Why systems fail LO10089

Keith Cowan (72212.51@CompuServe.COM)
20 Sep 96 11:05:19 EDT

Replying to LO10038 --

Rol Fessenden <76234.3636@CompuServe.COM> quotes several sources:
>Dorner offers a 5-step problem-solving process which Adams uses to make
>his 0wn points about how difficult they are to achieve. >
>The steps are:
> . Have clear goals. This is, of course, the first problem. Rarely can
>indiviuals, let alone societies, define clearly what they want. We are
>ambivalent. On this forum, for example, we saw a few months ago that
>there were no self-evident truths.
> . Second, have a model. Again, according to Adams, there are no complete
>models explaining reasonably complex situations.
>*. Third, predict the future. As a consequence of inadequate models and
>inadequate information prediction, routinely founders.
> . Fourth, plan, decide, and act. Certainly at the societal level and
>frequently in smaller organizations, so much uncertainty was introduced in
>the first three steps that we are paralyzed.
>*. Finally we must be prepared to acknowledge that a solution is not
>As Adams goes on to say, how can anyone manage these tricks in a nonlinear
>world characterized by conflicting values and by billions of people acting
>on each other and their environment--and in the process constantly
>changing each other and the world?

I have highlighted the third and the last points. I would suggest that the
other items are pretty common to every management team. The third also
encompasses intuition and integration. Good intuition is about discerning
the essence among all the confusing data and opinions, and integration is
related to understanding the cross-functional implications of alternatives
so that the HR and financial impacts of a manufacturing or sales
initiative are dealt with, for example. Or the side effects of one action
in a related area (market, product, etc...) are anticipaated.

The last is key since intuition is never perfect. It is having the guts to
measure and then assessing when its time to change. Leaving an initiative
alone when early indicators are bad is probably THE toughest act the
executive can take. The next toughest is finally admitting it will not
work after all the mid-course corrections fail to improve things.

Is it really this easy? Of course not! Luck has to be given a chance to
contribute, and a 100 other items are worthy of discussion. But boiled
down to its essence, my intuition tells that that these are the key
distinctions. FWIW...IMHO....Keith


Keith Cowan <72212.51@CompuServe.COM>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>