domingo, junio 01, 2014

Two systemic crises that no one can fix: Veteran Heath Administration and electric power services

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." -- Albert Einstein. 
Like President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President Barack Obama is facing a critical systemic problem in the Veteran Administration (VA). Roosevelt addressed a systemic banking crisis with a limited insurance savings proposal that people were not expecting but love.

In the case of the VA a proposal with support to eventually end the need for wars is something no one is expecting but will love. It is easy to anticipate that as societies get more civilized, the opportunity for deeper and authentic dialogue to deal with differences reduces even further the need for war.

My humble suggestion is to use a new kind of thinking to facilitate a shift from the industrial civilization to the post industrial one. The VA case is a specific instance of a large number of wicked or systemic problems being mishandled all over the world, which were created probably as unintended consequences of using the industrial civilization kind of thinking.

In general, the suggestion is that systemic problems need to first find a beachhead to be able to cross what Geoffrey A. Moore named “the Chasm.” He says that to cross it you first need a pragmatist in pain to address an intractable problem, like president Roosevelt did during the Great Depression. After a leader shows that’s possible, they need a few other systemic problems to also cross the Chasm, which he calls a Bowling Pin strategy. Then they get into a Tornado strategy where all kinds of wicked problems are addressed to let leading his community to change to a new civilization.

The above come from his book “Crossing the Chasm,” a BusinessWeek Bestseller, where he said “The real news, however, is not the two cracks in the bell curve, the one between the innovators and the early adopters, the other between early and late majority. No, the real news is the deep and dividing chasm that separates the early adopters from the early majority. This is by far the most formidable and unforgiving transition in the Technology Adoption Life Cycle and it is the more dangerous because it typically goes unrecognized.”

In this humble suggestion to leaders of the world, I urge that both presidents Obama and Danilo Medina need to recognize they are pragmatists in pain with respect to the Chasm relative to the VA and electricity crises. As we will see below, President Medina, with the support of President Obama, can use the systemic electricity problem of the Dominican Republic to be the first to cross the Chasm to show that it is possible. I am quite sure that many people before me have made proposals to address systemic problems that have ended in the Chasm.

Here is another argument, for example, in support of a future without the incentive for war. While the US was heading to lead the 4th technological revolution, as described by Carlota Pérez, in her book “TECHNOLOGICAL REVOLUTIONS AND FINANCIAL CAPITAL: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages,” other countries decided to fight to remain in the 3rd technological revolution. In a longer time period, that was similar to what happened during the revolutionary wars for independence between the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution.

In his book The Third Wave, Alvin Toffler shows repeatedly a surprising insight that the shift from the First Wave agricultural civilization to the Second Wave industrial civilization was totally neutral of the political, social, cultural fundamental differences between countries that led to wars. In addition, their new book Revolutionary Wealth he and his wife Heidi further explain why the waves shift had nothing to do with those fundamental differences, but with what they identify as deep fundamentals.

After learning from that recent book that those deep fundamentals “form a system,” I recognized them as systems essentials. The examples of systems essentials, for example, work, time, space and knowledge, shown in chapters 4 to 22, are shifting greatly without most people awareness to strongly support the civilization leap in the making even without wars.

That’s the main motive to suggest diplomatic efforts to agree on the emergence of the post industrial civilization, that I have suggested elsewhere is the systemic civilization, in which will be able to even dissolve (not need to be solved) many systemic problems. The reasons why I suggest world leaders to take such risks is based on insights that emerged while dealing with the electricity systemic problem which can be seen under the post Alternative EWPC scenario (hyperlinks added) to IEEE Spectrum's The Rise of the Personal Power

Here is the reason of the suggestion to address the systemic electricity crisis as the first to cross the Chasm. Using two interesting systemic metaphors, we can see from the EWPC scenario how the Dominican electricity crisis is just the tip of the iceberg of an essential system crisis that is already transforming the U.S. electric power industry that’s under a severe avalanche discovered and documented during April and May 2014. Next is how important those metaphors are.

In “Managing the Metaphors for Change,” Robert Marshak, suggested that paying attention to metaphors “… become a critical competency for leaders and change agents.” As it happened, at the outset of my involvement on the Dominican Republic electricity crisis, in 1996, I am happy to recall that I started from the solid foundations of Marshak’s insides.

In the case of the VA systemic crisis the underlying quote “We don’t have time for distractions,” Mr. Obama said. “We need to fix the problem,” is that of a non systemic mechanical thinking metaphor. Taking it at face value, with industrial civilization thinking, this article can be easily dismissed as an off topic distraction. Please don’t.

Giving me instead the benefit of the doubt, if we look closely at what By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. wrote on MAY 30, 2014 edition of the New York Times, under the article “V.A. Chief Resigns in Face of Furor on Delayed Care,” we see a distraction behind the reporters thinking in that “Fixing the problem at the department now becomes an urgent political matter for the president, once again raising questions about whether the candidate who pledged in 2008 and 2012 to make government work efficiently has lost grasp of the government he now leads.”

But Mr. Obama and Mr. Medina are not alone on the many systemic problems being faced all over the world. In the VA systemic problem Mr. Obama is facing, for example, cause and effect are not close in the essential system variables of time (other presidents started the wars before him) and space (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan). In the post-industrial civilization it is no longer acceptable to get stuck under machine metaphor thinking, but that kind of thinking continuous still widespread. We need to cross the Chasm from the industrial civilization to the systemic civilization as soon as possible.

Are these the only systemic crises that no one can’t fix? In his article, Marshak describes two other kinds of metaphors: developmental and transitional neither of which is able to deal with systemic crises. It is easy to see that we should not be dealing either with the images “build and develop,” or those with “move and relocate.”

Without getting involved here in the details, the metaphor being considered in IEEE Spectrum's The Rise of the Personal Power is the transitional one to move the electric power industry into the digital world. With EWPC we are actually dealing with the transformational metaphor of the “liberate and recreate” image as part of an emergent civilization. That’s how we will be able to add the much needed systemic leverage to the industry.

What’s needed is to reinvent government by introducing the systemic civilization. In fact, the Access Audit findings reveal “a systemic lack of integrity within some Veteran Health Administration facilities.” That only some were discovered in Phase One of the audit is not to be taken lightly, because as wicked (systemic) problems behave as icebergs, from which can easily see only the tip of the problem, as many were flagged for further review. As the audit might lead to a witch hunt “… suspected willful misconduct” to be fixed with “appropriate personnel actions” that “ will be pursued promptly.”

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