We are continuing with understanding and exploring Peter Senge’s 11 Laws of Systems Thinking. Remember, this is important because a lot of the problems that we face as managers and leaders are those kinds of problems that don’t require quick fixes. They require a balcony view of an entire system.
So think about this. Think about a problem right now that you’re facing, a system challenge, where there are many moving pieces, and each piece affects one another. That’s what these system laws are about. So today, let’s take a look at the next law in this series and three things I want you to consider when you’re thinking about when you are considering your system challenge.
Law #7: Faster is Sometimes Slower
Saboteur Mode vs. Sage Mode
If you’ve been following me, you know that I use a framework called Positive IntelligenceⓇ in working with clients, and it’s also how I run my business and my life. It’s a powerful way of feeling, thinking and behaving in the world that is less about sabotaging ourselves and more about being in sage. Sage is the deeper, wiser, calmer part of our mind. So I want you to get out of saboteur mode. Oftentimes, saboteur mode for us is around being hyper controller, hyper achiever … go, go, go, get the problem solved, move on. And instead, what I’m going to ask you to do is to slow down.
When you’re thinking about working through a system challenge, it’s important that you pull yourself away from that challenge and spend some quality time by yourself and/or with your team to really explore the different parts of the system and how we can best impact it. Because when we rush into solving problems, it can backfire on us, and that’s why we say faster is sometimes slower.
Instead of wasting time with quick fixes that explode and create more time and more hassle, let’s slow down. And what is it that carpenters say? Measure twice, and cut once. We want to make sure we are spending the time not to make the mistakes that we often make when we rush into things and instead slow down and really take a look at the entire system.
System Reinforces Itself Negatively
Recognize that when we rush to fix a system problem, oftentimes the system reinforces itself negatively. So we start to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves immediately to us, and we start working with them. Those tend to be the things that show up right in front of us. So maybe it’s changing our staff, changing a staff member, bringing in somebody new, or slashing a budget item. Often what happens is the system reinforces itself negatively with those kinds of quick fixes because it feeds right back into the system. That mistake you make in thinking that you can rush in to solve the problem reinforces the system and makes it even stronger, makes it even harder to make an impact or make a change because you’ve made that mistake. So slow down.
A good example of that might be when you rush to perhaps think, “Oh, well, if we just got rid of this person,” or “If we just put this person on a PIP, everything would change.” And what happens with something like that is you start to get bitterness, resentment, unhappiness, and dissatisfaction with your staff, and that reinforces the problem. Instead of making it easier, it reinforces the problem and makes the system even stronger. So then it’s even less apt to be shifted and changed. So slow down, don’t make those mistakes. Take your time so that the system does not reinforce itself negatively. We want it to change positively.
Slow Down the Car – Avoid Speed Traps
We go through our jobs and our work being as quick, efficient, and productive as we can. And what system laws are asking you to do is to recognize that we need to slow down in order to really understand the bigger complex problems.
It’s just like when we’re driving a car, trying to rush to get someplace, and we run into a speed trap, and we get pulled over, and we slow down. And what happens? You reach your destination that much slower and with a hefty ticket. So I want you to slow down the car, avoid these speed traps. Instead, take a leisurely drive as you really take apart the system and start to understand it and where in that system, you can make the biggest impact and the biggest change.