Archive for the ‘systems thinking’ Category
In my day-job, it is my last day of full time employment at a company where I have worked for over 30 years (in its various incarnations). The end of an era, or was it an eon?
As well as having the pleasure of working with some wonderful people, it was also a great place for learning from the work. I learned how to work on the system, rather than just working in it.
It is a sad fact that employees all over the globe spend their time and ingenuity getting around the system, or “playing the system”, mostly because employers don’t give them the opportunity to get involved in improving it.
According to W.Edwards Deming “it is the job of management to work on the system, to improve it, with the help of those who work in it”.
Interesting article at Rheomode: David Harvey on the Communist Hypothesis today suggesting that contemporary attempts to revive the communist hypothesis favour horizontally networked as opposed to hierarchically commanded systems, and that this represents a convergence of Marxist and anarchist traditions harking back to the collaborative situation between them in the 1860s.
Slavoj Zizek concludes his book First as Tragedy,then as Farce with a chapter entitled The Communist Hypothesis, in which he argues that the revolutionary process is about repeating the beginning again and again, and that, rejecting any sense of continuity with what the Left meant over the last two centuries, everything should be re-thought, beginning from the beginning that Badiou calls “the communist hypothesis”.
I keep connecting to others connecting with Gregory Bateson and the pattern which connects. The pattern which connects is itself a pattern, a meta pattern, a pattern of patterns.
It was my teacher,colleague and friend Judith Lowe, who first introduced me to the writing of Gregory Bateson and, if I remember rightly, she suggested that we read it as if it were poetry and let it wash over us, at first, as a way into it. Well, it does have that kind of poetic appeal. Although, strictly speaking, it is science writing it has this amazing aesthetic dimension. I think the film that is embedded in this reblog as well as the writing in the blog itself (just click on ‘read more’), brings out something of his poetic style. The film is a trailer for a one- hour film by Nora Bateson.
Here’s a different blog with a slideshow that also reveals the aesthetic style. In relation to content, Bateson insisted that the question “what connects?” was an aesthetic question. ( I have used this slideshow before, quite recently but it’s so good that I thought it deserves another look ….or two.)
Bateson slideshow at the Rhizome Network
A system definition taken from Redesigning Society by Russell Ackoff and Sheldon Rovin
A system is a whole that has one or more defining functions and consists of two or more essential parts that satisfy three conditions
1) the system cannot do without the part to perform its defining function
2) no essential part can affect the system independently,
how it affects the system as a whole depends on its interaction with at least one other essential part of the system
3) no subsystem of a system has an independent effect on the whole
Here’s a run chart showing the visits to my blog in May (I know, it would be nice to have more visits).
It shows at a glance just how much variation there is in the system visits per day to my site: although the average (mean) number of visits per day for May was 58, the highest number of visits was 144, and the least was 17.
Plotting the data in a control chart or capability chart (invented by Walter Shewhart and used by W. Edwards Deming) shows that the system is out of statistical control, in that there is special cause variation on day 29,
and the run of twelve days below the mean may also suggest special causes of variation (a run of six or more might be an indication of a special cause).
With special causes it could be meaningful to ask “what happened, specifically?”
Answers: 1) On day 29, I used a poll for the first time, and as it was researching a suggestion made by my son (that some people need help to see optical effects), both my sons were happy to encourage their Facebook friends to visit my site and complete the poll. As a result I got more visitors than usual that day. 2) On days 10 to 21, I may have been less active than usual in looking at other blogs as I was away for some of those days.
All the other data points show common cause variation: the variation that can be expected by the normal behaviour of the system. The chart shows that I could expect to get anywhere between 0 visits (the Lower Control Limit, LCL) and 112 visits (the Upper Control Limit, UCL) on any one day. To be surprised by data points within these limits, to get concerned for example at the 17 visits, would be foolish. To improve performance when the system shows common cause variation one must focus on the common causes rather than on individual data points. I could ask myself “what happens predictably every day, that causes this variation?” I would answer that I post something including a visual image, and that I take a few minutes to look at other blogs, mostly by tag surfing. To get more visits I would have to change this system.