(February 19, 2003)
Systemantics: The Underground Text of Systems Lore, by John Gall.
General Systemantics Press
ISBN: 0961825103; 2 edition (November 1986)
We're all involved in the management of complex systems. From the workforce to our IT infrastructure, we often find repeatable principles. Gall's Systemantics is a venerable classic. Both humorous and penetrating, you'll find yourself deep in these pages of management wisdom.
Gall's Basic Systems Principles:
Systems in general work poorly or not at all.
New systems generate new problems.
Systems operate by redistributing energy into different forms and into accumulations of different sizes.
Systems tend to grow, and as they grow, they encroach.
Complex systems exhibit unpredictable behavior.
Complex systems tend to oppose their own proper function.
People in systems do not do what the system says they are doing.
A function performed by a larger system is not operationally identical to the function of the same name performed by a smaller system.
The real world is whatever is reported to the system.
Systems attract systems people.
The bigger the system, the narrower and more specialized the interface with individuals.
A complex system cannot be "made" to work; it either works or it doesn't.
A simple system may or may not work.
If a system is working, leave it alone.
15. A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works.
Complex systems designed from scratch never work and cannot be patched to make them work; you have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.
In complex systems, malfunction and even total nonfunction may not be detectable for long
periods, if ever.
Large complex systems are beyond human capacity to evaluate.
A system that performs a certain way will continue to operate in that way regardless of the need or of changed conditions.
Systems develop goals of their own the instant they come into being.
Intrasystem goals come first.
Complex systems usually operate in failure mode.
A complex system can fail in an infinite number of ways.
The mode of failure of a complex system cannot ordinarily be predicted.
The crucial variables are discovered by accident.
The larger the system, the greater the possibility of unexpected failure.
"Success" or "function" in any system may be failure in the larger or smaller systems to which it is connected.
When a fail-safe system fails, it fails by failing to fail safe.
Complex systems tend to produce complex responses (not solutions) to problems.
Great advances are not produced by systems designed to produce great advances.
Systems aligned with human motivational vectors will sometimes work; systems opposing such vectors work poorly or not at all.
Loose systems last longer and work better.
This book has been and continues to be a favorite in the office library.
- John Sumser
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