Shifting the Burden

How many times have you noticed that you seem to solve the same problem over and over. When the problem arises you address it, then some time later, maybe a day, a week, or a month later the same problem arises again. This situation is quite often the result of a Shifting the Burden structure.

A Shifting the Burden structure is composed of two balancing loops and a reinforcing loop. It is a very annoying structure because the two balancing loops act as a single reinforcing loop migrating the situation in the same direction as the reinforcing loop. Both structures support the movement of the system in a direction generally other than the one desired.

In the above diagram a problem symptom is perceived with multiple possible courses of action. One course of action, the symptomatic solution has an apparent time frame advantage over the fundamental solution because of other associated delay. As a result the problem symptom influences the application of the symptomatic solution. Application of the symptomatic solution reduces the problem symptom which dissolves the perceived necessity of pursuing the fundamental solution. A failure to implement the fundamental solution ensures that the problem symptom will return. Let's face it, band aids on cut knees don't keep one from falling of bicycles.

As if this wasn't annoying enough, implementation of the symptomatic solution often, in time, influences the development of unintended side effects, which are often further preclude employing the fundamental solution. The interactions between the problem symptom, symptomatic solution, side effect, and fundamental solution form a viscous reinforcing loop which make the real source of the problem, in time, even more difficult to resolve.

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