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 direction.

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.

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