THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

Let’s return to the Law of Unintended Consequences one more time. The functional world has always been integrated, where virtually every action in one function has consequences in all of the others, some dramatic, some minimal, but always having consequences. Over the years, management theories have identified and quantified these relationships and impacts, but as businesses have grown larger and more complex, the ability to conceptualize all intended and unintended results of actions has become more and more difficult.

Now, with the advent of ERP software systems, the process of identifying connection points and understanding how both positive and negative consequences not only are created but can also be predicted has brought the challenge from out of the dark into the full light of day. Along with this revelation comes a whole set of new challenges for leaders and process owners.

Let’s look at one more dramatic example of this principle. During the 1960s and the 1970s, the fatality rate for open-wheel racers had risen due to increased speeds and handling, to the point where more and more deaths occurred each year. As a result, steps were taken to make the sport safer, and one of the directions it took was to use the concept of dissipating energy in a crash so that the driver didn’t absorb the entire force during an accident. Consequently, the monocoque chassis was developed, along with external parts of the vehicle that would dissemble, taking ...

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