I recently completed the Cunefin Foundations online course. The Cunefin framework is useful to make sense of what is happening in South African state owned enterprises.
The Cunefin framework presents five domains: disorder, chaos, complex, complicated, and obvious. Organizations, or parts of it, can exist in any of these domains and each one requires a different way of managing.
An organization that provides a service based on a repeatable process, however complicated, exists in the obvious domain. But maintaining an obvious organisation requires a lot of energy: upholding good governance, investing in training, continually upgrading systems and infrastructure. Keeping these organisations going is anything but obvious. Disinvestment leads to collapse as is the case in many South African state owned enterprises.
When obvious organisations collapse they transition to the chaotic domain. The metaphor describing the boundary between the obvious domain and the chaotic domain is a cliff face. It is easy to fall down a cliff, but hard to get up again.
Fast forward to South Africa 2019. State owned enterprises like Eskom are poised at the cliff edge, or are already falling into the chaotic domain. Throwing money at them to fix the problem wont work because they have progressed too far down the cliff. And this approach is bankrupting the country.
Stated differently, corruption is causing South Africa to lose its ability to run large obvious organisations. Trying to fix them by restoring them to a previous state is unlikely to work, and will drag on for a generation or more, and in the process damage the economy. Applying the Cunefin framework is a sobering reminder that hope is not a strategy. A different approach is needed out of the chaotic domain. Instead of trying to fix these organizations, we need to create the new foundations of future organizations that can replace them. But sadly it seems that the vision and thinking required to create these new foundations does not exist.