Law #2: The Harder You Push, the Harder the System Pushes Back

On the other hand, the less hard you push, the less hard the system pushes back. Make sense?

This law reminds us as to why, some of our best of intentions and efforts to correct or grow a situation while at first seems to create the results we had desired, yet when we continue to push in the direction we had been taking does not create the results we had intended. In fact the harder we push, the worse it even seems to become. That does not make sense. If it has worked well in the past, the harder you push, the better should become the result.

Instead it does not. We have all experienced some form of this law at one time or another. The system experiences burnouts, rising costs of operations, need for retrenchments, staff choosing to turnover, declining sales, declining birth rates, increased retaliations, rising health concerns, and so on. Why does this happen?

[Exercise: Let’s Push Hands]

Here’s a real-life example.

The police force was introducing its incident management system (IMS) by building remote computer accesses in the fast-response vehicles of its response units. It did so by what looks like a smaller version of laptop devices that the officer can then pull down by his seating area and begin to enter information directly onto the IMS device while he and his partner is responding at the site of the incident.

The device is further linked to the GPS system that allows it to capture location information rapidly. In this way, the device also doubled as a means for central 999 operator calls to direct cars nearest to the scene of an incident and so dispatch vehicles at their earliest possible times, therefore reducing critical response time for complainants.

This was senior management’s response to public outcry that police response times were not as fast as it should be. Of course, the management prided itself first in coming up with a good solution and of course for the expediency at which the devices began to be mounted within the fast-response vehicles right across the city. And after the first dusts began to settle down, of course, we all patted on each others’ backs for a good job done!

The commissioner took it upon himself to launch the event and to rally the officers behind the idea. Roadshows were conducted and delivered. Everything went well. The christening was done and the first cars with the devices had begun to criss-cross the city. Everything was going well as planned. Or so we thought.

A few weeks into the operation, the 3rd button from the left would get stuck. When the button gets stuck, for the central control room’s monitoring system, the “dot” that represents the vehicle made it look like the vehicle was at stop. It did not move although in actual fact the vehicle was in motion. But the screen would not show the movement.

After more weeks, “the dot” appears to ‘disappear completely’! When the IT teams were sent in to check ‘what was wrong’, they had found the devices had been ‘switched off and put away’ as the officers claimed the devices had posed themselves as hazards when officers had to whiz across the city or had to brake the vehicle suddenly. The officers were concerned the device could hurt their bodies and therefore had ‘decided to put the device away’.

What happened next? The control room began to lose control on the position of their vehicles and were forced to revert to using traditional modes of communication that the officers had been used to. And so, after what had seemed like millions of dollars of investments, the organization’ were resorting to the traditional radio communications.

What had gone wrong?

What were the officers not saying, beyond the obvious? When the officers began to open up, they expressed the ‘Big Brother is watching’ syndrome and had been concerned the impact the scrutiny had on their careers. The officers have not been subject to such levels of scrutiny in the past and their freedoms seem to have curtailed suddenly when restroom and meal breaks were also subjects of scrutiny by the control room.

What is happening?

This is where Law #9 comes in.

What does it say? You can have your cake and eat it too but not at once!

There is an order in which causality happens. And when we respect the order we can have our cake and eat it too!