Even when the DNA is similar “we can’t fix today’s problems with yesterday’s tools”:: Part 1

This quote is from David Cole (Chief Risk Officer, Swiss Re) and, needless to say, he wasn’t talking about fixing his 30 year old VW Golf! He was actually talking about our current “economic ills” and the quote appeared in relation to the 2012 Global Risks report from WEF…but the Principle readily applies to both.

Circa 35 years ago, the engine of a popular family vehicle was a complicated machine, that could be maintained, faults identified, performance improved and mechanical repairs undertaken, even at roadside, by an enthusiastic amateur. Observation, diagnosis or intervention at the appropriate stage in the process was possible. However, in a relatively short period of time, these machines have evolved into highly complex systems. The complexity is such that, even a skilled motor mechanic armed with 30+ years knowledge and tools that have changed little, can be rendered helpless.

Despite years of experience, techniques and tools of the trade, without adequate diagnostic capabilities, maintenance, fault-finding and repair may be impossible. Highly experienced automotive engineers may, intuitively, identify a problem by the nature of the symptoms (see below for “business symptoms”) but, in such a litigious society, a wrong diagnosis can be considerably more costly than none! The inability to observe, access or isolate components and sealed units without damaging interdependent functions, mean that even a relatively minor fault can immobilise or dramatically impact the performance of the most complex, high performance, expensive vehicles.

VW Golf 1976
VW Golf 2012

Of course this is not really an article about what is required to to keep a VW Golf, or any other car, on the road! This IS about gaining a broader understanding of how/why   image

A system is composed of regularly interacting or interdependent groups of activities that form a whole. A change in one aspect can affect change in other aspects. Organisations are dynamic, living entities that have been put together to accomplish some type of purpose…

The Law of Requisite Variety at work!

This is a “parable” to illustrate how subtle, gradual, changes to something so familiar, can render knowledge accumulated over a relatively short period of time, virtually, redundant. Many COMPLICATED SYSTEMS [linear; deterministic; single equilibrium] have evolved, a result of a steady stream of innovations [and interconnections – in “living systems”], into COMPLEX SYSTEMS [non-linear; dynamic; interdependent; multiple equilibria] whose outward appearance and original purpose remain deceptively similar but whose complexity is such that the tools and techniques that created them and were developed to manage and maintain them, are, not only inadequate for their original purpose but, when inappropriately applied, can do more harm than good!


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