Why systems fail LO10194

JC Howell (orgpsych@csra.net)
Fri, 27 Sep 1996 10:06:31 +0000

Replying to LO10180 --

In Why systems fail LO10180 Julie Beedon wrote:
> * As the plan progresses and new data emerges then we *must* change the
> plan....
> * Plans are not scripts but outlines for the story we want to tell... we
> improvise and adapt as the story develops...
> * Changes to the plan are never *failures* in this model just emergent
> realities ...
> * Those who created the plan did not fail - they created what they could
> with what they knew...

Having spent several years in the US Army where we did a great deal of
planning I quickly found that a plan was just what Julie has described:
an outline of what we would like to happen/think will happen. As such,
plans never came about as originally laid out. Success required
flexibility and adaptability among most, if not all, of the participants
in the enterprise.

What always struck me as odd was the tendency to evaluate an operation or
activity based on how well it followed the original plan rather than the
results the operation achieved. Typically, if a plan was not followed the
planner was "shot" by the constituents. That having been done, the
leaders (often self-styled) proceeded to take credit for the results which
were now divorced from the original planner and, therefore, up for grabs
in that context. This kind of made planning an undesirable task for those
in the junior ranks and something which only the most ambitious undertook
with emthusiasm.

Having left the military environment a while back I have been surprised to
see a similar process take place in the corporate world on a number of
occasions (but not all). It strikes me that this orientation toward
planning as a hard-and-fast "science" has been at the root of many
problems in the business world and has hindered learning in so many cases.

Clyde Howell

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