Choice Quotes from Systemantics – Funny, But Scary Too

One of my favorite books of all time is Systemantics by John Gall. There is a new version of it called “The Systems Bible”. This book was my introduction in my early twenties to the topic of systems theory.


Some Theory:

The Fundamental Theorem: NEW SYSTEMS MEAN NEW PROBLEMS p. 14

The Big-Bang Theorem of Systems Cosmology: SYSTEMS TEND TO EXPAND TO FILL THE KNOWN UNIVERSE p. 18

There is a world of difference, psychologically speaking, between the passive observation that Things Don’t Work Out Very Well and the active, penetrating insight that COMPLEX SYSTEMS EXHIBIT UNEXPECTED BEHAVIOR p. 22

Hmm… that sounds like some organizations I’ve worked in.

SYSTEMS TEND TO MALFUNCTION CONSPICUOUSLY JUST AFTER THEIR GREATEST TRIUMPH p. 35

A TEMPORARY PATCH WILL VERY LIKELY BE PERMANENT p. 36

WHEN A FAIL-SAFE SYSTEM FAILS, IT FAILS BY FAILING TO FAIL SAFE. p. 80

An Example:

COLOSSAL ERRORS TEND TO ESCAPE NOTICE

… Thus, the loss of 50,000 American lives per year in auto accidents is seen, not as a mortal flaw in our Transportation System, but merely as a fact of life. p. 91

Related to Agile:

But how does it come about, step by step, that some complex Systems actually function? This question, to which we as students of General Systemantics attach the highest importance, has not yet yielded to intensive modern methods of investigation and analysis. As of this writing, only a limited and partial breakthrough can be reported, as follows:
A COMPLEX SYSTEM THAT WORKS IS INVARIABLY FOUND TO HAVE EVOLVED FROM A SIMPLE SYSTEM THAT WORKED

The parallel proposition also appears to be true:

A COMPLEX SYSTEM DESIGNED FROM SCRATCH NEVER WORKS AND CANNOT BE MADE TO WORK. YOU HAVE TO START OVER, BEGINNING WITH A WORKING SIMPLE SYSTEM. p. 65

THE MESSAGE SENT IS NOT NECESSARILY THE MESSAGE RECEIVED p. 102

IF SOMETHING ISN’T WORKING, DON’T KEEP DOING IT. dO SOMETHING ELSE INSTEAD. p. 125

ESCALATING THE WRONG SOLUTION DOES NOT IMPROVE THE OUTCOME p. 169


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