Tag Archives: unintended blowback

The Oops Factor– When Well-Intended Actions Produce Unintended Consequences, and Unforeseen Outcomes…

They pop-up everywhere– the unintended, unanticipated, unforeseen. outcomes from well-intended purposeful decisions and actions. History is littered with organizations that failed or even excelled because of unintended consequences… The Law of Unintended Consequences states that most actions have at least one unintended consequence. In other words, each decision or action may have more than one effect, including unforeseen effects… But the concept is less of a law or rule and more of a call to decision-makers, to beware… According to Rob Norton; the law of unintended consequences is often cited but rarely defined and leaders have heeded its power for decades, but many have largely ignored it…

Decisions have intended as well as unintended consequences. According to Ruth Winett; before making strategic decisions try to anticipate the consequences of actions– think through the chain of events a decision is likely to trigger… Talk with customers, employees, experts… and try to gain insight about potential unintended consequences of a decision and its outcomes. Then decide if the action is worth the consequences… Too often organizations make strategic decisions, then surprised by its consequences. Remember, what may seem rational in moment may have far-reaching unintended consequences that can negate a well-intended and seemingly reasonable decision…

In the article Unintended Consequences by Rodger Dean Duncan writes: Unintended consequences is the handy term for outcomes that are not the ones foreseen by a purposeful act, e.g.; in medicine, unintended consequences are called ‘side-effects’– list of unintended effects for a drug is often longer than the narrative that promote it…  A well-intended action can be risky… According to Isaac Newton; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Most every action you take has the potential for consequences you didn’t anticipate… Most decisions come with no guarantees, but there is also the reality that failing to make a decision, is a decision and it has consequences. Here are a few tips that might help:

  • Decide what to decide: Many decisions can and should be delegated to others… and that enables you to focus on those decisions that legitimately require your focus…
  • Be collaboratively independent: Confer with subject-matter experts, but avoid getting mired in decision-by-committee. Solicit views of credible sources but be prepared to own the decision…
  • Avoid information bloat: Information overload can lead to analysis paralysis, which can lead to fuzzy thinking and faulty decisions. Keep it simple…
  • Define your desired outcome: To the extent possible, clarify what the specific outcome must look like… Create boundaries that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-related…

In the article Unintended Consequences by Michael K. Shaub writes: When you make decisions, it’s tempting to think short-term and to constrain yourself in terms of potential unintended consequences. There are couple reasons: First, short-term consequences are the most identifiable; they are the easiest to anticipate… Second, long-term consequences are less identifiable and carry greater risk for unintended consequences… However one thing is for sure you cannot control everything that other people do and as long as other people are involved in a situation you can never be quite sure of the outcome… Just because there is a comprehensive plan of action that does not mean that the intended consequences will result… variables that are out of your control may very well dictate the outcome…

In the article Unintended Consequences of Business Decisions by Josh Linkner writes: Too often business problems are solved impulsively, e.g.; you hastily install a new policy, offer a generous incentive, add another step to the production process, cut prices, reduce quality to save costs… These type changes or adjustment are duct-tape solutions and they rarely stand the test of time… like the fable of the little Dutch boy who discovered a leak in the dike by putting his finger in the hole to stop the leak… but then a new leak sprung-out in another location… It’s about unforeseen issues that occur when you plug one problem and then a new one pops-up elsewhere…

It’s a dilemma: You act even though there are uncertainties and unknown consequences of your actions… and yet you must act for even to do nothing is to act… knowing that there will always be consequences… Change is an inherent part of business: Change is necessary; part of change is within your control and predictable; part of change is anticipating the unknown. You have a responsibility to act but you also have an obligation to accept, mitigate unintended, unforeseen consequences of your actions… Accepting responsibility for actions that were not intended is difficult but it’s there nonetheless…

Decision-makers must take time to think through all ramifications of their actions. The more strategic an action, the more thoughtfulness is required to make a effective decision… According to Chad Thiele; decisions are an imperfect art, and decision-makers must accept that with uncertainty there is always an– Oops factor… 

It’s realization that there are consequences with most decisions– some intended and others unintended… and the outcomes may not be exactly as anticipated… It’s important to continually– monitor, measure, adjust… Decisions have unintended consequences and, in turn, they impact still other decisions. they may also have unintended consequences… Act prudently: Beware of Unintended Consequences…