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Why do things go wrong

15.02.21 01:16 PM Comment(s) By Nick Bird

and who is to blame

Have you ever stopped and thought about why things go wrong in your business or organisation. How come when they do go wrong and you find an answer which seems to work for a while it unaccountably starts failing and the problem you thought you had solved comes back to haunt you only now it has grown? This is the all too familiar story for business leaders - 


Sales climb exponentially and with such a buoyant market it seems sensible to make hay while the sun shines and invest more in marketing. Then without warning they crash. Surely there is only one explanation - the sales director can no longer cut the mustard so needs to be got rid of. Or perhaps we need to spend even more on marketing. And this seems to work for a while. A new sales manager seems to get the sales moving again or the marketing pays off for a while, only sales to crash once more.


What you are experiencing are the characteristic patterns of working with a complex system rather than a precisely engineered mechanism. In system like this, where every part is influenced and is influencing every other part, you have deep dynamic complexity where you can't understand what is happening in terms of cause and effects. You need to see loops of reinforcing or balancing influence from which characteristic patterns arise, like exponential sales growth followed by crashes. You can only see these patterns by taking the long view and you can only escape the system by taking the right actions at the right times.


Systems thinking isn't new. Peter Senge wrote his seminal book - The Fifth Discipline back in the 1990's which described the practices an organisation needed to follow to learn how to use their understanding of complexity, to not just survive but thrive in this complex confusing world. In this Video I describe what systems thinking is, by using the metaphor of a traffic jam.

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