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What if… (Markus Gärtner)

On January 21, 2014, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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What if you found out that you were living in a matrix? That the world before your eyes has been blurred. That a lot of the things that are dear to you actually are counter-productive to your goals. How would you recognize this?

Some years ago, with Systems Thinking, I started to realize some problems with my own thought processes. Ever since then my realizations went worse. I am too frank to face you with the full truth. Still here are some stories worth thinking about.

Speeding cameras

This first story is a story I heard last year that I could resonate well with. Some years ago, in the UK, there were some examinations regarding traffic accidents. For high-risk areas politicians declared they wanted to put speeding cameras in place in order to have drivers adhere to the speeding limits. The proposal was concluded, and the speeding cameras installed.

Skip forward a few months. Another study considers the effectiveness of speeding cameras. Researchers dive into the numbers, and come up with the following conclusion: ever since the speeding cameras were installed, the number of traffic accidents in that area went up – not down.

Now, the logical conclusion would be to get rid of speeding cameras at all. Unfortunately us humans make more political rather than logical decisions. Since the speeding cameras created another income for the city or county – an additional income that was already planned for – the speeding cameras were not removed.

What happened? While the rational argument when it comes to traffic accidents pro-claims to remove the cameras, the political decision prevailed.

Group leader

Your boss asks you whether you want to take over the leadership for a group of people. You feel honored, and want to please your boss. But you have personal doubts, and express that you would need guidance because you never did something like that. Your boss tells you that you can get the mentoring and training necessary to fit into that role. You feel satisfied, and agree to step up into that position.

You start working with your colleagues. You consider yourself part of the group, and try to make decisions as equal among equals. You try to ping back and forth ideas, but progress seems to be slowing done, and you don’t know why.

Surprisingly for you, one of your colleagues expresses a thought in a discussion that is new to you. You start to realize that he sees you in a different role than you see yourself. Immediately you realize that you have a different influence – and outside perception – just because you replied ‘yet’ to accept that role. You notice you are received as “the bad boss” in front of your colleagues, although you try to lead reasonable arguments. You realize that with your position in the way you cannot have reasonable discussions to move forward anymore. And you also don’t want to lose your face by stepping back from your position. What do you do?

Manager

You are hired as a manager for a department. You work with your group leaders and other managers to provide the best value possible. You are busy working on improvements, making decisions based upon the best of your knowledge, and the support of all your staff.

One day you notice that your competitors are delivering similar product with one third of the staff size in one tenth of the time than you do. You are not sure how they are doing other than that they are working harder.

You find out, that the department you lead actually harms the progress and revenue of the company. You notice that the existence of your role as a manager of that department leads to sub-optimization, extra work, and more costs for your employer. You notice that the things that keep you busy are actually causing you to become even more busy, and hire more staff. One hand you like being responsible for more people, and love to take care for them. On the other hand, you notice that you are hurting the very company that is paying your paycheck each month. What would you do? Risk your employer run out of business because it cannot deliver similar products at comparable speed and price? Or do you try to convince your bosses and your colleagues that you are causing more harm with your work?

What if…

Life is more political than you think. At times, life can be as political as a senat discussion without you noticing that. The stories above are drawn from real situations – only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

What if you were too bling to see the light? What if your current perception of the world keeps you from seeing the reality? What if your current desires like money, position and salary, and status keep you from seeing the trouble you are creating? How would you like to wake up? At once like getting up from a nightmare? Or slowly fading out of that dream? Waking up by someone else or by yourself?

I have tried to wake up some of these folks, and I have tried to wake up myself in comparable situations. All of them involved unpleasant news, foreign elements in Virginia Satir’s terms, and mostly the persons involved to accept the situation. It’s hard to live in the real world at times – but transparency can help us improve. Don’t turn your eyes away from it.

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