We saw firearm application processing times see-sawing significantly over the past two decades. This is typical of interventions that don't address the core issues: behaviour grows better before the system starts pushing back, and it grows worse.
"Low-leverage interventions would be much less alluring if it were not for the fact that many actually work, in the short term."
Peter Senge - Fifth Discipline
We saw firearm application processing times see-sawing significantly over the past two decades:
The Firearms Appeal Board told the committee that many of the SAPS refusals of firearm licenses ended up as appeals at the board, but should not have ended up in court. There appears to be a lack of knowledge of the rules governing the refusals of licenses. When police couldn't back up their refusal with paperwork, the Firearm Appeals Board usually took a decision in favour of the applicant.
- Report by the portfolio committee on police following MPs' oversight visits in 2014
Obviously, the easy way out keeps leading back in. But I am going to resist getting into that detail again. I want to focus on the effect of the time delays we see here.
With no time delay, the system is easily understood and corrective action is straightforward. Decision-makers can see the results of their decisions immediately and can quickly find out what the core problems are.
But in complex systems, the cause and effect are not closely related in time and space. Trying the easy way out seems effective because it doesn't immediately lead back in. Behaviour grows better before it grows worse.
Small errors of judgement, combined with time delays, lead to this see-saw effect as it keeps leading back in. Larger errors of judgement, combined with larger time delays, can result in the system running away. We'll look at that in the next post.