Meena and I had talked about the differences between consequences and repercussions and how they differed. We wanted to share that conversation with readers. These two words which get bandied about and interchanged are, in fact, two entirely different things, though they look the same, on the surface.
Claudette: Would you rather deal with consequences or repercussions?
Meena Rose: I would have to say that consequences can be planned for… as they say; sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission
Claudette: True, up to a point. For instance, the problem you had at work today. That was total consequence.
Meena Rose: Yes
Claudette: You had nothing invested in it from the beginning, but still had to deal with the consequences. At the same time because of those consequences, you had to deal with the repercussions of the same situation.
Meena Rose: Repercussions: represents the vaster unknown. Not really unknown, if I can lay out exactly how things correlate.
Claudette: Of course. That’s because those deal almost exclusively with human factors which are unpredictable. With human reactions, you can correlate only so far before the factors explode in your face, or lie down like good little doggies and play nice.
Meena Rose: the more I can map the systems, groups, policies, information together the more I can proactively anticipate consequences and impacts. You did ask for my preference… I do prefer managing repercussions.
Claudette: Sometimes it’s easier to sooth people than rebuild systems that don’t want to play well with existing models.
Meena Rose: I enjoy learning from them and integrate them into a network of knowledge so they become known consequences which you can plan for.
Claudette: And yes, I’ll agree, before you ask, that with computer systems there is such a thing as repercussions that can be mapped. With people, not so much. What happens to that convenient map when an unknown enters the picture?
Meena Rose: The map is a reference and a guide… When an unknown enters, the first step is recognizing that one has entered.
Claudette: So you’re not going to allow it to become static. It must remain fluid, flexible as to permutations and possible unanticipated interactions?
Meena Rose: The next step is to draw from collective experience for the best path forward if the map became static it would be useless.
Claudette: What happens if you have no real clue that such a factor has become a player? I agree with you. Maps must be able to breathe.
Meena Rose: Well, there are symptoms that tell that picture… it surfaces as points of disharmony or friction or stagnation.
Claudette: How so?
Meena Rose: In a system, process or routine, every player has a known role with an expected outcome… we all depend on the execution of a series of connected actions. So when one “misfires” it typically disrupts the surrounding actions…
Claudette: Question: what happens if there’s an unknown player, one not recognized officially by the group? A player who’s effectively invisible?
Meena Rose: Basically the “unknown” factor will cause debris about them. Everything leaves a trail of impact no matter how careful a grain of sand shifting could cause a tsunami on the other side of the world.
Claudette: Perhaps, but I’ve seen that rare bird, which is invisible, brings about flux in the system, and no one really understood that the player was involved. And I agree. The problem comes from those small, inconsequential factors that are so innocuous as to be continually looked over.
Meena Rose: Exactly, but that is where the “sentry” for map needs to be vigilant and watchful.
Claudette: At least, by the persons involved in the hunt. Case in point: something said in passing that sparks a question in someone’s mind.
Meena Rose: They need to proactively seek out such disturbances.
Claudette: That person goes off seeking an answer to that question, involving several others in his dept. in the hunt for truth, which takes the group off into the ozone on the trail of the illusive answer. The snowball keeps building until whole divisions, at one level or another are involved in seeking the answer. The problem is that the original question is still waiting, still a potential bomb of sorts.
Meena Rose: Yup
Claudette: Days or weeks later, the answer comes, after involving hundreds of people, a dozen facilities, and leaving everyone spent.
Meena Rose: Been there, done that.
Claudette: The reason the question was so important as to warrant such outlay of time and personnel–the answer could effectively change everything that’s done within the framework of systems used and developed, which were already going through a changeover.
In the end, the one who’d asked the original question, the invisible one who sat in plain sight waiting to find out the answer, had been forgotten during the search.
Meena Rose: That happens at times… when I ask questions, I typically keep a pulse on the answer or the progress to obtaining such an answer.
Claudette: The consequences far out-weighted whatever repercussions created. That’s difficult to do when cross-house communications aren’t supposed to be done on a certain level.
Meena Rose: The question was asked for valid reason of a particular person… it was not just a request into the ether.
Claudette: That is true. It was critical and one that none had thought to ask before. Hence, the trampled ant hill effect.
Meena Rose: Well, Claudsy, it has been my experience that in most corporations there are “map holders”, they understand the importance of such a thing and typically communicate with their counterparts. My first task in any organization is to seek those people out.
Claudette: That may be true now, in this century, but remember that things were a lot different back when I was corporate. And the scenario isn’t restricted to corporate work, either.
Meena Rose: True
Claudette: Political and media are as bad or worse in their own way. They have the ability to bring millions in on the scurrying activity to no avail or purpose.
Meena Rose: Even non-profit organizations.
Claudette: Exactly. Any time you have a group of people, who are influenced by outside factors, which are not known by all the group members, you take the risk of the ant hill effect.
Meena Rose: Actually, in those cases, group think and tunnel vision curtail much needed dialog.
Claudette: Very true. There’s something else as well.
Meena Rose: Let’s see…
Claudette: Consequences can always be dealt with because they are logic based. Repercussions are all of those irrational, illogical effects that take hold because possible consequences are transmitted to al many people before the whole problem is known.
Meena Rose: I also view repercussions as the organizational ricochet effect…
Claudette: The consequence could have an easy and relatively painless solution. The real problem may come because of the collateral damage. Yes, that’s a good corporate term for it. I need the visual one.
Meena Rose: So to a given party, it would be completely out of context and illogical when the originating party knew exactly what they thought the full impact would be.
Claudette: Sure. You see it all the time in politics. I believe it all comes down to the size of the population that might be effected by the consequence. For instance, if the problem, whatever it is, can be contained to a population the size of family, repercussions are kept to an absolute minimum.
If the problem has the potential to effect a small company of 25 employees, it has stronger effects. You have 25 families involved now.
Meena Rose: Great observation.
Claudette: If you have a problem–let’s say a bridge gets washed out on a country road to a little town in the Midwest. I mean, really, a little bridge, what’s the big deal? Right?
Well, not so fast. That little bridge might be the only bridge that was serviceable before being washed out and all of the citizens on the country side of it can no longer get to town to do anything. The kids can’t get to school, people can’t get to work, etc.
Meena Rose: Yup. Something similar happened to my coworkers. They were stranded from their families and could not get back home.
Claudette: How long did it take to have it fixed?
Meena Rose: 2 weeks. One coworker resorted to “risking it” on another bridge while the other decided to cross the river on foot.
Claudette: So, two weeks of frustration, lack of supply runs, emergency personnel, etc. for two weeks. Is that right?
Meena Rose: That is correct, Claudsy.
Claudette: Okay, so, how many people died as a result of not ambulance service?
Meena Rose: One of the other coworkers who felt like she could cross back like the others… was in dead panic trying to get someone to check and care for her elderly mom
Claudette: Lucky. What about those who’re pregnant? Where there any house fires during this time?
Meena Rose: Thankfully, they had a regional hospital on that side of the river… albeit 2.5 hours out
Claudette: How did they get food and supplies in to these stranded people? At least they could get out at all.
Meena Rose: The community pulled together… a couple of the grocery stores provided the supplies.
Claudette: The thing is that even such a small thing becomes a snowball. What if the county has no funds to build a new bridge? What if they can get the funds but it’s during a season that makes building along the creek/river nearly impossible? And on and on.
Meena Rose: Exactly
Claudette: I sometimes think that there can be little way of containing any major snowball of these two aspects of daily life.
The CDC and major governmental agencies have all found out one fundamental bit of wisdom. The truth will always come out, and usually in the least amenable manner. I’m sure the Wall Street and banking debacle wasn’t expected to explode like it did with repercussions continuing to ripple, even now.
Meena Rose: Natural disasters sure test our systems and readiness all the time, in the most unpredictable ways.
Claudette: So very true. And Mother Nature keeps finding so many ingenious ways to test those systems, doesn’t she?
Meena Rose: She sure does… Of course, there are man-made disasters as well.
Claudette: We never seem to learn. That’s true enough.
Meena Rose: I think it goes back to the scope of impact. I think we have the “within the nuclear family” figured out… some would include extended family
Claudette: It starts getting a bit hairy at the extended level for many families. It’s the communications thing, it seems. Still in all, we have to deal with both of these aspects sooner or later. I just wish that people wouldn’t use the terms interchangeably. That’s what keeps getting to me.
Meena Rose: Which term? Consequences?
Claudette: Yes, and its uncomfortable cousin, repercussions.
The discussion ended at that point. As usual, time flew too fast and we had barely begun scratching the conversational itch. Still, we covered a lot of ground on the differences between these two terms and their impacts on us.
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