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Seek Alternate Route

road work signSummer is the time for road work in New England. As the weather warms and schedules ease a bit, public work crews seize their short window of opportunity to repair the cracks and potholes wrought by winter. “Seek Alternate Route” signs are everywhere.

Groan. My first reaction to that message is aggravation. What an inconvenience! But, wait a minute—wasn’t I just complaining about the potholes, too?

One of the watchwords familiar to systems thinkers is worse before better. It’s a handy phrase for reminding the impatient and impetuous among us to keep the longer view in mind. By thinking long-term, we can better anticipate the unintended consequences of that seemingly simple quick fix. We can more readily accept the temporary discomfort of significant course correction by focusing on the improvement it will bring.

The pain of rehab after hip surgery may lead to pain-free walks on the beach. Sales numbers that sag during a major process redesign may soar when the new processes are up and running. The deceleration and detours that accompany road reconstruction give way to a delightfully smooth driving experience.

Tuning in to longer feedback loops can reduce your agitation level. And besides, who knows what you’ll discover along that alternate route?

  1. June 25, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Hi Vicky – so nice to receive your post. I was involved recently in a course correction, one in which I helped two others correct. It got worse before it got better. We all stayed patient and focused on the long-term, and things worked out really well. Worse before better stayed with me and helped during the momentary setbacks. Thank you for your teaching. Good ki!

    • June 25, 2013 at 10:47 am

      Thanks, Judy. I’m glad you’re there to help people navigate the bumpy roads of interpersonal conflict. I think relationship management is one of the hardest places to apply the worse before better concept, particularly for people who would describe themselves as conflict averse. Good ki to you, too!

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