OUCH! Interaction Model – The Right Loop

20151104_145213The last post looked at the left loop of the interaction model below. The left loop is typically the easiest to observe in terms of what goes on in organizations because it represents observable behavior.


The Right Loop

This post is taking a brief look at the right loop, comprised of intentions and interaction and the connections between the two.

Interaction Model

With the right loop interaction exists in the present and intention exists in the future, albeit at times not very far into the future! The upper arrow from intention to interaction represents the dynamic of bringing all our future intentions to bear on a present interaction. The lower arrow represents the influence of current interaction on our understanding and meaning of future intentions.

So the arrows in both the left and right loops represent very similar things conceptually, but play out very differently in the course of our day to day interactions.

Like the upper arrow in the left loop the upper arrow in the right loop represents part of the tremendous complexity we bring to any interaction we have. The right loop lower arrow however is different than the left loop lower arrow. It represents the dynamic of adaptation.

Interestingly, it is this arrow that is one of the most compromised dynamics with typical theories of organization, leadership and change and we’ll be looking at why as we delve into actual examples.

Taken as a whole the right loop represents movement forward. It is important to note here that this movement forward is not necessarily planned. It may be, but in terms of the model, planning is not a given and this is important. We move forward regardless of whether or not are intentions are planned and conscious or unplanned and unconscious. It is simply what we do.

Nevertheless in terms of individuals and organizations the right loop can represent things like:

  • Vision
  • Strategy
  • Projections
  • Budgets
  • Performance targets

And many other things that describe an intention for some time in the future.

Like the left loop there are a couple of really critical things about the right loop:

  1. The adaptations represented by this loop are part of a process that is constantly emerging yet also has stability.
  2. The primary driver of adaptation in this loop are the interactions we have, not the intentions we have.

Ok, that second point may seem a little extreme and may even seem to throw into question the importance of things like vision or strategy but as with the left loop we’ll be digging into this deeper with real examples.

For now consider if you have ever seen any of those 5 bullet points above actually play out or happen exactly as intended? My guess is no. My experience is no! And the reason those things noted above are adapted is that we start to do them, we interact with people and information, and things change. It is our interactions that drive adaptation.

I would also say that it is our interactions that primarily form our intentions in the first place.

A quick visit back to that budget meeting from 30 + years ago. Everyone in that room would have said their intention was to come up with a solid and workable budget for the ice cream plant. If we did a good job not much, if any adaptations to the budget should occur. In order to do a good job we had to look at as many controllable variables as possible and plan to control them. There was never a stated intention to create a budget that would proceed to cause a lot of angst and stress for the remainder of the year. But that is what happened

The problem was the process of budgeting had little or no room for interaction that was uncontrollable, like the weather.


A budget is loaded with a drive for certainty and there are a lot more uncontrollable variables than just the weather out there!

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. Where have you seen variables that seem uncontrollable be ignored in planning scenarios?
  2. The drive for certainty historically is often translated into something like ‘doing a good job of planning’ in organizations. Have you ever seen people labeled as failures for not being able to plan well enough even though the main cause was uncontrollable variables?
  3. More recently, with the dismal experiences we have seen with formal planning, the drive for certainty has been translated to being adaptable or nimble etc. Have you seen examples where this newly minted terminology really just means doing a good job and the consequences are the same when plans fail?

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