Ten Sentences Showing Systemic Problems

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Albert Einstein

hot stove

Don’t touch it. It’s hot!

  1. That’s the way we have always done it. (innovation)
  2. Don’t expect a raise this year. (human capital)
  3. The school nurse called… (human issues)
  4. The customer called and wants the project finished tomorrow. (customer service)
  5. We want you to relocate to …. (global expansion)
  6. Did you hear the one about the? (legal risks/harassment)
  7. I received calls from 14 customers yesterday: the new software version doesn’t work. (product reliability)
  8. We need to update all our computers. (economic risk)
  9. I can’t get you online until tomorrow. (operational systems)
  10. You did what? (complexity, trustworthiness)

Communication, in my humble opinion, is the major problem in corporations.  Sometimes I wonder how any corporation makes a profit. Companies from Fortune 100 to start-sups suffer from dysfunctional guidelines and rules. I recall a large communications company which required a minimum of six “real” signatures before an offer of employment could be sent. I had to drive from one building to another to hogtie a few executives to achieve a quick offer, when I recruited for this company. Management delayed offers when the individual I needed to hire had five other offers to contemplate. What a waste of labor costs!

Peter Senge, a management consultant, said in corporate terminology, “When we fail to grasp systems problems, we are left with ‘push on’ rather than eliminating underlying causes.” My mother said it better: “If the stove is hot, don’t touch it.” I like “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization” by Mr. Senge. His premises are logical and down to earth, emphasizing that individuals must work to change the crazy absurdities in companies. Individuals, not systems, are the managers of change.

Dean Lindsay preaches we must “be progress.” True, but we must be astute. Progress fails when we overstep boundaries, especially with egomaniacs. We don’t want to risk losing our paychecks. But, taking steps toward systemic changes can boost careers and improve the work climate. If the systems fail to change, the company may fail. Baby steps facilitate small improvements, which add to long term success.

Next time we hear one of the evil sentences from the list, let’s see how we can make a difference, not only for ourselves but also for the systemic problems of corporate America. Our mothers will be proud of us!