Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood.

Paraphrasing Peter Senge’s Laws of Systems Thinking:
     Our problems of today often derive from our solutions of yesterday. Within many organizations, the pressure to “fix” problems overwhelms the discipline required to first study and understand them. Over time, this leads to widening gaps between an organization’s current reality and its desired state. Therefore, while applying familiar, comfortable solutions may create temporary improvements, often these solutions do not fundamentally address the underlying issues creating our recurring problems in the first place.
     The easy way out leads us right back in. As the nature and causes of our systemic challenges evolve over time, so must our solutions evolve with them. We cannot retrofit our old solutions to new problems. When we try to do this, the system pushes back and we discover that our solutions of the past are becoming less and less effective over time and are often accompanied by new, unintended consequences because they aren’t really addressing the root causes of the problem. Therefore, we must seek first to understand.
     Faster is slower. If we can slow ourselves down enough and take the deep dive into the heart of the problem, asking “why” multiple times, we can discover and more thoroughly understand the root causes of our problems. This approach can lead us to develop goals centered around smaller, more targeted, areas of leverage that will yield the most meaningful results. It is these consistent, small, targeted, ordinary changes that, over the long haul, will be the most impactful.
     Great organizations are great not because they enact large, sweeping changes and initiatives, but rather because they use an ongoing, targeted, consistent process to discover, study, and address small gaps before they spiral into much larger problems.
Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday.

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