Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Frustration of Systems

As an advisor to many American presidents, Bryce Harlow saw his share of politics. In an interview, he once observed that although people often complain of the partisan bickering in Congress, that is a sign that the system is working because it forces compromise and saves us from intemperate actions.

We see similar frustrations in organizations. The same irritating personnel procedures that make it a hard slog to get rid of the oaf or jerk also make it difficult to get rid of the good employee who just happened to cross an executive. Systems are trade-offs. Whenever wishing that one characteristic would be dominant, consider the negative effects that would accompany that power.

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