Triple Loop Model
What Is Right For The Business?
Many employees work very hard to perform their daily tasks, but they make mistakes and got blamed for it. The first reaction from their superiors is to look for the obvious mistakes and shortfalls in following the plans, procedures or regulations. Catching the obvious mistake is easy but will only solve the problem momentarily. Eliminating the cause of the problem is very difficult. Sometimes, the organization needs to change the procedures, review their assumptions or even ask themselves if they need the workers to perform that task at all. The following discussion and examples will show how mistakes and errors can take place and how we can we eliminate these mistakes immediately and permanently. Long term solutions needs time, effort and big budget, but eliminating a reoccurring problem will worth the cost, effort and time spent.
Mistakes Can Happen
Normal daily work has many challenges. Sometimes we see opportunities we need to take advantage of and sometimes we see mistakes that we need to eliminate. Opportunities and mistakes are changes in the daily routine and many workers would like to stay in their comfort zone. Comfort zone is the physical and mental state the person like to stay in. The zone might not be the best state a person can be in, but for him or her it is where they now would like to remain and enjoy their lives. For example, comfort zone can be sitting at home relaxing, watching TV and enjoying a snack.
Exercising in the GYM and then eating healthy meal can be a better choice for most of us but we find more comfort in relaxing and snacking. We like to remain in the comfort zone as long as possible. Workers in their comfort zone would resist change in their own ways. They will avoid taking advantage of the opportunities even if the opportunities are better for them. The same workers would like a quick fix or fast solution for their daily mistakes.
They do not want to think and solve the error that caused the problems. They prefer the easy way of fixing the problem and returning to their comfort zone. The quick fix might be desired by some workers but it is not the best solution to fix the error. The error will cause the problem to happen again because nobody solve it permanently.
The first loop in the triple loop model is asking if we did the right thing. When a problem occur in the routine work we would ask ourselves “we have done this job many times before, we did not have a problems?” So we quickly look for the deviation in the routine work, and fix it.
Managers and supervisors exist to manage and supervise. Their role is to make sure the workers are following the rules, procedures and regulations. The managers will “Do things right” and stay right as long as possible. When a problem take place at work the manager or supervisors will check and find out if the workers had performed their jobs right. They will check if the worker followed the steps they were trained to do. The worker will be told where the mistakes are and what violations they have done.
Then the workers will go back to work knowing what to do and what went wrong. But, the problem occur again even when the workers are following the procedure or steps they were asked to do.
The problem is reoccurring and was checked by the procedure or the rules and we find out that the workers are following the actions specified for them. The leader should ask “Are we doing the right thing.” The leader start questioning if what was specified for the workers was wrong or was built on wrong assumptions.
The leader will ask if the procedure is right, or if the guideline has enough details to cover everything. The leader will question the assumption which was used to set the procedure. Maybe the assumptions are wrong. Maybe the assumptions are not valid any more.
The leader can be a manager, supervisor or a worker. He or she will notice that the quick fix only solve the problem momentary but the real cause of the problem is not identified or solved. The leader will check if the work procedure, guideline, or regulation are available for the worker to read and follow.
An example for the second loop can be in the following scenario. An office clerk used to be fast and accurate few years ago when he was trained on the new computer and word processor. But now he is slow in typing and printing the same amount of work. The reason may be because the document are handed to him after lunch when he is sluggish and sleepy. The clerk will perform better when he receives the document early in the morning, or when he is energetic and fresh. Another reason the clerk is slow might be the equipment he is using can be old like outdated computer or old software that keep on crashing and hanging.
The leader will search if the equipments are right and if the tools are suitable. The supervisor will check if the work procedure, guideline, or the regulation is available for the worker to read and perform.
The third loop is the most difficult step in the triple loop model and the most effective in finding a solution to the problem. The third loop explore the reason for the mistake or error on a global scale. The leader and the manager will ask themselves serious questions like “Are we in the right business?” or “Should we continue working in the same industry?” If an emergency room in a hospital is having delays or constantly diagnose the patient wrongly then the management will ask themselves “did we follow the work procedures when we received the patient (first loop). If they did used the right reception procedure then they would ask themselves “Is the procedure we used is correct and updated?” (second loop) The hospital management will study the procedure in receiving and admitting emergency cases to the hospital. If the business process for admitting the emergency patients is correct and updated then the hospital management and leaders will ask themselves “How can we provide the best and correct service for the emergency room patients?” Answering this questions needs time, effort and resources to answer. The solutions can be in increasing the staff at the emergency room, training the staff or many other solutions as detailed in the above figure.
One of the engineering techniques used for exploring the defects or errors in the existing system is the Root Cause Analysis (RCA) methodology. RCA is a work shop performed by experienced team to search for the root of the problem. The search for the root can be through using the five why’s system or follow the action-condition model. Each RCA technique need long explanation that is out of our interest.
The Triple Loop Model discussed how most of the businesses approach their problems. Some organizations relay on the quick fixes and “lets fix it now and get things going” paradigm. This approach is ideal for the small issues that do not repeat themselves or have substantial effect on the business. Some organizations notice the failure repetitions and work hard in changing the way they approach the problem (second loop). Only 3% of the organizations explore the root cause of the problem and aim for a holistic approach to solve the no mater how much time, cost and resources are needed to weed out the problem.