The biggest danger when we’re trying to make things better is that a change in one area simply causes a reciprocal change somewhere else. Often called ‘squeezing the balloon’, it can be a very frustrating thing for those trying to make a difference.
The Washington Post ran a story this week about how the Amazon forest threat is greater outside Brazil than it is within. They’re winning the deforestation battle in Brazil but losing the battle in the Amazon (which includes Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia). A great example of putting too much focus on one place and not focusing on the rest.
In our workplace, we design processes to gain efficiency in one area and we we create bureaucracy that increases costs in another. In software companies, we fix a bug in one part of the code and introduce a problem somewhere else.
The way to stop squeezing the balloon is to understand the complex interrelationships between different parts of the whole. We have to be ready to follow the problem where it leads us, even across organizational boundaries. We have to be ready to simplify and eliminate the complexity that causes the balloon squeezing. Our approach needs to be very broad. It needs to cross borders.
A great example would be Ford Motor Company, where simplifying their products, pushing to have more parts in common, and puttingc greater focus on market segments they could win led to a complete turnaround of the company’s fortunes.
It takes brave and committed leadership to stop the squeezing of the balloon.