You can’t change the past, but if you don’t learn from it you are trapped into recreating it and all its problems. The only way to generate a unique and flourishing future for your organization is to foster a community of continual learning.
Peter Senge’s first law of The Fifth Discipline is today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions. The problem you inherited today is likely the result of a series of solutions that seemed right at the time made by people that are probably no longer around.
Your challenge is to learn to avoid sowing the seeds of tomorrow’s problems with today’s solutions. To do that, you are going to have to train your mind to identify and comprehend the complex chain of causal factors that led to the effects that now consume your time and threaten your operations. Systems thinking is a discipline that you can – must – develop over time.
It’s foolish to behave as if any decision you make today will not have unintended consequences. Part of your decision making process has to be anticipating the problems that today’s solutions might cause. The unintended consequences should be part of the documentation of any decision. This will help the learning of those that inherit the problems you created.
When they rightly ask “what were they thinking?” they should be able to find your assumptions and identify the ones that held true and the ones that proved incorrect. If you have people working for you that are unwilling to examine their assumptions or that stubbornly resist learning from the failure of untenable assumptions, do everything you can to help them find a good job with your competitors.
Competitive advantage belongs to those that understand why things work or do not work.