Systems typically fail or run into trouble because the effect that is received from a system can be delayed. As humans we are great at reacting to a problem if the cause and effect immediately follow one another. If we touch a hot stove, immediately our hand is burnt and we retract, we then look for the appropriate tools and handle the situation accordingly.

Our hand was burnt because we touched the hot stove, the effect of the burnt hand was easily attributed to the cause of touching the hot stove as there was no delay in the system returning the effect of a burnt hand.

With large complex systems, the feedback is often delayed. An action is taken and the result of the action is often not immediately observable. It may take months before it surfaces and the result is visible.

The delayed feedback often results in observers attributing the incorrect cause to the observed effect. This can mean that negative behavior is reinforced as it was inappropriately referenced as the source of the positive effect. Incorrect corrective actions such as these then manifest themselves again later down the line as new problems.

When thinking in terms of systems it is often important to account for the delay in systems and to be cautious to attribute the cause of an effect with causes that recently occurred once the effect is observed. In a complex system, the Circles of Causality can be complex and it is often incorrect and naive to attribute that most recent cause to an observed effect.

This article was first noted down on the 5th of July, 2015.