Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ambiguity, bad showers, and organizational restructuring II

This is (finally) the follow-on from this article. In the that article we were discussing when it is that the decision is made to engage in some form of organisational change process. Now bearing in mind what I wrote previously about the regression fallacy and in particular the issue that things only come to our notice once they have crossed some threshold (usually a very personal and somewhat arbitrary threshold) and put it together with what I wrote about our perchance for action bias.

There are some considerations here:
  1. The first is that when we actually notice a problem we don't notice the problem, rather we notice the symptoms.
  2. Secondly, by the time that we have noticed the symptoms there has almost always been a time-lag between the problem occurring and us noticing it (usually as it passes a threshold).
  3. When the symptoms cross our threshold we almost always jump into action mode or solutionizing as it is known - as happened in this situation and evidenced here.
So what happens is like trying to use a shower I have at home:

The shower in question is the type that sits over the bath and is connected, via a long flexible pipe, to the bath taps, just like the picture above.
Have you ever tried to use one of these contraptions to have a stand up shower with??

You tend to find that you were are constantly juggling the taps as the water osculates between ice and steam with about three seconds in between where the water is the temperature you want. If you have such a shower you will undoubtedly know what I mean.

The key here is the water pressure and length and bore of the pipe. If the water pressure is low, the length of the pipe is long and the bore is narrow (like my shower), the lag between what you do with the taps and what the temperature the water is when it finally comes out of the shower head is quite considerable.

The effect of this long lag between what I am feeling and any actions I take with the taps means it is incredibly hard to get the right temperature. You either have to make the changes really slowly and incrementally and wait to see what effect it has had (got the link with organisational change?), or if you are in a hurry (because things are bad and we need action NOW) you find that you end up over compensating and a couple of minutes later end up with scalding water. Which when you try to compensate for this, a couple of minutes later you are back to freezing water with a 3 second period of just right showering.

All organisational change has a long lag between what we do and their effects.

Just to make matters worse there is a lag at the beginning from the problem occurring, us noticing the symptoms and then any action we decide then to take. This is followed by a delay before we notice finally what effect our actions have had, which may be months or more likely years down the line. By which time we have got impatient and turned the taps again!

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