Sunday, March 16, 2008

Focusing on the symptom or the cure?

I recently read Jay Forrester's "Churches at the Transition Between Growth and World Equilibrium," a paper prepared for the National Council of Churches and published as part of Toward Global Equilibrium: Collected Papers, ed. Meadows and Meadows and published in 1973 (also available from Pegasus Communications).

Forrester emphasized two points that may be worthwhile today to some of you reading this:

Forrester was a bit more direct than I was in my paraphrase. "One should never attempt to find a solution without first establishing the dynamic causes," he wrote, and system dynamics was his tool of choice for testing whether one had found the underlying causes or not.

Today we face increasing energy costs, increasing population density, increasing effects on climate and on the inhabitants of the Earth from the by-products of our industrial and private activity, fundamental shifts in the distribution of production and wealth, a scarcity of resources that were abundant in the past, and the fall-out from overextended financial markets. No matter your type of organization, the complexity of these changes taxes our understanding.

In a time of such changes, how do you make sense of the challenges your organization faces? How do you determine which actions to take to achieve the sustainable successes you want?

If you'd like to discuss ways in which you might make more sense of those issues, ways you might understand the likely causes of the dynamics you face, and ways you might test your proposed actions faster and at less risk than by just trying them, get in touch. Perhaps I can be of help as you seek to fix problems and not just reduce symptoms. Of course, there's no charge or obligation from such an initial discussion.

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