What!? Our fixes failed!
WHAT THE STRUCTURE LOOKS LIKE AT A POINT IN TIME (AS AN EVENT)
The problem keeps coming back, worsening each time.
The way I fixed it makes the problem worse!
It always seemed to work before. Why is it not working now?
Just work faster! Harder!
THE STORY OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
A MANAGEMENT STORY ILLUSTRATING THE BEHAVIOR OF THE STRUCTURE PLAYING OUT OVER TIME (BOT / VIDEO)
The “Goody Bag” story
- Residential Committee chairperson is aiming to recruit volunteers for a community project.
- He organizes resident block parties to invite and share his ideas with them.
- At the block party, residents get to meet an MP, a celebrity and to go home with a an attractive goody bag.
- The volunteer sign up rate seems to be improving but has not reached the desired target. So the RC chairman organizes a few more block parties, announcing and then giving away goody bags away at each one.
- One day he invites a resident for a block party and is immediately asked if goody bags will be given away.
- He realizes that residents are coming for the goody bags and not because of a genuine interest to volunteer – the goody bag was a ‘fix that failed’.
- Question is what would allow genuine spirit of volunteerism to grow? What influences its growth?
BEHAVIOUR OF THE GRAPH (BOT) / PATTERN OVER TIME
DESCRIPTION OF THE ARCHETYPE
A fix effective in the short term, but has unforeseen long-term consequences which may require even more use of the same fix.
As problems grow, fixes grow (the inner balancing loop), hopefully to cause the problem to go away. However the same fix that allowed the problem go away in the short-run, after a delay, creates (an) unintended consequences that makes the problem worse (the outer reinforcing loop) in the long run.
Urgent File Case Study
OUTLOOK THAT CAUSES THE STRUCTURE TO PERSIST DESPITE OUR EFFORTS TO SOLVE THEM / RESISTS PROBLEM SOLVING:
“The competition is thick. And therefore, time is money, and neither time nor money should be wasted. Hence, the first answer must be the right one. Get to it quickly! ASAP!!!”
FEAR OF FAILURE. LEARNING: TO LET IT GO SO AS NOT TO LET THE FEAR AFFECT THE WAY YOU SHAPE YOUR OUTLOOK, PERSPECTIVES AND DECISION-MAKING.
MAKING A SYSTEMIC INTERVENTION
TREATING THE STRUCTURE
Almost any decision carries long-term and short-term consequences and the two are often diametrically opposed. Therefore, maintain focus on the long-term. Disregard short-term fix if possible, only to buy time while working on the long-term remedy. This archetype can help us get off the problem-making treadmill by identifying fixes that may be doing more harm than good.
- “Breaking” or reversing the effects of this cycle usually requires acknowledging that the fix is merely alleviating a symptom and preventing us from making a commitment to solve the real problem now.
- A two-pronged attack of applying the fix and planning out the fundamental solution will help ensure that you don’t get caught in a perpetual cycle of re-solving yesterday’s solutions:
Prong #1: Identify problem symptom. Map current interventions and how they were expected to rectify the problem. Map unintended consequences of the interventions
Prong #2: Identify fundamental causes of the problem using the shifting the burden archetype. Find connections between fixes and the fundamental causes. Are they linked? Proceed to identify high-leverage interventions. Map potential side-effects for each intervention in order to be prepared for them (or to avoid them altogether).
What it would look like if the systemic structure was working well (reinforcing positively):
- “We consider possible alternative and their side-effects before acting.”
- We identify possible side effects of short-term fixes.
- Consider deeper-seated issues, when addressed or worked with would cause the problem that needs fixing to go away by itself or cause what is desired to grow without the need for fixing or correcting it.