Life in Organizations LO9688

Rol Fessenden (76234.3636@CompuServe.COM)
02 Sep 96 15:44:59 EDT

Replying to LO9668 --

Julie suggests there are three ways to view systems.

1 - we can *uphold* them as being the best we can do given the
2 - we can *condemn* (blame) them totally for the extent to which
they inhibit learning and people's 'self-actualization'
3 - we can seek to *transform* them into something more supportive

The number of times I observe the balancing power of systems inspires me
to consider the possibility that the three perspectives I outlined above
might all simultaneously be true and at any one time we should be able to
pull out the things they were created to achieve (when and if they ever
worked 'fine' as you say) the areas in which they fall short and are
failing us and the elements which clearly can and should be
developed/changed to take account of new internal or external realities
(or things which were missing in the original design) ..............

== end quote ==

This is similar to and complementary to what I was describing. Having
devleoped many systems and processes, it is quite clear that the old 80/20
rule nearly always prevails. The system achieves 80% of its goals at a
cost of 20% of the cost it would take to achieve 100% of the goals. so
compromise was built in from the beginning. It never was a perfect
system, but the builders and users understood its strengths and
weaknesses, and they -- strengths and weaknesses -- were aligned with the
pressing needs of the organization.

As time goes on, two things happen. People change, and the new people do
not understand or necessarily agree with the original compromises.
Organizational needs change, and the original system does not meet the new
pressing needs as well as it did the original ones. So what happens?

First, the system is probably still doing what it was designed to do.
Second, what it was designed to do is less relevant and pressing than it
used to be. Third, new pressing needs have arisen, and the system does not
take them into account. Fourth, the new people see the new pressing
needs, but are unfamiliar with the history. 'ALL' they see is that the
system does not work as it should. The new people view the old system as a
faulty one, sometimes blaming the old people for creating it. they do
not, and because they do not know the history, cannot understand where the
roots of the old system came from.

On the other hand, the old people some times get into the rigid position
of defending the old system at all costs. They built it, and they feel
ownership. These people are unable to learn from their experiences, and
see that needs have changed.

That is the life-cycle of a system or a process. That is how it
progresses from being a functional, effective system to a condemned one.
But as you can see,the original system met the needs it was designed to
meet. Over time, the needs changed, and the system became dysfunctional.
No one ever built it to be dysfunctional, it just aged into disrepair.


Rol Fessenden LL Bean, Inc.

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