NAME OF ARCHETYPE: LIMITS TO GROWTH
|Many sudden and well-intentioned efforts for improvement bump up against
limits to growth. A reinforcing (amplifying) process is set in motion to produce a
desired result. It creates a spiral of success but also creates inadvertent
secondary effects, manifested in a balancing process that stabilizes and which
operates to limit the growth, eventually slowing down the success and even
coming to a standstill.
As we put in effort we see results. And as such we put in greater efforts leading
to a spiral of successes and this provides the structure with the initial momentum.
However after some time, the more effort we put in we notice the less results we
get. What is happening is, as we build efforts (especially in sudden, though
well-intentioned efforts), these begin to create a limit or a constraint (poor service
delivery) in some other part of the system, often a part that is hidden or not as
visible to the part of the system that is generating the efforts and the result. The
greater the effort we put in, the greater the constraint becomes.
The limit or the constraint now begins to create an action that limits the level of
results (e.g. negative word of mouth by customers affecting sales negatively).
When we notice that growth is declining (there is still results, except not by as
much as before) we are likely to push for even more efforts (because that is how
we got results in the first place) which unfortunately leads to greater levels of
constraints building up within the system. The limiting actions also continue to
grow and begin to adversely affect results downwards, until 'it pushes' results go
all the way down (e.g. no more sales), by which time the reinforcing loop begins
to behave negatively (no more sales effort), in which case the limiting action
(negative word of mouth) disappears too and all growths come to a standstill.
used words or
|Whatever we tried to do, we are not getting the successes we used to get.
Somebody is not doing their job well. It feels like a pressure-cooker here.
Success or growth is levelling off or declining.
||“Marketing and Service Department” / “Volunteers and Regulars” story
Sales manager implements successful sales tactics to increase sale of computers
However, as sales increase, the technicians are unable to handle the increase in
computers sent for servicing and repairs
The poor after sales service affects the company's reputation and sales drop
|Tips to note
|Don't push for growth; remove the factors limiting growth.
|What is the
|“We’ll get bigger and better by continuing to do more of what we are doing
If we don’t plan for limits we are planning for failure. By mapping out the growth
engines and potential danger points in advance, we can anticipate future
problems and eliminate them
The archetype is most helpful when it is used ahead of any problems, to see how
the cumulative effects of continued success might lead to future problems
Use the archetypes to explore questions such as “What kinds of pressures are
building up in the organisation as a result of growth?”
Look for ways to relieve pressures or remove limits before success blows over –
may need to consider slowing down the growth to hive resources long enough
to overcome the limits
What it looks like if the system was working well:
“We can overcome limits by planning for them.”
We identify, evaluate and plan for limits