We are resilient and adaptable. And our memories are poor.
So when the short-term variation sits on top of a long-term trend then we do not feel the trend …
… because we are habituating. We do not notice that we are on a slippery slope.
And slippery slopes are more difficult to climb up than to slide down.
In organisational terms the slippery slope is from Calm to Chaos. Success to Failure. Competent to Incompetent. Complacent to Contrite. Top of the pops to top of the flops!
The primary reason for this is we are all part of a perpetual dynamic between context and content. We are affected by the context we find ourselves in. We sense it and that influences our understanding, our decisions and our actions. These actions then change our context … nothing is ever the same.
So our hard-won success sows the seeds of its own failure … and unless we realise that then we are doomed to a boom-bust cycle. To sustain success we must learn to constantly redefine our future and redesign our present.
If we do not then we are consigned to the Slippery Slope … and when we eventually accept that chaos has engulfed us then we may also discover that it may be late. To leap from chaos to calm is VERY difficult without a deep understanding of how systems work … and if we had that wisdom then we would have avoided the slippery slope in the first place.
The good news is that there is hope … we can learn to climb out of the Swamp of Chaos … and we can develop our capability to scale the slippery slope from Chaos through Complex, and then to Complicated, and finally back to Calm. Organised complexity.
It requires effort and it takes time … but it is possible.