There has been much in the news lately about systems that are failing. Our jail is over crowded. The school district needs $375,000,000 to fix and build new buildings. The list goes on and on. While reviewing this list, I remembered a book I read when I was younger. Systemantics (since updated to the Systems Bible) was a true underground classic. The introduction, by its author John Gall states
"Systems are seductive. They promise to do a hard job faster, better, and more easily than you could do it by yourself. But if you set up a system, you are likely to find your time and effort now being consumed in the care and feeding of the system itself. New problems are created by its very presence. Once set up, it won't go away, it grows and encroaches. It begins to do strange and wonderful things. Breaks down in ways you never thought possible. It kicks back, gets in the way, and opposes its own proper function. Your own perspective becomes distorted by being in the system. You become anxious and push on it to make it work. Eventually you come to believe that the misbegotten product it so grudgingly delivers is what you really wanted all the time. At that point encroachment has become complete... you have become absorbed... you are now a systems person!"
This goes a long way to describing the working (or not) of our government and most big businesses. For more detail start at the Wikipedia entry, and then try some of the links, especially this one.
We will be using this to describe some of the problems we find in later postings.