Summary of Analysis Results


Analysis is the breaking down of a problem into smaller easier to solve problems. Exactly how this is done determines the strength of your analysis.

The analysis was performed over a seven year period from 2003 to 2009 while simultaneously developing the System Improvement Process (SIP). Please first read about SIP before attempting to understand the results in the table.

The results are not definitive. They are the work of a single analyst and have not yet been subjected to the rigors of experimentation, calibration, expert opinion review, further iterations, and so on. Thus this is not the analysis or the solution. It's only an example of how a process that fits the problem can be applied. It's an example of what can be done versus what is being done today.

However, the analysis results make plenty of sense. It explains all of the subproblem symptoms. It explains why the environmental movement's present approach has failed. Most important of all, the analysis offers a new way forward that, if the root causes are anywhere close to correct, will work.

Problem decomposition into the four subproblems

Summary of Analysis - Top onlyTo the right is the top of the Summary of Analysis Results. Step 1 is Problem Definition. Next comes decomposition into subproblems. The System Improvement Process decomposes one big problem into the three subproblems present in all difficult social problems:

How to overcome change resistance

How to achieve proper coupling

How to avoid excessive solution model drift

The high level symptoms of the sustainability problem don't make sense and will not yield to analysis unless the problem is further divided into two proper coupling subproblems. This gives us the four subproblems used in the analysis. Here they are along with their symptoms. The symptoms of each subproblem define the problem to solve.

Subproblem ASubproblem A. How to overcome change resistance: We're seeing massive, prolonged successful opposition to passing proposed laws for solving the sustainability problem. This is so huge and such a roadblock that it must be solved first, before any of the other subproblems can be solved.

Subproblem BSubproblem B. How to achieve life form proper coupling: As soon as you study the history of the sustainability problem for more than a few days, one outstanding symptom pops out: Large for-profit corporations are dominating political decision making destructively. This includes leading the charge against solving the sustainability problem.

Subproblem CSubproblem C. How to avoid solution model drift: This is a subtle pattern. Nations are not correcting failing solutions when they start failing. Instead, they frequently let solution models drift until solution failure becomes a crisis. Then they laboriously attempt to reactively reform the solution. Solving this subproblem is critical because if enough important problems have their solutions drift too far, a society can be overwhelmed by too many simultaneous problems to solve. This is where most nations and the world are today.

Subproblem DSubproblem D. How to achieve environmental proper coupling: The world's economic system is causing unsustainable impact on the environmental system. This is generally seen as The Problem to Solve since it's what produces symptoms like climate change, pollution, soil fertility loss, and dwindling natural resources. However, SIP says that's a trap. In difficult social problems this is never THE problem to solve. The real problem to solve is how to overcome change resistance. Once that is overcome the system will "want" to solve all the other subproblems.

Seeing the sustainability problem through the lens of the four subproblems changes our perspective radically. We are no longer dealing with a complex monster of a problem where everybody who looks at it has a different suggestion on how to solve it. There are thousands of books and articles weighing in on how to solve it. Each expert offers a different solution, which changes to a new one when the old one fails. A steady series of solution fads comes and goes. The world has now gone through five generations of solutions that have all failed.

Doctor performing diagnosisWhy is there such widespread disagreement on how to solve the problem? Because there is no agreement on the root causes. In fact, due to reliance on a process that eschews any notion of root causes, there is no talk at all, or at least to any depth, about root causes. There is only talk about solutions. It's like a bunch of doctors debating how to cure a patient without first performing a diagnosis. If it's a serious illness the patient will die unless those wise and wonderful doctors get very, very lucky.

Let's be a good doctor. Let's examine the system and perform a first iteration analysis of the subproblems. Let's see if we can change the debate to one of first agreeing on the root causes. After that there should be considerably more agreement on solutions because while there can be millions of possible solutions to a difficult problem, there can be only a few practical solutions for resolving a specific root cause.


Summary of Analysis Results table More than anything else on this website, the Summary of Analysis Results Table embodies the heart of's message. The table says:

Solving the sustainability problem requires a highly structured analysis driven by the right problem solving process.

The vast majority of work must be in analysis and not where it is now: trying (in vain) to get solutions adopted by Classic Activism's central strategy of more of the truth.

The one big problem must be decomposed into the right subproblems or it will continue to be insolvable.

There's only one known method of solving each subproblem: root cause analysis.

Examine the three rows in substep B. This is where present work is focused due to lack of a process that fits the problem. Symptomatic solutions, also called superficial solutions, are being used to push on low leverage points to resolve intermediate causes. This absolutely cannot work work because it does not resolve the root causes.

Examine substep C. The analysis hypothesizes these are the main root causes. They are nothing like what environmentalists are focusing on now. They are as different from conventional wisdom as the heliocentric theory that the earth and the planets revolved around the sun was different from the geocentric theory that everything in the sky revolved around the earth. For supporting heliocentrism Galileo was almost burned at the stake. Eventually the theory he championed prevailed because the truth has no higher master.

Key conclusions

These are the essential subproblems. Seeing the sustainability problem this way changes everything. All of a sudden it become obvious why we've been unable to solve the problem. We haven't been trying to overcome systemic change resistance first (subproblem A). Instead, activists of all stripes, from academics to politicians to grassroots activists, have been hammering away on subproblem D: How to achieve environmental proper coupling. This is a fatal error. Fortunately it's easily corrected by solving the change resistance subproblem first. After that the system will "want' to solve the sustainability problem. Solutions to the other three subproblems will automatically begin to appear.

For each subproblem, these are the essential root causes. They are highly counterintuitive but once understood explain so much. Many activists sense these are the root causes, so solutions to them are spontaneously appearing, like (subproblem A) and the campaign to revoke corporate personhood (subproblem B). But because there is no clear knowledge of what the root causes are, there is little agreement on what solutions should be. The result is a smorgasbord of solutions sprawling all over the map and a constant stream of new solutions, new campaigns, that should work but never do.

The key analysis simulation model

Dueling Loops modelOnce the sustainability problem was decomposed into four subproblems, each subproblem was analyzed. The first three subproblems use the same analysis model: The Dueling Loops of the Political Powerplace. Understanding this model is the key to understanding the analysis. The model brings alive the various conclusions listed in the table and reveals the previously invisible structure of the problem.

The Race to the Bottom is the first loop to grasp. Special interests, notably large for-profit corporations and their owners, the rich, are exploiting the system by using the inherent advantage of The Race to the Bottom to win more supporters than those politicians working for the common good. Special interest promoters use false memes to deceive Uncommitted Supporters into becoming Degenerate Supporters.

If you read this easy-to-read paper on The Dueling Loops of the Political Powerplace, your world view will snap into a new one. It will be crystal clear why The Race to the Bottom is winning. If the analysis in the paper is correct, we can now see how we can change the system so that The Race to the Bottom no longer enjoys an inherent advantage. After that The Race to the Top will go dominant. This will rapidly lead to solving problems whose solution would benefit the common good.

Analysis of each subproblem

Click on an image below for a summary of analysis of that subproblem. For a very small summary see the Analysis dropdown menu.

Subproblem A Subproblem B Subproblem C Subproblem D

The full analysis

CPR book coverFor this see the book Cutting Through Complexity: The Engineer’s Guide to Solving Difficult Social Problems with Root Cause Analysis.

1. Part One presents The Extraordinary Magic of Process-Driven Problem Solving. After reviewing why a mature process based on root cause analysis is needed, the System Improvement Process (SIP) is described.

2. Part Two presents the Analysis Results of Applying SIP to the Environmental Sustainability Problem. This is the largest portion of the book, as the problem is extremely complex and was decomposed into four subproblems.

3. Part Three presents twelve Sample Solutions for Pushing on the High Leverage Points. The change resistance subproblem is so hard to solve it has nine sample solution elements. The other three subproblems each have one main solution element. A highlight of Part Three is the chapter on Truth Literacy Training, which contains an empirical experiment to test the effectiveness of the high leverage point for the change resistance subproblem.

4. Part Four deals with Putting It All Together. These two chapters are in progress.