Systemic failure requires new holistic cure
December 30, 2009 4 Comments
As I scanned mass media’s response to the latest terrorist incident, I found very little evidence from representatives of our democracy either in government or journalism who understand the complex issues involved with prevention of systemic crises.
Among the most informed voices I found on this latest terrorism incident is Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post who is one of few who apparently can see the broader problem with respect to counter terrorism. After asking a series of logical questions in his column, he suggests:
“If that’s how the system works, we need a new system.”
Mr. Robinson is correctly stating a fundamental truism; systemic crises require systemic solutions, or a new holistic system designed for the specific challenge. He closes the column with another statement demonstrating wisdom:
“I can’t escape the uneasy feeling that we’re fighting, and escalating, the last war — while the enemy fights the next one.”
Drawing from multiple disciplines in system design
From a system complexity perspective, which is invaluable during the design phase, I often compare large organizations like the U.S. Government to biological systems; one of several disciplines we draw from. In neurology for example, which is a highly complex system, a small percentage of mature adults have been found to experience something comparable to what has been occurring in the U.S. Government called multiple system atrophy (MSA). Unfortunately for MSA patients, no cure has been identified, so doctors can only treat symptoms.
Similarly, we have witnessed a crisis management structure in the U.S. for some time that only addresses symptoms, demonstrated in grand fashion during and after the financial crisis where meaningful reform has failed, despite an extremely dangerous crisis.
Unfortunately for U.S. citizens, one of the symptoms of a dysfunctional organization system is one that successfully defends against improvement. When one symptom is addressed, others tend to pop up in unexpected and often unrecognizable formats, until finally the patient dies from ‘complications’ associated with the underlying disease that has gone untreated.
Obstacles to adopting new systems, or cures
It’s no accident that new correcting systems are rarely adopted by our federal and state governments, and increasingly society as a whole. The protectionism manifests in powerful lobbies representing groups who have interests aligned with the status quo; not the country or its citizens.
We witnessed this protectionism visibly in another highly complex system—healthcare reform, which failed to address the fundamental problem of unsustainable costs already twice as high as any other peer country, and spiraling upwards out of control.
The current healthcare reform efforts may or may not eventually lead to lower costs, but clearly the inability to address the disease even in the midst of crisis (ICU) signifies not just a messy system often associated with our democracy in the past, but rather a failing system. I wish it were not so, but that is what the evidence suggests to me when comparing to a wide variety of other systems.
The best method I have found to measure system failure in states or countries draws from another discipline in economics where the purity of mathematics tells no lies. The U.S. has the capacity to balance the budget, but the system has failed to do so for decades, with the one exception being a temporary tax revenue windfall from the dotcom bubble in the Clinton era. Unless we adopt new and better systems, we will fail; it is indeed a mathematical certainty.
The current system so protects the status quo that it all but assures that new systems will not be adopted, particularly any system that is effective, thus either killing innovations or neutralizing functionality in the adoption process.
The protectionist strategy was clearly crafted incrementally over decades purposely to prevent precisely what is now desperately needed. Incremental reform is the favored tactic for maintaining the status quo in the least disruptive manner, whether in politics or information technology. Generations to come will live with the consequences.
Good news bad news prognosis
The good news is that I believe a cure exists for what is ailing the U.S. Government—I have called the system Kyield, which was designed at great personal cost and sacrifice. The bad news is that the inventor and majority owner (me) isn’t corruptible (actually my wife and my mother think this is good news — whether this is good for the patient or not remains to be seen), so it is highly unlikely under the current contracting or grant schemes that the cure will be administered to the ailing patient.
So it will require a non-traditional form of adoption outside the normal government contracting infrastructure for Kyield, or I suspect any other potential cure, to reach the ICU in an undiluted, effective form.
How to prevent the next Fort Hood tragedy, by design.
A use case scenario developed specifically for the DHS:
(MM: As I was preparing to post this piece to the blog President Obama held a press conference, blaming “human and systemic failures” in the Detroit incident, saying that the current U.S. system “is not sufficiently up to date.” Otherwise, “the warning signs would have triggered red flags, and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.” This is essentially what I have been saying for over a decade, including recently to members of his senior staff. )