Abstract for: Dynamics of Interventions - Relationship between Scale of Change and Performance

Research, as well as three decades of working with managers across diverse cultures, nationalities, and industries, revealed consistent patterns of counter-productive decision-making in their organisations. Managers appear to exhibit an unmistakable tendency to “over-intervene” in the systems (companies, organisations, communities, etc) they are responsible for. This indicates an inadequate level of understanding and appreciation of the complex dynamics, hence generating unnecessary fluctuations and instability in their organisations. Maani et al. (2004), Sterman (1989), and Sweeny (2000) have studied these phenomena in experimental and simulated environments respectively. Anecdotal evidence, as well as research results, highlight a number of mental models and assumptions commonly held by managers. One of the most apparent assumptions observed is the notion of “the harder you push, the faster it goes”, and thus, larger-scaled interventions should result in better performance. This research uses empirical evidence elicited from realistic simulation models of organisations (Microworlds) to shed light upon the relationship between scale of interventions and performance. The results showed that even though large-scaled interventions are effective in the start-up phase of systems, they are generally counter-productive for mature systems operating in steady states. Such results confirm findings from recent research, including the multi-year longitudinal studies of organisations by Collins (2001).