I believe it was Peter Drucker who first said, "Management is doing things right and leadership is doing the right things." The idea being that once leadership figured out which were the right things to do management set about figuring out how to get them accomplished. This may have been an appropriate operative perspective at some point in history, yet with the pace of change today leadership and management must be integrated to operate across all facets of the organization. It is simply not possible for leadership to sit on high and develop the organizations objectives so management can effect the strategies to achieve the objectives.
The Balancing Loop is representative of the old leadership & management paradigm where the objective was established by leadership and it was then management's task to manage the activity to cause the current state to move toward, and finally achieve, the objective. There are multiple structural problems with this paradigm in addition to the ones stated above. First, as the current state gets closer to the objective the gap becomes smaller and smaller thus providing less motivation for activity. Also, as one becomes more and more focused on an objective the more likely they are to achieve it, and the less capable they become at being able to discern whether or not the objective still makes sense.
The Reinforcing Loop is representative of a new paradigm, which is neither leadership nor management, but rather both in a rather integrated fashion. The implication being that the current state, along with the knowledge of the pattern that is emerging within the current state, provides the foundation for the activity that should be undertaken to alter the current state. Activity founded on the knowledge of the emergent current state ends up being reinforcing, at least to the extent the knowledge of current state is accurate and wisdom is exercised to determine the appropriate action.
Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, the reinforcing loop seems essentially the Taoist concept of non adoo, where the sage though no action leaves nothing undone. Non adoo was not really meant to imply no action, but rather no inharmonious action. The idea being that the sage worked with the system rather than against it. The balancing loop implication is that action be used, to whatever extent necessary, to drive the current state to the objective. The problems associated with this approach are legion, and we are living with the the problems generated as a result of yesterday's managed solutions.
I would expect this perspective is probably a bit much for most to accept so I'll ponder it a while to see where this article goes from here. And, I'll end with, "We choose what we believe, and then we believe what we chose."
Copyright © 2004 Gene Bellinger