Chain Link Systems Cannot Be Improved by Focusing on One Link Alone

The term "chain-link system" describes a system in which the performance of the whole is limited by the performance of its weakest link. Each link is interdependent. One issue with chain link systems is that stronger links are disincentivized to improve, as their performance will always be constrained by the weaker links in the system.

Such a system cannot be improved by focusing attention on one link alone. If each link is managed separately, it may not address the issues with the other link. Moreover, focusing on one link and not the system as a whole may actually create more problems than it fixes.

Conversely, if all links in the chain maintain a high standard of quality, each may benefit from the strength of the other.

Related is the idea of the speedboat and the ocean liner metaphor; on that, see If two parts of a system move at different rates, it can create conflict.


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Citation

Rumelt, Richard. Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Illustrated edition. New York: Currency, 2011.


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