The stones in the Jefferson Memorial were deteriorating badly. The initial, knee-jerk plan was to replace the stones with fresh ones hauled up from a quarry in southern Virginia. This would cost a gazillion tax dollars and require closing the memorial to tourists for many months.
So some simple questions were asked: Why were the stones deteriorating? Because they were frequently cleaned with harsh chemicals. Why was this cleaning necessary? Because pigeons were leaving too many calling cards. Why all the pigeons? They fed on the heavy spider population. Why so many spiders? They were attracted by a huge moth population. Why all the moths? The moths were attracted by the monument’s lights during their twilight swarming frenzy.
Solution: Turn on the lights one hour later.
This is systems thinking, examining the big picture to reveal the multiplicity of causes and effects. Smart organizations use it to find simple and cost-effective solutions to a wide range of performance issues. They sort through the loops and links. They ask the right questions. They avoid asking the wrong questions. They diagnose before they prescribe.
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