Fixes That Fail
Have you noticed how often your intentions go awry? You set
out to fix a problem and shortly thereafter you find yourself
fixing the same problem again, and again. This is most often the
result of a fixes that fail structure, or a more intricate variation
on the same theme.
A fixes that fail structure consists of a balancing
loop which is intended to achieve a particular result, yet
the result is foiled by an insidious reinforcing
loop. These two loops interact in such a way that the desired
result initially produced by the balancing loop is, after some
delay, negated by the actions of the reinforcing loop.
The internal balancing loop operates in the standard balancing
loop fashion. The action that adds to the migration
of the current state toward the desired state
also influences, after some delay, some unexpected consequences.
These unexpected consequences subsequently impede
the migration of the current state in the intended
What makes this structure so annoying is that the time delay
associated with the unexpected consequences may be such
that it is most difficult to really see what's happening. The
fact that it is a reinforcing loop means that its impact may initially
be small and only grows to be noticed over time. You fix a problem
and think things are fine, then days, weeks, or even months later
the same problem is back again. And, with the hectic nature of
organizations, who can remember what happened months ago.
- The most effective strategy for dealing with this structure
is advance planning. Since you can never do just one thing, as
everything affects everything else, before taking action to change
the current state, think about what else that action is apt to
affect. And, what affect with the affect will have. Sometimes
the unexpected consequences may be several affects away, so don't
stop at just one. Essentially what one seeks to do is identify
the unexpected, which means it's no longer unexpected then is
- A less effective strategy would be to figure out how to disconnect
the unexpected consequence from influencing the current state
in time. Of course then it wouldn't be a consequence would it.
Areas of Concern
- A fixes that fail structure is often part of a more elaborate
structure in which the fixes that fail structure simply represents
dealing with the symptoms rather than the underlying real problem.
For additional insights into this situation see: Shifting
- A fixes that fail structure often results in becoming dependent
on the fix, thus applying it over and over. For additional information
into this situation see: Addiction.
- A fixes that fail structure may also be part of a larger
structure wherein cooperative influences are unintentionally
responsible for creating problems for each other. For additional
insights into this situation see: Accidental
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Copyright © 2004 Gene Bellinger