Feedback and Ballistic Behavior

I recently read [url= Logic of Failure by Dietrich Dorner [/url]

Dorner describes a common decision process called ballistic behavior. It is one of the reasons people do not detect mistakes. People tend to make plans, act, and then fail to check the results along the way. The author calls this ballistic behavior because once the path is set, it is not adjusted. Think of an arrow or a bullet. All adjustments come up front, then there are no corrections after it is fired. This is in contrast to a cruise missile which constantly checks and adjusts its course.

[b]An example of ballistic behavior:[/b] The room is too cold, I want it warmer. I raise the setting on the thermostat. Several hours later I realize it is too warm, then I come back and lower the setting.

This is ballistic because I do not deliberately check on the room performance. If I had checked the temperature after 20 minutes or an hour, I could make a small adjustment to get the room to the correct temperature.

Human nature is to do one of two things: Make few large adjustments (ballistic), or make many small adjustments (micromanaging).

Here are some key points describing how feedback can be used continuously or ballistically. (is that a real word?)

[b]Reinforcing and Correcting Feedback[/b]
Start with reinforcing feedback at current performance level. When performance strays off course, make small adjustments that are in harmony with the overall message. When on track, continue to give reinforcing feedback.

[b]Ballistic Feedback[/b]
Start with reinforcing feedback directing towards next performance goal. NO Correction when performance strays off course. Eventually corrective feedback is given. It is a large correction. Eventually the manager has to do some ‘hands on’ work with the employee to get performance on track. The correcting feedback may conflict with earlier reinforcing feedback which sends mixed signals to the employee.

jeffh's picture

Hey, I just uploaded a diagram of the Reinforcing and Correcting Feedback as my avatar. Enjoy.