Still, I wonder if, as citizens, we can totally absolve ourselves from not understanding these figures and how they play up in our everyday lives.   What do you think?

At some point we would no longer be able to shut our eyes to this.  The reality would soon wake us up, as as we see our children stay unemployed.

Have we come back full circle here?  Who designed this circle of causality?  Is this unique for one country?

What should we do today?

As citizens should we know what these numbers look like for the country?

Understanding this trends, profoundly changes the game plan in many ways.  Firstly, it allows the problem to be solved where it started (the community), not where it ended (government).  There is leverage here, as it allows the greatest changes to happen with the least amount of effort.

I have tended to believe that should citizens understand these numbers, they would become clearer at steering the country out of this problem.  Even by themselves.  These may include making choices such as coming up to speed in ways to create jobs rather than wait for jobs to be created.  Or consider seeking employment outside the country.  It is the go-getter attitude by such individuals that will eventually help draw revenue to any country and themselves.

That’s for today.  How may we better prepare ourselves for tomorrow?

Families are key

We could actually become better at matching birth with job creation rates.  Knowing these trends, may free us as families, to consider channelling resources to the building of the primary industries of the economy.  This is a strong system of production of raw materials for all levels of the economy.  Farmers, and growers of raw materials, who see this impact beyond putting food on their table for their family, are beginning to pay attention to this systemic reality.  Production is now greater than consumption in the country.

When they do so, the family is now taking a step towards ensuring that jobs are more likely to be created at other levels of the economy, for the children we produce.  We may find that as more resources are allocated to primary industry production (and less to child production) we become better at learning to manage our population numbers more in line with the capacity of the country to produce jobs for our children.  There is an order in which causality happens.

Unemployment, at that point, stops becoming a problem.

How do you see this issue?  Given the above, do we need to understand the picture that is happening for the country today?  What’s stopping families allocating resources to primary industries?

Go forward another twenty years from now.  What trends would you like to see?  For our families?  The economy?  And our country?  For employment?

Hope this inspires discussion amongst your family and friends for ways you see us resolve this issue.

English: US Whig poster showing unemployment i...

English: US Whig poster showing unemployment in 1837 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Newspaper Column #2: Is unemployment, the real problem? The story of Demand for Labour – Part II

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday Oct 28, 2012 edition.

Supply of Labour

Industries (be they by locals or foreigners) do not exist for the sole purpose of employing citizens.  Hard as it may be to accept this point, it really is not that difficult to see the reason.

What is harder to see is an unemployed economy will affect the growth of his industry.  Not immediately.  But eventually it will.  Think most political revolutions. It is a sign of a vicious circle.

In last week’s edition of this column, we uncovered two factors that influence persistent unemployment in any country.   These were:

  1. The rates of growth of demand for labour (by employers) vs.
  2. The rates of growth of supply of labour (by employees)

As the supply of labour (rising birth and migration rates) persistently exceeds demand, unemployment grows.  This does not mean that our attempts at correcting the problem will not be successful.  They will not be successful for the long-term.

On the other hand, as the demand for labour (number of new jobs created) persistently exceeds the supply, unemployment would decline (and literally disappear by itself).

This week, we explore the demand – a side commonly used by most of us when focussing on the problem of unemployment.  In the next edition of this column, we will get around to supply.

But before we continue, what does the picture of growing demand for labour look like?  We might say, well, that is obvious.  We would see companies and industries recruit and persons as employees of their organizations.  That’s where most of us would stop.

But that would not be quite enough here.  We should see increasing numbers employed for the long-term.  Possibly even for decades.  And it happens primarily in the private sector.  They are key. If these three conditions do not happen, then real and deliberate growth in demand for labour has not quite happened.  Yet.

But what influences the demand for labour to grow consistently (rather than ad-hoc)?

It would require industries and the country to post a healthy growth of its income margins or profits.  Year-on-year.

Margins / Profits = Level of Revenue Earned – Level of Costs Incurred

This difference needs to grow sustainably.  Where revenues grow and costs decline, the industry is well positioned to create new jobs each year and pay for higher wages in other years.  The reverse is also true.  When the margins are negative, we would face sustained unemployment.

What would cause the margins to grow sustainably for any industry?

Asking this question is deliberate in helping the mind steer itself to the inevitabilities.

Does sustainable growth of margins happen because we are able to apply “do more with less” strategy, really well?  Or, is it because sales have picked up for that industry.  Well, yes, partly.

However, here’s the inevitable.

The extent to which we see sustained growth of margins depends on the extent margins or profits grow across ALL the three levels of industries in any economy, i.e. primary, secondary and tertiary industries.  These three share a very tight systemic relationship!

As we take care of the whole, not parts of the economy, the nation grows.  We all know that.  AndI know we can turn this knowledge around with our hands and feet.

So what causes sustained systemic growth of all three types of industries?

Think tomato sauce.  The cost of manufacturing and eventually retailing that sauce would depend on the cost of the transport and distribution systems (secondary industries) needed to transport the raw materials to the factory or retail sites as well as the cost of producing the raw material itself (i.e. from seed to fruit by the farming industry).

The transport industry, in this regard is secondary to manufacturing while farming of tomatoes is primary to both transport and manufacturing.

Should however, the costs of the primary and secondary industries for each unit of product produced increase over time, the  tertiary industries would not be able to reverse those costs, much less grow without incurring further costs and will have their work cut out for them to stay afloat, much less see their margins grow in sustained ways.  That is the reality.  The experience will otherwise be like juggling balls.  It will be hard to take our eyes off them because we do not know when they will fall.

When these costs are passed on to the customers or citizens, it makes it harder for them to find ways to fund continued private sector development efforts.  Here we have now come full circle.

In most cases, the primary industry refers to raw material production, in particular crop production.  As we grow our raw materials (as we have achieved with sorghum production), its secondary (farm and brew trucks) and tertiary (brew production and retail) industries will begin to grow as well.

Just as the white farmers in South Africa in the primary industries (vegetables, fruits, dairy and livestock production) have done for the Chinese and the Indians in the secondary and tertiary industries there (as well as here in major supermarket chains).   This relationship, however, did not happen overnight.  It took almost one hundred and fifty years in the making in South Africa (and not forgetting two centuries before that in India).

So for a nation to thrive (not survive), think the root of a plant.  When the root thrives, so does the plant.  When it dies, so will it and the other healthy roots around it will suffocate the plant out.  Removing the top of the plant will not cause it to go away.  The root will bring it back.

I am sure you see it!  When the profit margins do not grow for all of the three industries, the number of new jobs created does not grow.  Instead, unemployment grows.What is the implication of these to employment, you ask?

Where are we today as a nation on this graph?

Which industries are dominant for the nation?  Which ones are not?  Which industry do you see as driving the others?  Would you like to be a part of or lead from that seat?  I am sure you can!

What would cause the health of primary industry or production of raw materials to grow over time?  This will be the subject of another column.  But till then, I wish you, happy thinking and discussing.

So is unemployment the real problem or could it just be the tip of another problem? The iceberg. How do you see this issue?  Go forward another twenty years from now.  What could these trends look like then?  Could this possibly affect the sovereignty of a nation?  For any nation?

The 3rd instalment in this three part series of this article will appear in the next edition of this column.  It will explore the supply side of the equation of labour and unemployment.   Watch this space.

Newspaper Column #1: Is unmployment the real problem – Part I

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday Oct 21, 2012 edition (maiden print).

This is the 1st of a three part series of this article.  Each part will build on the earlier article to an eventual conclusion.  We invite you to participate in the column as well as do your ‘own homework’ – searching and discussing to build your own conclusions.

When unemployment persists (hard as it is to admit it is happening)

Persistent unemployment, in any country is a consequence of two factors.

The rate of increase of supply of labour (birth rates from twenty years ago) relative to the rate of increase in the demand for labour (job creation rates of today).  In jest, it is a mismatch of rates of child creation of the past vs. rates of job creation today.

Should the rate of demand for labour exceed supply year on year; we would have full employment of the locals and perhaps be able to employ foreigners as well.  However, should supply of labour persistently outgrow demand; we would now have a classic case of persistent unemployment.

When we, as citizens, learn to watch these two behaviours of change as a nation over time then we should expect to resolve the issue of unemployment.   For good.

When we don’t, and we are oblivious to the reason, all we can expect to do is to play a catching-up game but not solve the problem.  It stays on the charts as a stubborn problem, usually on the President’s table, worsening over time.  This is, despite efforts from all quarters to run ahead of the problem or get to the root of the issue.  Not to say, we hear persistent disgruntlement amongst the locals about the lack of employment opportunities for the youth or for those employed the lack of pay rises and we harbour fears of jobs being taken away by foreigners.


Sustained Growth of Supply of Labour > Sustained Growth of Demand for Labour

= Sustained Unemployment

[Insert graphic here]

These two factors are not directly related to each other, but they each

 influence unemployment, separate as they may be.

But what led things to get this far?

What causes the demand for labour to decline relative to the supply of labour?  And what causes the supply of labour to increase relative to the demand for it?

First let’s explore the supply side.

Here’s a case in example.  In the ten years to 2010, Vietnam saw its population numbers grow from 80 to 89 million.  Growth of population numbers and more typically birth and migration numbers influence the supply side of this equation.  Job creation on the other hand, did not see such levels of growth.  The result is, we see runaway unemployment in the country.

Closer to home, while, population numbers in the country do not compare anywhere close to those we see in Vietnam, still when we look beyond the overall numbers, there are interesting data that we cannot ignore.

We know the overall population numbers have grown somewhat from 1.5 to 2 million levels over a decade.  Given however, the concerns of mortality rates one may conclude that our population numbers have not really changed all that much to warrant the unemployment levels we see in the country.

But realistically … has the supply of labour declined over time?

Births rates from twenty years ago, leads to the supply of labour and therefore the unemployment numbers we see today.

When we remove population and mortality figures and see our fertility rates, we may notice that these numbers have not been all that low.  In fact, typically in most populations, each generation outnumbers the previous one.  Think of population pyramid, where the numbers of young born are in numbers greater than older persons in the population.  But also see population pyramids for more recent decades assuming wider bases than those in previous ones.

Such trends are not apparent when we gloss over overall population data.  Yes, there is migration data.  But we cannot shut our eyes to these sheer levels of increase.

Do we know by how much such numbers have grown?  In the country?  In the region?

A separate question is, when should we start noticing such increases?  Would it be when the young turn 20 years old and are now looking for a job and they complain they cannot find one?

That will be too late!

We would now instead be dealing with “a fire” in our hands.  Youth unemployment rather than employment.  Yet it really is a problem that had its embers simmering for the past 20 years.  Quietly but surely.  But we were not watching it, till the embers had blown over and we now have a fire in our hands.  At this point, we say, we have a problem.  A burning platform.  But the signs were long there.  If we push this now, the system will push back.

Ok it has not.  And … has the demand for labour increased by such levels during this period?

If it has, we should not see sustained unemployment.  This is indicative that the demand for labour has not matched such levels.

How much has it increased by?  Perhaps more importantly, how much would it need to increase by?  Two-folds?  Six-folds?  What do you see are the answers?  What is making it difficult to get there?

Interestingly, should we think carefully about both sides of the equation, that is, the jobs and the children we create are influenced by the same segment of the population.  The Adults.

While perhaps we may argue that these’ activities are carried out’ by different sub-segments of the adult population, it is still the sole prerogative of this group.  The problem may not belong to any one part of this group, i.e. government or private sector or families.  That sounds like the bad news.  That it was our fault (in any generation).  But the good news is if we created the problem, then we also have the ‘power’ in our hands and in our hearts to turn it around (yes, even as a citizen) for the nation.  Together.

So is unemployment, still the real problem?  How do you see this issue?  Go forward another twenty years from now.  What would these trends look like then?

Yes, you are right given this, the reality looks painful for our children too.  But I also know, if anyone can turn this around, it is us!

The 2nd and 3rd articles in this three part series will appear in the next edition of this column.   It will seek to explore the story of the demand and supply sides of labour respectively more deeply and what causes them to either grow or decline over time.



Countries by birth rate in 2008World map showing countries by nominal GDP per...

While this is her maiden newspaper column, Ms Sheila Damodaran is an avid writer on her blogs and website.   An international consultant in the use of systemic thinking for regional or sectoral strategy development, she welcomes feedback on her column as well as requests for types of persistent issues you wish to see discussed in her column at  For more information, refer to

Article 1: The Magic of Systems Thinking!

Dear all,

Hope this mail finds all of you in good spirits among all that you wish for in your life.

Some of you may know that I have been away from Singapore since 2007 being part of a programme here in Botswana where I had assisted the government learn and appreciate the five disciplines in dealing with persistent or stubborn issues that faces the nation.    These range from issues such as unemployment and budget deficits to standards of education levels to HIV/AIDs and other health scares.    The use of the five disciplines till today, continue to amaze me the ease with which the five disciplines help anyone provide clarity on why issues resist change and what causes its sustained stubbornness.

My focus and attention these days is in assisting governments in the planning of systemic development of their regional, sectoral and national strategies.    Organizational plans and programmes for departments and performance management (people) and project monitoring may be the next steps from this process.    Learning about the five disciplines is a first step in the (20-part) process of teams that work with me.

Today was one of those days when I seem to be living one of my dream days.  We may not see it when we are in it, but as I step back from the day, it fits to a tee.

I had made a visit to a media house, where I was meeting someone I had come to seek his help on reaching potential clients through the media.  He is a young person, perhaps in his early thirties.  Let me refer to him as YP here.  I am planning to expand my practice in the region and was working on the idea of running one-day programmes for the public at large here and was at the media house to explore my options in placing some adverts with them.

I am writing here the conversation as it happened as it would allow us to appreciate how as conversations go back and forth between individuals, one may appreciate a little better how talking about systems thinking can excite people but I was particularly struck by a couple of epiphanies that was happening for the both of us as a result of the conversation.

YP:  So what is that you do?

Sheila:  I do a work involving the discipline of systems thinking (immediately most minds think it is computer systems) to deal with stubborn problems.  (Immediately YP’s eyes puckered up to show he is confused.  )

Sheila:  Well, let’s think HIV/AIDs infection rates or water shortages faced by the country.  For how many years or has it decades would you say have we been trying to tackle it?

YP:  Yes, you are right.  Well, from the time they started presenting themselves in the 80s and 60s respectively.

Sheila:  How have such issues behaved over time till today?

(We both then pour over a piece of paper, where I draw the X and Y axis and while today’s situation on HIV/AIDs show a significant levels of decline from its peak in the 1990s, it has not found itself back to zero yet.  It is hovering about 15-30% rates of the population.  YP watches the graph and agrees quickly.  I then pose another question).

Sheila:  How would we draw the graph of the investments we have poured into this programme?(again we pour ourselves over the same graph and draw a graph that shows, the rate of investments have unrelented showing a steady incline over the years, that today they are surpassing levels that we have imagined was necessary.  YP’s eyes light up as he now sees what a stubborn problem means).  Sheila (continues):  Given the rate at which we have poured investments and how it has surpassed the trends for infections, we should have been successful at bringing it down .  .  .  .   by now.  Yes?

YP:  Yes.

Sheila:  And then here’s how we really tell we have a stubborn problem to start with.  Supposing the money was not there, what would the (real trend) for HIV/AIDs look like?YP (adds slowly):  It would have looked like the graph that looks like the rate we have been pouring money in to deal with it – an unrelentless increase than can quite quickly spread itself even beyond the borders of the country.

Sheila:  Yes, you are right!  That pattern that you see in front of you is a pattern caused by a vicious circle of causality that keeps pushing the trend one way, upwards and faster, like an exponential line.  That graph is a sign that whatever causes the rate of increase of infection HIV (notice I did not say the next infection) is no longer a linear or straight-line causality but the causality has now closed itself in and it is now assuming a reinforcing behaviour like a wheel that does not stop, assuming greater levels of force and speed in each iteration.  Think hurricane.  This is the battle we are fighting.  However, pouring water on the fire when we do not know what is causing the fire to keep coming back, is money down the drain.  The fire will not stop.  [The phone rings.  YP is clearly irritated by the distraction.  He answers it and returns quickly back to the discussion.  Remember he is still at work!]

YP:  Now I get it!  Wow!  My this is so exciting to see it.  (he pauses and then continues)

YP:  What about if we use this work to look at other current concerns we face in a country?  One thing that bothers me is the declining levels of standards of education we face in our public schools in the country.  Each year we see that the grades of new graduands from the system, make lower standards of education compared to earlier years (and then he adds – he now has a new language) despite as a government and as a country we had poured more money each year.  How would we use something like this to understand why that may be happening?[When he opened the new question, I felt suddenly, that I was back at my sessions, and that felt really good – despite I was well aware that I was sitting in a cubicle of one of the front desk officers in a media house.  It still was somehow befitting.  I allowed it.]

Sheila:  This story is classic to one of the laws that we hold in this work, which is the area of highest strategic leverage is one that is the least obvious.  Today, as Ministry of Education, the Minister sees teachers as a means to aid students raise their standards of education.  And teachers carry out this role diligently believing that should they pour ‘from their container’ to the ‘container of the child’, the child with enough hard work should reach their standards.  Sometimes this strategy works.  Most times it does not.  [At that point, I draw on another piece of paper a quick set of factors that distinguishes education from learning.  ]

Sheila: Education is a physical and mental process very much influenced by external factors that we can see and touch, such as the quality of the infrastructure, teachers, books, stationery and general education environment including those we set at home, all of which is a mandate a Ministry of Education can easily set for itself.  An area however that sits next to impossible and so falls easily outside the mandate of education is learning.

Learning unlike education is a purely emotional process and very personal.  [It is not a one-off process that happens when we buy a school book that we think the child needs for his education.  It is a process that is largely driven by the person himself or herself and cannot be led by an external force.  It comes from an inner drive spurred on by sense of curiosity and a hunger to want to learn something for the sake of seeking knowledge for itself (learning about something as it is) and not what it may do (how) for the owner of the knowledge.  I can learn about ‘the principle of moments’ in physics, because it will aid me in using a screwdriver to do things with less effort.  Or I can learn about ‘moments’ and be stunned by how such knowledge grew in people’s minds to be able to write it down for others to see and therefore learn from.]

Sheila (continues):  However the bedrock of that emotional development is a function of the child’s relationship with his parent.  When the child sees two things that his parent’s show,  i. e.   the parent’s behave as if they are still on a journey of learning and not they have arrived at a destination.  This experience is often a product of a person who believes in himself.  When one does not, we find having to stay on a journey becomes a restless activity, unlike the sense of comfort we have when we arrive home.  And when parents believe in themselves, it often becomes easier for the parent to believe in his child as well.  A child that sees a parent who believes in the child, often finds it easier for itself to grow to believe in itself.  When parents do not spend the time with the child, as it may be for parents that stay apart or grow a child up single-handedly, such parents will find it harder to be consistent in relaying such emotions and beliefs to his child.  Sheila (continues):  A child who does not believe in himself, will find learning for the sake of learning a difficult experience.  Learning becomes a means to another end.  Not an end in itself.  The result:  School grades decline.

Sheila (continues):  But the Ministry of Education thinks it does not have a ‘mandate or control on the above area’.  It has started on a battle (in education) that is not designed to win but to just get by.  Sheila (continues):  Parents’ emotional relationship with a child is a necessary part in nurturing the spirit of learning and it happens indirectly (hence the ‘least obvious’).  Teachers play a role as far as in furthering education but can play little beyond that in a space at trying to replace the role a parent plays in fostering the conditions needed for the spirit of learning to grow for the child.

YP:  So, that’s why MOE did not have much impact through its current programmes.  Parents are the missing key in the equation.  But, most of us in the country raise our children single-handedly and we are focus on seeing our children on a need ‘to pay school fees’ basis.  How then would we foster such beliefs?  I see this step happening as next to impossible.  What causes couples to stay separately and not grow to be together?

Well,  .  .  .   you can now guess what happened next!

We spent the next hour or so, looking at issues ranging from couples learning to grow closer, to rates of vehicle accidents on the roads, to private sector growths, to impending labour strikes, to agricultural outputs, to rainfall level behaviour, to unemployment levels, to divorces.  Both of us did not see the time pass by and literally forgot that we were right in the middle of a room that deals with front desk issues.  The learnings on the other hand were non-stop.

And then the following epiphanies began to hit the both of us!

We all know that Systems Thinking is a process of searching for what’s causing something to keep coming back at us – a search for the vicious circles of causality.  Each time as we brought ourselves through a different circle of causality, we began to realize:

  • Epiphany #1: When the practice is carried out in a consistent and disciplined way, it does something to our minds.  As we keep seeing circles unfold from the straight-line thinking, and almost like ‘magic’, we find ourselves willing to let go of whatever we are focused on or tied to (and tends to burgeon, be they levels of poverty, malnutrition, labour and political unrests, unemployment, etc.  ) to seeing ‘the bigger picture’ of what’s causing us to be bogged down.  It is an experience of zooming out.  We see the forest now and we gasp with surprise.
  • Epiphany #2: The effect of zooming out begins to also help us in the process of stretching or as we say broadening the mind.  This is more than just joining the dots or arrows or seeing the details of a circular causality.  Here’s the magic:  It is the ability of the mind to see itself zooming out of a situation.  This experience is not an ordinary experience.  It is new to the mind.  We usually drill inwards.  Not out.  It is unusual.  And when the mind sees itself zooming out, something else happens to the mind.  It learns to let go of our fears in overcoming the problems.  We begin to realize the baselessness of straight line cause-effect thinking in dealing with vicious problems and so is an overbearing focus on ‘core mandates’ or missions or goals.  We begin to see how they pay attention to a part of the circle of causality – and why such thinking would not take us far from the realities we are facing.  We begin to see how we will be led back to the problem again.  Our minds are stretched.
  • Epiphany #3: The immediate reaction to the above is, once the mind has been ‘stretched’ in this way, it does not as easily snap back to where it was before.

If these do not happen to us, then systemic thinking has not quite worked (its magic) on us as yet.  Don’t give up yet.

However, do not blame the tools of or the discipline of systems thinking or yourself for not experiencing “the magic”.  Blame the consistency of the practice of that discipline.  This is often the reason systemic thinking defies immediate replicability.   The ability to analyse comes with the willingness to be disciplined by the discipline of Systems Thinking.

Do talk about it within your communities and share your reflections with us.

Article 4: Remove self-doubt. Replace Visions.

Under construction
Under construction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The two however, does not exist together.

It is one or the other.  But not both.

Article 5: Growing Virtuous Cycles

Under construction
Under construction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Find the vicious cycles and turn them around.

Article 3: We are peaceful people

Under construction

Under construction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We are peaceful people,” because we do not talk to each other when we are feeling angry (about something or somebody).

Instead we keep it (bottled) inside within us (causing our body blood pressures and the cost of running the Ministry of Health in the country both to rise).  We do this, because, “should we not bottle it within, and let it out, then than talk through things, we are likely to end up ‘killing each other'”.

So, we keep quiet.  Therefore we are a peaceful nation.

Have you heard of this phrase before?

Well … welcome to the world of non-generative conversations!  This is the world of not understanding and learning to work with distinctions or differences that exist between us.

When we reach a certain age, we do not expect to stay in conversation.  We expect to be heard rather than hear.  Conjure images of persons watching you speak as they listen.  This bodes well in most of our minds as we reach significant positions or age.   We often relegate pictures of dialogue and being in conversations to women, young persons, inter-generational conversations, and perhaps spouses.  But not the rest of us.

Discussions, Yes.  Debates, Yes, Negotiation, Yes.

Dialogue?  No.  The buck stops there.  That’s where we draw the line.

Men and women handle anger differently.  Men seek that space to figure out by himself what he would need to do next.  Women on the other find ways to close that space so she may express her feelings about her anger to someone who is willing to hear her, so that when she sees and feels she is being heard, she allows herself to release the pain enough to free up space within her to figure what she needs to do and so then becomes clearer what to do next.

But when women handle anger the way the men does and she’s not figuring out what to do, except to shut the world out from her, we are heading right into trouble.   As a nation, there is a crisis.  A personal as well as an identity crisis.  A crisis brought on by not knowing what to do.  Men become “lost” in this too as they are not hearing from their woman what is it that he needs to do differently and why so.  As a result, both sides stay polarized in their positions.   There is stuckness.  The easy way out of such polarization is to shut out one’s world from the other.

But for a woman such an action is likely to work against her.  It leads her to stay stuck in her hole.  She possibly comes out of it, bitter as her emotions are not yet been given space and time to be heard and for her to feel she is understood by someone other than herself.  This level of emotional validation is central to her personal well-beingness [this runs contrary to work spaces that advocate for professionalism or that emotional behaviors are discouraged or even frowned upon].   She may become distracted by life, even resorting to addictive tendencies (such as drinking or smoking), but she continues to stay unresolved internally.  It is more likely to lead her to a meltdown one day or she may end up over-consuming to a point that now illnesses take over and ride out her life.  Men however deal with such situations by living out their fantasy to be able to fly, disappear and reappear and zip in and out of realities as they see fit.  They lose touch with the realities and families around them.  Women, on the other hand, behave the ways of the men, either because that’s the behaviour they see of someone with whom they feel intimate with and look upon as their leader (be they the father, brother, boyfriend or husband) or do not have another female person or mentor in guiding them in the ways of the women that are emotionally (compared to physically) distinct from men.

But do we understand such distinctions exist between men and women or even just between ourselves?  What is getting in the way of us understanding such differences?

And particularly when men do not participate in dialogue, they miss out on a whole side of the story that is not partial to their own points of view.

What about differences in the ways we view at issues?  How would we handle them?

Article 2: Setting goals is the easy part. Reaching them is not!


It is a management question.

Are you there yet?  What are you doing to get there?  Have you set goals for you and your team?

Yet, setting of goals is really the easy part.  And there are tons of research and help on how we may do so and even on how to manage the settings.  Making out a list of “Things to do today” is one such everyday activity and we are pretty good at it.

However, reaching them is another story.  And there is not as much research on why it does not happen or how it may happen for our organizations.  And not to say, much help.

It is an area that we stay quiet on.  Sometimes, even a undiscussable.


And we learn over time with experience that using charisma, meeting of heads, efforts at cascading, seeking to agree, cajole, counsel and sometimes even assuming punitive stances does not realistically make that much of a difference in reaching those goals or implementing programmes as an institution or as a nation in a sustainable way.

And we may carry out various activities to do so.  Be it implementing performance management systems, setting of directives, designing project management, re-engineering business processes, coaching, mentoring, going for corporate retreats, organizing seminars, conferences, district and village meetings and signing of memorandums, monitoring and evaluation and so on.  The list of work required to reach those goals is seemingly endless and appears necessary.  But the price we pay as a nation is heavy (including for our attorneys).

We all know this deeply; though we may not necessarily say it out aloud.  We do lead ourselves to believe they work, and yet sometimes we would rather choose to continue to lower our standards in reality to meet realistic levels of achievement over time and not understand what’s getting in the way of reaching those goals.   The former is easier.  The latter is harder.  And we are sometimes not aware that such things may be happening to us.  Often we assume the reason is the fault of the employee, or of the team manager or of the market or of the citizens or even the global recession.  And we get away by blaming “them out there”.  We get away with crime!

However, the bottom line is the ability of the organization and / or of the nation to sustain itself.

When we do not do so, it usually shows up in our balance sheets as deficits.  Eventually.  Sometimes sooner than we expect leading us to make call outs to government for bailouts, bank loans or grants and aids.  Nevertheless, we would start the same rigmarole all over again when given a second chance.


What are we not learning?

The reasons cited above are what we see on the tip.  The obvious reasons.

The ones the problems present to us if we are not careful in search for the reasons more deeply.  Those are usually not the real ones.

If you have come this far, I am sure you are not surprised by this conclusion.  The real reasons are less obvious because they have become what we call cyclical in nature or assumes a systemic quality.   Systemic because of key interrelationships (vicious circles) that have taken on a quality of recurrent influence / causality over time.

When they assume that recurrent influence, they also tend to worsen in each iteration of the cycle and therefore these cycles grows deeper and away from our everyday perceptions of reality (underlying).  These structures do also one more thing.  They typically learn to defy any efforts on our part to ‘correct’ the situation or a problem with the programmes or initiatives institutions come up with.  Therefore programme or activity implementation efforts tend to stand to fail or do not reach the goals set for them.

Identifying these vicious circles require investigation and a tactic that is very different from the straight-line approaches we are used to when dealing with them.  One that requires the mind ‘to bend’.  The causality is not that much different from one nation to another (and so much less differences exist between institutions), nevertheless, rather than leave participants with the solution, I prefer participants learn to discover the reasons jointly with each other whilst with the facilitator.  This is strategic.

In this way, the participants learn to leave the sessions carrying with them in their minds and hearts ways to continue to deepen their practice with each other over time to get to the bottom of the issue, and eventually to reach there by themselves.

Regional Article 23: Unemployment, labour disputes, economic diversification and fertility


Most countries think supply of labour should drive demand.  We forget then (or choose not to admit to ourselves) that it is demand that drives supply in any situation.  Not the other way around.  It is just not realistic to believe that because we have so many ‘young ones’ here, that there should be jobs out there for them.  But we do.  The two however are not related in reality.  But we ‘force that relationship in our minds’.

When we dug for data over time, to our surprise we were noticing that unlike what the country thought, its population was not declining.  Yes, it’s overall population numbers may be dropping to attrition due to deaths (in part speeded up along by HIV/AIDs) and migration.  However, its fertility rate on the other hand had been quite high and continues to grow.

English: Total Fertility Rate vs GDP per capit...

English: Total Fertility Rate vs GDP per capita (2009, USD). Only countries with over 5 Million population were plotted to reduce outliers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what was causing its fertility rates to increase?

This was in part driven by a few reasons.

The first, and the least inconspicuous of the three was a hidden matriarchal system (the mothers and women here wield more power than it thought).  This was fuelled by fears of security they held on to as young women themselves as they watched their husbands leave them for long-term employment in mines in neighbouring countries and had to learn to cope to fend for themselves and their children very quickly.  Over time, this evolved to driving their children to produce more children in the belief that the more there are children within one’s own family, the more potential the family had in  eventually bringing in income from their lands and the economy.  It was a long-term retirement plan for the women. (Need for Security on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)

Diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Diagram of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Men on the other hand, played a hand in this too, each trying to outdo the other in producing children.  The more children he had, the better a man he was going to be in the eyes of the persons around him.  It was an immediate gratification or ego trip for the men (Need for Ego / Belonging on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)

These children in turn grew up over time, seeing a world where they knew who were their friends and who were their enemies and this line was drawn up by who is within their core family and who was outside it (to a point it sometimes included the fathers who bore them).  This often meant that as they grew up they were learning not to ‘let go of the families they were born into’ enough to build long-term relationships with their spouses (someone who is ‘outside’ their families) and their in-laws to help build core family systems (husband, wife and their children) for themselves.   It was the need for maintaining or finding sense of belonging for the child or security in the familiarity or long-term childhoodness which sometimes perpetuated in older age as girlfriendhood or boyfriendhood syndrome and the need in not having to assume responsibilities for the consequences of one’s actions.  (Need for Security on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)

The core Brodie family (L-R: Adeeb, Leyla, Con...

The core Brodie family (L-R: Adeeb, Leyla, Conor, Michael, Nicole) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hence this meant the demise of the core family system and the growth and existence of the extended family as a support system for the individuals.  Today, these numbers are rising up to 70% levels.  Less than 30% levels of the population stay married and these numbers continue to decline.

However, when core families do not develop within the system, the system (particularly the males) does not learn a key lesson of life which is “what it takes to hold, build and share perspectives outside its comfort zones needed for a more “collaborative, extended and systemic organizations and industrial relations” and therefore the birth and growth of corporations (by the locals).

This would lead locals themselves particularly as the males to learn to build (not just participate) the economy.  For men to do so, it is in part as a result of the type of relation he enjoys with his spouse (but not his mother).  The more intimate the couple is emotionally (not just physically), the greater is his sense of resilience and motivation he is able to gain to meet and overcome the challenges he would face in the world of businesses and the economy.

Sir Robert Hotung, with his 3 generations of e...

Sir Robert Hotung, with his 3 generations of extended family (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so, when the economy does not grow, it is unable to create more jobs within the economy (as revenues are declining as much as costs may be rising) and therefore, unemployment continues to exist and worsens in the face of growing population numbers (fertility) which means the family in turn finds more of its people are not participating in the economy and therefore able to bring in resources into it. When this part of a man’s life is not growing, he becomes more conservative and reserved and succumbs to addictions, substance abuses and violence and a general disregard for respect for themselves and others.  The signals a death knell for the economy.   The organized economy suffers.  The subsistence economy takes over.

Gradually, this in turn leads women to bear children outside of marital relations (most children born in this country are born to women who are not married and that trend is rising).

In the mind of the woman, bearing a child to a man (particularly if he has the means to support relative to herself) would ensure a somewhat steady source of income for their family through their children (sometimes to the point of coercing the father of the child to continue to bear expenses for it and the family) or it stops the existing male persons within the extended family to build relations outside his family in order to support the needs of the family (to children and sisters who are not married).

Have we come full circle yet?  Do you see the vicious circle?

How would we treat this vicious problem?

Can the government realistically solve this problem?

Do not expect to learn to solve the problem, if one did not create the problem!


Sectoral Article 22: Not enough manpower! Where did all the good men go?

Sectoral Article 21: If it keeps coming back, did we really think it was urgent?

Regional Article 20: Why do disputes by labor (with unions) and employers go up?

  1. Despite our efforts to set up judiciary courts to preside over cases involving employers and employees embroiled in disputes with each other as well as educate ‘people’ on ways to avoid disputes with each other, why do relations between employers and employees continue to sour and such disputes tend to soar year after year?  Surely, it should have made a dent to the trend by now.  If not, why so?   As this forces us to allocate even further public resources to it the following year!
  2. Think how much money we have poured (country after country) to ‘douse the flames and put out the smoke’ after thirty, forty, fifty years of working at our industrial relation efforts.  Has that been little amount of money?
  3. So why do things not change?
  4. Will it get better?  Or can it get worse?

Why do things happen that way?  Why are such trends resisting our efforts to control it (for the sake of up-liftment of our economies, we would argue)?

National Article 19: What causes fidelity?

We know what causes infidelity?

But what causes fidelity?  Whatever that causes fidelity, when it is not there, causes infidelity!

So, what causes fidelity?

A couple goes through different stages or types of intimacy during their times together and experience one or more stages in their lifetime.  To the extent the couple moves through the different stages would depend on the time and attention they place on their relationship.  These include with no specific order or preference i.e. being:

  • Sexually intimate with each other (be it where the couple experiences sexual intimacy either regularly, or on an ad-hoc basis)
  • Physically intimate (where the couple moves to live in the same space together)
  • Emotionally intimate (where the couple enjoys a relationship where each helps the other meet their needs emotionally; here the couple has learned to understand each others’ pasts as well as learnt to share and value unique moments together such as dinners, holidays, family events, and so on.)
  • Mentally intimate (where the couple has learned to see the view of the partner not from one’s own perspective but that of the partner’s and in doing so learns to bring their minds together so that they may plan their lives together from the past, present and into the future and not meet their future as contingent (“let’s cross the bridge when we get there”. i.e, there is child born to them and so they need to meet its living and educational expenses, and so on)
  • Spiritually intimate (where each regard the other as their soul-mate and enjoy a celestial or soul mate experience together)

Where do you think sexual fidelity begins to happen for the couple?  Would it be at sexual intimacy or at physical intimacy or when the couple has learned to experience emotional intimacy?

What does sexual fidelity look like?  It includes among other things, a willingness by each person in the relationship to regard his or her partner as:

  • The only sexual partner for life;
  • Where the relationship is not given (as in blood relations), but the couple has chosen to learn to want to be together;
  • The relationship has grown beyond physical intimacy to include (or aspires to include) all or other forms of intimacy between the two and not limited to one or two out of the five;
  • The couple is in the relationship because they ‘want to’ and not because they ‘had to’ (it is an obligation or transaction or choices made by parents or forced to) be in it;
  • The couple regards each’s relationship with the other emotionally (as opposed to physically, materially, mentally) as equals and not assumes either as superior (head of the household) or inferior (submissive) to the other.

Did you say, the above (particularly sexual fidelity) happens when the couple learns to build emotional intimacy?  Yes, you are right!  We know couple who have reached the first two stages in the relationship and have even chosen to marry each other, yet, do not necessarily enjoy sexual fidelity with each other.

So how does emotional intimacy happen?  Does it happen magically or it requires hard work on both sides?  How would they need to work with each other so that they meet the other’s needs emotionally?

The following is something I have found useful as a I work with Dr Gray’s work.  It helps appreciate the level of intimacy that may happen for a couple.

  • What do you notice happening between the two (notice the threads in red)?
  • Does it happen one way or would it need to happen two-ways?
  • Are the needs of the two genders the same?
  • So who starts first?
  • Do these steps happen overnight or do they take time?
  • Do they happen by accident or it helps that both sides of the couple first really appreciate what really ticks the other in (or off)?
  • How would such learning happen?  It is easier if one sees one’s parents do it?  However, should that not be the case, what are the implications for society, the couple and the future?  What could happen differently?

She Needs He Needs
CaringWhen he shows interest in a woman’s feelings and heartfelt concern for her well-being, she begins to trust him more TrustWhen she believes in her man’s abilities and intentions that he is doing his best and that he wants the best for his partner, he is more caring and attentive to her feelings and needs
UnderstandingWhen he listens without judgment but with empathy, the easier it is for her to give her man the acceptance he needs AcceptanceWhen she receives a man without trying to change him, he listens and gives her the understanding she needs
RespectWhen he acknowledges her rights, wishes, and needs, she feels respected.  It is easier for her to give her man the appreciation he deserves AppreciationWhen she acknowledges having received personal benefit and value from a man’s effort and behaviour, he feels appreciated.  He knows his effort is not wasted and is thus encouraged to give more and he respects his partner more.
DevotionWhen he gives priority to a woman’s needs and proudly commits himself to supporting and fulfilling her, the woman thrives and feels adored.  When she feels number one in his life, she admires him. Admiration– When she admires him with wonder, delight and pleased approval, he feels secure enough to devote himself to his woman and adore her.
ValidationWhen he does not object to a woman’s feelings and instead accepts their validity, she truly feels loved and gives the approval the man needs. ApprovalWhen she sees her man as her knight in shining armour and recognizes the good reasons what he does, she signals that he has passed her tests and this becomes easier for him to confirm her feelings.
ReassuranceWhen he repeatedly shows that he cares and devotes himself to his partner (the woman should come to expect sexual fidelity and that the man provides and protects her exclusively), tells a woman that she is continually loved.  He must remember to reassure her again and again.  This moves her to encourage him to be a man bigger than himself. Encouragement– A man primarily needs to be encouraged, understood and if need to see the woman sympathize and he sees her stands by him.  Her encouraging attitude gives hope and courage to a man by expressing confidence in his abilities and character.  When her attitude expresses trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration and approval, it encourages a man to be all that he can be.  This motivates him to give her the loving reassurance she needs.

National Article 18: What would it take to ‘cure’ HIV?

Should we pay attention to:

  1. Curing the disease when it is already transmitted (attack the problem that we can see)? or
  2. Preventing the disease from being transmitted (defend ourselves from the problem?) or
  3. ‘Cure’ ‘the reason that causes the disease to be transmitted (what causes the problem)?

Let’s take this situation.  Suppose there is a couple, both of whom are HIV positive and both are sexually fidel to each other.  Given so, would the two increase the prevalence of the disease ‘out there’ in society?   No, you say?  You are right!

So when does the disease increase its prevalence?

It (only) happens when one or both partners choose the act of infidelity with each other.  Should partners choose fidelity with each other, transmission of the disease is likely to plunge immediately across society.  And plunge faster than any interventions by government or organizations will make it possible.

And it is (way) cheaper.  There is the price we pay for not dealing with the causality.  And the price tag is US$27 billion! and that is just by one country – USA. That is money that could have been somebody’s salary increase. However, I suppose when we do not figure these out, we probably do not deserve those salary increases!  Otherwise, it can easily be there for our takings.

Now, this was interesting for the Department of HIV/AIDs because a big part of its efforts and budgets placed to curb the epidemic was to ‘prevent the disease being transmitted between mother to child’.  However when they recognized that 80% or so transmissions are because of indiscretions by couples in their sexual behaviour (and the primary causality of the disease), they began to realize that whilst they worked hard to stop the disease being transmitted from mother to child and hospitals therefore saved the child from its mother but when the child grows up, and becomes an adult, it is possible that the child may not be able to save from itself should it engage in sexually indiscriminate practices itself!  The money it had used to save the child, ‘literally was now become money that it had poured down the drain’!

But it is harder to ‘work on the fidelity between the couple’ in the bedroom.  It is easier to manage the transmission at the hospital between the mother and the child.  So we ignore it, choosing easier ways out such as resorting to dispensing condoms, or encouraging practices of circumcision among men or extolling the vices of maintaining sexual networks or encourage total abstinence.  They work somewhat, but not realistically enough to make sure the country will meet its target of zero infection rates.  Yet, we are not talking as yet for us to learn what it takes for couples to learn to want to be together and afterwards it learns to also exercise sexual fidelity between each other.  Till we get there, can we expect to solve this problem?  No.  You can deal a blow, but not solve it.

So, what causes sexual fidelity?  Or have you too given up that the idea is possible?

Notice most sexual indiscretions happen away from the glare of the ‘day’ and under the cover of the night and in spots that are deliberately designed to keep ‘the authorities out’ (see pages 3-5) and apparent ‘disorder in’?  What are we hiding from?  Who are we running from and then afterwards who are we running into?  There lies the answer to our questions on fidelity!

So what would lead a couple to become fidel with each other?

English: Diagram showing relative global AIDS ...

Image via Wikipedia

HIV/AIDS prevelance worldmap

Image via Wikipedia