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Going Through a Broken System to Fix a Broken System

A patient suffering from a terminal illness was used to self medicating. He would go to the local pharmacy and ask for a particular drug. He did this for years but his health kept on deteriorating. When it reached a point where he really was in pain, he chose to see a doctor. Referrals were made for specialists who could help deal with his condiction. When he was examined, he insisted on the kind of intervention to be done on him. Since he was the customer, the doctor in this clinic followed his patient’s leads. Though the patient was admitted, he chose his menu and disregarded whatever menu had been prescribed to him. Finally the patient asked to be discharged when he was still under observation.  

 
This is a ficticious story but the characterization is not far fetched from reality. Coming closer to the enterprise, the reality is even closer home. Let’s assume the enterprise was the patient, the sickness was the broken system (system here referring the processes, people, relationships and tools), the doctor a potential consltulant sought to help fix the problem and the referral and initial interaction was the sourcing process of the consultant.
 
At a glance, the patient made the decision to see a doctor who he thought would operate within his broken system context. In other words, a doctor who can take instructions in the same manner as the counter guy at the local pharmacy. The context with which the decision was made to hire a consultant already compromises the ability for the consultant to adequately interrogate the problem and find the right solutions (some painful ones) that the customer must swallow and complete the dosage in order to mature their transformation.
 
I have seen invitations for consultancies that help in fixing the maturity level of the transformation part of an enterprise which are so constrained in somewhat similar manner like the story above. Since the method used to determine the kind of consultancy required was made through a process that is broken, the results / solutions are expected to be those that are less painful or not painful at all to the very broken process that was used to request for these services.
Whereas blood samples are taken (read assessment of as-is), lab results are discussed (read assessment report presented) and x-ray results display broken bones (read gaps), the patient in this context takes the upper hand in determining what intervention they will live with. In previous assignments, we have developed three options to the customer having discussed the problem in detail. These options take the form;
  1. Do nothing:- In other words, go home and wait to die.
  2. Do the bare minimum:- Take some pain killers here and there that wont significantly alter your lifestyle but carry the problem with you since you will die anyway.
  3. Overhaul:- Change your diet, take better medication, conduct for regular check ups to assess maturity and life much more richer life.
Option three is usually an aspired state and few if any opt for it because of the implications it has on the enterprise. Therefore, some of them choose to toggle between 2 and 3. However, depending on the context in which the consultant (doctor) was hired, as long as toggling between 2 and 3 doesn’t upset how the patient has lived with the disease, then it is fine. If there are indications that the patient may have to forgo some indulgences which are considered to be “non-negotiable” then this can be downgraded to a 1 and 2. On paper, it may remain a 2 and 3 but in reality it remains a 1 and 2. The effect is as illustrated in the diagram, trying to bring life but constrained by a context of dryness.
 
In conclusion, maturity of transformation is only achievable when the motivation for that maturity is to truly change the broken system even when that means fixing first the system of sourcing for the service. As Einstein once said, We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. If the thinking was in a broken system context, the outcomes will reflect the aspirations of the broken system. Enterprise architecture and enterprise transformation is a lot more about culture than the cycles of producing and consuming the artifacts within the phases, just as much as healing / recovery / better life for the patient is about effectively cooperating with the treatment cycle more than the just producing or consuming the artifacts that the cycle produces. 
 
About the Author

Peter Muya, is an award enterprise transformation practitioner, possessing 15 years experience conducting mid and large-scale transformation projects in the telecommunications, financial services and public sector industries. He is the co-founder and a managing partner of PTI Consulting, a pan-African consulting practice providing ICT related business advisory services
 

 

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