We’re continuing our series into a deeper understanding of the 11 Laws of Systems Thinking by Peter Senge. Today we focus on …
Law #5: The Easy Way Out Usually Leads Back In
This one is fairly intuitive, but I was thinking about a good example to share and remembered a situation I once faced with an employee who had an “attitude problem” … a lot of attitude. I don’t think I need to describe what that means. Suffice it to say it was not working for our relationship.
To facilitate the attitude adjustment that needed to happen, I put together a PIP (performance improvement program). This basically consisted of putting him through the paces on a bunch of different things and insisting that his attitude change – which was incredibly subjective. Well, you can imagine it was a disaster. I created a worse problem. I ended up with an employee who not only had an attitude but also a lot of resentment. The PIP was the easy way out. It was the easy way out with a complicated system.
When we’re talking about human beings, we are talking about systems. There’s so much that’s going on for this particular person, so it’s a system issue. So rather than just putting the quick fix of a PIP on him, what would’ve been much more helpful is coaching, training, deep empathy… work that would’ve been a lot harder but so much better in terms of result.
So why is this law so important?
Lack of Sustainability
Our first instinct solutions when we need to radically prioritize… are good, right? You pay attention to that. You pay attention to that inner leadership voice in the moment. But when you don’t have to make an immediate decision in the moment, and you’re dealing with a system issue, it’s much better to appreciate it from a complex perspective and know that easy solutions are not necessarily sustainable in the long run. They often neglect the broader context and fail to consider potential consequences or future needs.
Opting for the easy way out typically involves minimizing upfront investments, whether it’s time, resources, or effort. However, this often means deferring necessary investments that would have addressed the problem more effectively in the first place. Delaying necessary actions or investments can result in greater challenges down the line, which by the way, is one of the reasons for investing in a good training, coaching, and consulting program like we offer at Unleashed Consulting (check out the Best Boss Bootcamp).
Lack of Learning and Growth
Choosing the path of least resistance denies individuals the opportunity to learn, adapt, and grow. Facing and overcoming challenges is a fundamental part of personal and professional development. By taking the easy way out, you miss valuable learning and may find yourself unprepared to handle future situations.
So I want you to keep these three points in mind as you’re dealing with a complex problem that really demands your attention right now. See if you can pull away from it. Get that broader system perspective and recognize that your first instincts probably are not your best instincts around addressing a complex issue. Sit with it, map it out, and see if you can make sense of the bigger picture before you rush right in to do something like I did with my employee PIP.