the doom loop between strategy and system


“Once the inner connection is grasped, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions collapses before their collapse in practice”

Karl Marx


“It’s never the changes we want that change everything.”

Junot Díaz


How often have we identified a strategy and then went about identifying the obstacles within the system to effectively bring it to life? I would suggest more often than not this is exactly what we do. So, then we go about fixing the system, or fine tuning it to match the strategy, only to find the obstacles we foresaw were not really the inhibitors we thought (or by fixing them we created some unintended consequence instead).

The alternative, I imagine, is maybe we design a strategy to most effectively match the system we have only to watch the system change as it implements the strategy.

Both are flawed albeit the latter less so than the former.

The only thing a dynamic system guarantees is the future you foresee, or envision, will not happen.

My point here is you do need some plans, but plans, in a dynamic market, shouldn’t be followed to the detriment of the objective.

My point here is you need some strategies, but strategies, in a dynamic market, should sometimes be pursued to the detriment of a planned objective.

My point here is you need to recognize that your system is in some cases is not worth the energy to change (use as it exists) and in others tweak to enable plans and strategies, i.e., your system is both an enabling and a restricting constraint.

My point here is that strategies should nest within a system, or system dynamics, rather than have systems support a strategy <note: this is a general rule which under circumstances can be broken>.

Ok. That nested thought.

Nested dynamic processes ARE the system process. Anyone who suggests “this is our process” and describes it as some discrete, mutually exclusive thing, is on drugs. Any one process is simply something you have chosen to put boundaries around just to analyze and describe <that is a bastardization of a Donella Meadows thought>. Processes are layered, distinctly paced and intersectional. There are slow variables to fast variables all of which create patterns with slow to faster moving parts. This means, not only those things happen in combinations of speeds, but that also change occurs, and is encouraged, to happen at different speeds. The only way to manage this is to reduce environment variables to attempt to manipulate the context to create positive dynamics for process/system to thrive. I’d be remiss if I didn’t state these are ‘limited time contexts’ and more often than not dissolve faster than any business person would like. I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out this also demands:

  • Different configurations of strategy

  • Emergent strategy implementation

  • Predictive strategies only used for framing not execution

All these layers and connections can create what appear to seem like fluid patterns and interactions, but are actually a makeup of somewhat unexpected patterns (within the transactions, community and world) but typically within a range of anticipated behavior. This also means that while a pattern is occurring, simultaneously, new patterns are being created (new patterns also create new possibilities). This may seem simultaneously exciting and frightening (organizations like tidiness and predictability & replication), but what I can say it should be simultaneously opportunistic and dynamic.

It is key to remember that systems, left to their own devices <maybe with some constraints>, have the ability to expand the proper strategy beyond the imagination of any objective one can place on it.

That said. More strategies die within systems than they do in the marketplace. Think about that. Think about that for a long time because if you don’t recognize the doom loop between strategies and systems you are, well, doomed.

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Written by Bruce