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The Systems Thinking

The whole and Parts, Russell Ackoff..
by

Essam Badawi

on 18 November 2012

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Transcript of The Systems Thinking

A System.. ‎"The essential or defining properties of any system are properties of the whole which none of its part have."
The system, by definition, is a whole that consists of parts each of which can affect its behavior or its properties.
All parts of the system are inter-dependent. No part, or collection of parts, of the system has an independent effect on it.
Therefore, the system as a whole cannot be divided into independent parts.  "The system is not the sum of behaviors of its parts, but it's a product of their interactions.“ It means that, "if we have of a system improvement that's directed to improving the parts taken separately, you can absolutely sure that the performance of the whole won't be improved.“ What does that mean? What the architect does when he designs a house? None of a system's parts have the defining function, behavior, or property of that system.  

System behavior depends of the way its parts interact.

Therefore, 

When a system is taken apart, it loses all of its essential properties and so its parts.  The essential or defining properties of any system are properties of the whole which none of its part have. So, the system is not the sum of behaviors of its part, but it's a product of their interactions.  But, which system to work on here? The answer is the “largest” system under your control and then how to enlarge the circle of improvement.
Now there’s a successive enlargement of the system its design incorporating larger systems over which they had no control, but which they could influence by     the power of the ideas. A need for a new way of thinking; the “Systems Thinking".. Analytical thinking allows you to analyze the system at hand in a way that let you describe its behavior, its structure; it allows you to answer the “how?” question. Yet, it never helps you answering the “why?” question.
 
So, we [Ackoff and his colleagues] had to develop a new way of thinking;  the “systemic thinking” [,or sometimes it’s called “synthesis”]

Synthesis, or systems thinking, allows you to truly understand the system and answer the “why?” question. Actually, it also has 3 steps (the same numbers of step for the traditional  analysis), and each single step is interestingly quite the “opposite” to the corresponding step in analysis! When we know how a system works, how its parts are connected, and how the parts interact to produce the behavior and properties of the whole, we can almost always find one or more points of view that lead to better solutions than those we would have arrived at from the point of view from which the problem was formulated. For example, we do not try to cure a headache by brain surgery, but by putting a pill in the stomach. We do this because we understand how the body, a biological system, works. When science divides reality up into disciplinary parts and deals with them separately, it reveals a lack of understanding of reality as a whole, as a system. The definition of a system is what it does (i.e., its purpose or functionality), not how it's structured, made or designed.

Example: the car is defined as an instrument that carry people or things from one place to another, not a body inside which a motor and other car's parts and it's not how it's designed or performed, etc..


- Russell Ackoff Without a common purpose the elements would not work together unless compelled to do so. A group of unwilling prisoners or slaves can be organized and forced to do something that they do not want to do, but if so they do not constitute an organization even though they may form a system. An organization consists of elements that have and can exercise their own wills. An "organization" is a purposeful system that contains at least 2 purposeful elements which have a common purpose.

... An aggregation of purposeful entities does not constitute an organization unless they have at least one common purpose; that is, unless there is some one or more things that they all want. An organization is always organized around this common purpose. It is the relationships between what the purposeful elements do and the pursuit of their common purpose that give unity and identity to their organization.

- Russell Ackoff In the process of the mechanizing of work, we reduced work to elements that were simple enough [based on the analytical thinking!] to mechanize. Those that we couldn't mechanize we gave to people.

And therefore, we made people behave as though they were machines. We "dehumanized" work, which ultimately led to its alienation, the alienation from work, which has been a major phenomenon of the twentieth century, according to the Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare, it's the most serious problem confronting this century.

Because despite all the productivity figures you see, when you separate the productivity of capital from the productivity of labor, the productivity of labor has been going down.

- Russell Ackoff A system is a whole:
(1) that is defined by its function in a larger system, or systems,
(2) and which consists of at least two essential parts.

The essential parts of any system have 3 important conditions:
(1) Each part can affect the behavior or properties of the whole.
(2) No part has an independent effect on the whole.
(3) Every subset can affect the behavior or properties of the whole but none have an independent effect on the whole.

- Russell Ackoff A Summary A System is:
A whole that consists of parts, each of which can affect its behavior or its properties.
Each part of the system when it affects the system is dependent for its effect on some other part. The parts are interdependent. No part of the system, or collection of parts of the system, has an independent affect on it.
A system is a whole that can not be divided into independent parts. Implications
Essential, or defining properties of any system, are properties of the whole that none of its parts have.
When a system is taken apart is looses its essential properties.
A system is not the sum of the interaction of its parts but the product of their interactions. Improvement
If we have a system of improvement directed at improving the parts taken separately you can be absolutely certain that the performance of the whole will not be improved.
The performance of a system depends on how the parts fit together, not how they perform separately.
Never modify the whole to improve the quality of the parts unless the quality of the whole is also simultaneously improved.
Finding deficiencies and getting rid of them is not a way of improving the performance of the system. An improvement program must be directed at what you want, not at what you don't want. And, determining what you do want requires redesigning the system, not for the future, but for right now, and asking yourself what would you do right now if you could do whatever you wanted to. If you don't know what you would do if you could do what you wanted to do how could you ever know what you would do under constraints?
Continuous improvement isn't nearly as important as discontinuous improvement. Creativity is a discontinuity. One never becomes a leader by continuously improving. That's imitation of the leader. You only become a leader by leapfrogging those who are ahead of you. Drucker - distinction between doing things right and doing the right things. One might better be doing the right things wrong than doing the wrong things right.

Quality should contain the notion of value not simply efficiency.
Quality should be directed at effectiveness, not efficiency.
The difference between efficiency and effectiveness is the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Until managers take into account the systemic nature of their organizations most of their efforts to improve their performance are doomed to failure. For example, the care is a system that carry on people from one place to another, or you, as a human, live which is the main property or function you have.

Please notice that the definition does not include its structure or how it works.)

"Essential" here means "with which the system cannot perform its function." E.g., the engine, the wheels, ..etc. in case of the car, or the heart, brain, lungs, etc., in case of the human body. While, the hand or leg is not essential (you can live without hands and legs) (1) The motor can affect the behavior or properties of the car, and so, the body, wheels and all the essential parts. The heart have a direct affect on the human body (the whole), the same is for the brain, and so on.

(2) All parts, in particularly the essential ones, have relationships, whether direct or indirect, to each other. They are interdependent and their performance depend on their interactions with.

For example, the performance of the heart depends on the lungs and they are all depend on the circulatory system, which are, all, dependent on the brain and the nerviness system, and so the motor system, etc. The same thing in the case of the car example: the motor has a relation with transmission, the breaking system, the electric system, ..etc.

(3) The subsystems have the same concept exactly as the parts. Both affect the behavior of the whole and they are interacted with each other,e.g. the motor subsystem, nerviness subsystem, etc., in the human body. The electric subsystem, the breaking subsystem, etc., in case of the car. If you take a car apart (and put all the parts inside the room), then do we have a car? Nope, nothing, we don't have a car.

Can any of the part carry you from place to another? The body cannot, the wheels cannot, even the motor cannot..

if you take the motor apart from the car and put on the ground, can it move? Nope, it stays where it is..

You, as a human, live, none of your parts live! It's simple to prove that - take any part of it apart and put on the table.. it stays there, no move, no breath, no life..

You can think, your brain cannot think.. You cannot think without your brain, but when it's taken apart it (and you yourself) lose essential properties of the whole system.

You can see, your eyes cannot see! You can write, your hand cannot write, and so on.
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So, "When a system is taken apart, it loses all of its essential properties and so its parts." According to Russell Ackoff, a systems theorist and professor of organizational change, the content of the human mind can be classified into five categories:

1. Data: symbols

2. Information: data that are processed to be useful; provides answers to "who", "what", "where", and "when" questions

3. Knowledge: application of data and information; answers "how" questions

4. Understanding: appreciation of "why"

5. Wisdom: evaluated understanding. Data... data is raw. It simply exists and has no significance beyond its existence (in and of itself). It can exist in any form, usable or not. It does not have meaning of itself. In computer parlance, a spreadsheet generally starts out by holding data. Information... information is data that has been given meaning by way of relational connection. This "meaning" can be useful, but does not have to be. In computer parlance, a relational database makes information from the data stored within it. Understanding... understanding is an interpolative and probabilistic process. It is cognitive and analytical. It is the process by which I can take knowledge and synthesize new knowledge from the previously held knowledge. The difference between understanding and knowledge is the difference between "learning" and "memorizing". People who have understanding can undertake useful actions because they can synthesize new knowledge, or in some cases, at least new information, from what is previously known (and understood). That is, understanding can build upon currently held information, knowledge and understanding itself. In computer parlance, AI systems possess understanding in the sense that they are able to synthesize new knowledge from previously stored information and knowledge. Wisdom... wisdom is an extrapolative and non-deterministic, non-probabilistic process. It calls upon all the previous levels of consciousness, and specifically upon special types of human programming (moral, ethical codes, etc.). It beckons to give us understanding about which there has previously been no understanding, and in doing so, goes far beyond understanding itself. It is the essence of philosophical probing. Unlike the previous four levels, it asks questions to which there is no (easily-achievable) answer, and in some cases, to which there can be no humanly-known answer period. Wisdom is therefore, the process by which we also discern, or judge, between right and wrong, good and bad. I personally believe that computers do not have, and will never have the ability to posses wisdom. Wisdom is a uniquely human state, or as I see it, wisdom requires one to have a soul, for it resides as much in the heart as in the mind. And a soul is something machines will never possess (or perhaps I should reword that to say, a soul is something that, in general, will never possess a machine). Omegapowers, Own work This is from my own knowledge and understanding of DIKW model, May 2008, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DIKW.png Posted by Kathy on April 23, 2006 , http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/04/moving_up_the_w.html Posted by Kathy on April 23, 2006 , http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/04/moving_up_the_w.html Data, Information, Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom.. Knowledge... knowledge is the appropriate collection of information, such that it's intent is to be useful. Knowledge is a deterministic process. When someone "memorizes" information (as less-aspiring test-bound students often do), then they have amassed knowledge. This knowledge has useful meaning to them, but it does not provide for, in and of itself, an integration such as would infer further knowledge. For example, elementary school children memorize, or amass knowledge of, the "times table". They can tell you that "2 x 2 = 4" because they have amassed that knowledge (it being included in the times table). But when asked what is "1267 x 300", they can not respond correctly because that entry is not in their times table. To correctly answer such a question requires a true cognitive and analytical ability that is only encompassed in the next level... understanding. In computer parlance, most of the applications we use (modeling, simulation, etc.) exercise some type of stored knowledge. Actually doing the right thing wrong is a way better of doing the wrong right And the righter you do the wrong thing, the wronger you become! Doing the thing right is about efficiency, and doing the right thing is about effectiveness. Doing the thing right is about management, and doing the right thing is about leadership. Doing the thing right is about verification (white-box testing), and doing the right thing is about validation (black-box testing). Doing the thing right is about the how, and doing the right thing is about the why and the what Doing the thing right is about the Output, and doing the right thing is about Outcome Doing the thing right is about the Design and UCD, and doing the right thing is about Presales and Analysis Doing the thing right is about the knowledge, and doing the right thing is about understanding and wisdom. Doing the thing right is about traditional view of quality, and doing the right thing is about delivering real value to the customer and fundamentally solving their problems Obviously, of course the ultimate of this is to do the right thing right Doing the “right” thing There is a fundamental difference between “doing the thing right” and “doing the right thing.” - Peter Druker It is much better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right, because when errors are corrected, it makes doing the wrong thing wronger but the right thing righter.- Russell Ackoff Analytical thinking allows you to analyze the system at hand in a way that let you describe its behavior, its structure; it allows you to answer the “how?” question. Yet, it never helps you answering the “why?” question. (and always remember that: "When a system is taken apart, it loses all of its essential properties and so its parts. ") Analysis is about taking the system apart, trying to understand the parts (taken separately) and aiming to aggregate them back to understand (and hence improve) the whole. And that's all wrong!

All you can do by that is just try to understand the structure and how it works and hence just improve that. (and that may just lead you to improve doing the thing right, but never make you sure you are doing the right thing. To truly understand the system (the right thing) you must understand its function, its purpose, why it works the way it does (and that's never achieved by analysis) "Analysis" tells you how it works but never tells you why. How the system works is "knowledge", but not "understanding" and there is a difference between knowledge and understanding.
But if you wanna improve the system you mush understand why it works the way it does. Because otherwise, all you can do is make it doing better, but you maybe you aren't doing the right thing (at first place).

- Russell Ackoff Analytical Thinking.. Analytical thinking allows you to analyze the system at hand in a way that let you describe its behavior, its structure; it allows you to answer the “how?” question. Yet, it never helps you answering the “why?” question. (and always remember that: "When a system is taken apart, it loses all of its essential properties and so its parts. ") Analytical thinking Analysis is about taking the system apart, trying to understand the parts (taken separately) and aiming to aggregate them back to understand (and hence improve) the whole. And that's all wrong!

All you can do by that is just try to understand the structure and how it works and hence just improve that. (and that may just lead you to improve doing the thing right, but never make you sure you are doing the right thing. To truly understand the system (the right thing) you must understand its function, its purpose, why it works the way it does (and that's never achieved by analysis) "Analysis" tells you how it works but never tells you why. How the system works is "knowledge", but not "understanding" and there is a difference between knowledge and understanding.
But if you wanna improve the system you mush understand why it works the way it does. Because otherwise, all you can do is make it doing better, but you maybe you aren't doing the right thing (at first place).

- Russell Ackoff Analytical thinking allows you to analyze the system at hand in a way that let you describe its behavior, its structure; it allows you to answer the “how?” question. Yet, it never helps you answering the “why?” question. (and always remember that: "When a system is taken apart, it loses all of its essential properties and so its parts. ")

Analysis is about taking the system apart, trying to understand the parts (taken separately) and aiming to aggregate them back to understand (and hence improve) the whole. And that's all wrong!

All you can do by that is just try to understand the structure and how it works and hence just improve that. (and that may just lead you to improve doing the thing right, but never make you sure you are doing the right thing. To truly understand the system (the right thing) you must understand its function, its purpose, why it works the way it does (and that's never achieved by analysis)


Therefore, you cannot explain a system by analyzing it. (that was great discovery by 1950s)
When you take a system apart and try to analyze it, you find out "how" it works. If you take an automobile apart and study every part, you can learn how it works. But do you think you will know why it works the way it does?

I will give you all British cars you want, and you take each one apart and study it as you can, can you answer the question why the driving is on the right? Or can you answer why the American cars are designed for 4 passengers and why they were designed for 6 before?

"Analysis" tells you how it works but never tells you why. How the system works is "knowledge", but not "understanding" and there is a difference between knowledge and understanding.

But if you wanna improve the system you mush understand why it works the way it does. Because otherwise, all you can do is make it doing better, but you maybe you aren't doing the right thing (at first place).

- Russell Ackoff To make sure that the system is doing the right thing, you must understand it.

Why the British drive on the right side? It hasn't nothing to do with the structure of the car, it has to do with its function . Well, you rid a horse on which you side you do that? On the left side. So, they drive on the right to allow people to rid the car from the left side (just as they do with the horse) And there is another reason for that too. In the old days, when someone travels between villages he is subject to be attacked from thieves, like Robin Hood, and the available weapon at the period was sword, and so he drives on the right side to easily use his right hand when he attacked from cars which are coming on the other side of the street.
Why the motor was firstly put on the front of the car? Just like the old carriage and horse (they even initially name it a horse-carriage and they call the motor power the horse power)
At first the break was placed to the right outside the car, then they thought to bring into the car to not let the hand gets wet if there is rains. But, in that way, it's gonna be on the left of the driver, and the left hand is not strong enough as the right one, so, the American thought to let the river sets on the left hand ..
Why was the car size 6 in the old days? Because the average family size was 5.6. Why does it become 4 now? Because the American family size is reduced to 3.2 and so on.

* See, "the explanations always lie outside the system; It depends on how the system functions on the larger environment" And so, we need a different way of thinking (other than "analysis" which is to take the system apart and try to understand the parts in order to understand the whole) to understand its behavior.

- Russell Ackoff Synthetic Thinking.. The 2nd step of the synthetic thinking: (you try to understand the containing whole)

For example:
- So, if I wanna understand the business - the business is part of the national economy - , then, the 2nd step is to identify (understand) "what is the function of the national economy?"
- If you wanna understand the university - it's part of the education system -, then the 2nd step is to identify (understand) "what is the function of the education system?"
- If you wanna understand the car- it's part of the transportation system -, then the 2nd step is to identify (understand) "what is the function of the system?"transportation. In the 3rd step of the analysis is to aggregate (put together) what you think is the understanding of the parts into (collecting them together to try to) the understanding of the whole. (from bottom to top)

In the 3rd step of the synthesis is to take the containing whole and take it apart identifying the function of each part (from top to bottom) and the function of the part which explains it.

- Russell Ackoff So, synthetic thinking has replaced analysis to explain but not to provide knowledge.

In Systems thinking you need both; you need to know how the system works to work it more efficiently (doing the thing right), but if you wanna understand it (make sure what's you are doing is the right thing) you must understand it and that's effectiveness.

So, analysis yields efficiency and synthesis yields effectiveness. Unfortunately,most people tend to focus on the efficiency without focusing on the effectiveness. "When you try to improve the performance of part you destroy the whole."

"Performance of a system depends on how the parts fit together not how they perform taken separately."

- Russell Ackoff The entire management in the western world (isn't so everywhere!) is to take the system apart and then manage each part taken separately so operates efficiently.

Business: Marketing, Sales, HR, ..etc.

And that's what you learn in bushiness schools; how do I run marketing well, how do I run finance well, ..etc. (you take each part alone - as s silo)

The assumption is that if you know how to improve each part then you can improve the whole. (and that's completely FALSE!)
It's principle reason why the company fail. Because frequently "when you try to improve the performance of part you destroy the whole." That sounds a counter intuitive? This can be improved systemically and system science. but rather (simply) lets take the following example (experiment) to prove that important fact:


How many different car brands in the country? (lets say 400)
You buy each of these and bring them all in a big garage. (you got the picture?)
Now, you bring the best 100 mechanical engineer and cars experts and ask them to find which car has the best engine. They go and do their research and tests and come up with one brand that has the best engine, suppose it's Mercedes. put it on a list: best motor - Mercedes.
Then, ask them to find out which has the best transmission, let's say they return with it's BMW that has the best transmission, .. put on the list, .. then go on with all other essential parts, fuel pump, ..etc.
Now, we have a list that includes the best parts among the 400 available cars. Take the list and give it back to the engineers and ask them to collect all these best arts and fit it together to get the best available car model we can have.
Well, do you think we will get the best car in that case?
Hmmm, or do you think that we will get a car at first place?
NO! why not? .... the parts won't fit! each of those parts is designed to work (interact) with specific parts based on the given model of it.
Ok, now consider another experiment: what is the worst car model we have on the country? In the USA, 2001 or so, it was reported that the worst car was Hyundai because it has a weak motor with the respect to its body.
Well, do you think if you throw that motor away and put a BMW's motor as a replacement. Do you think this will improve it's performance? What do you think?
Well, you cannot put it at first place (different size and dimensions, inlets and outlets, ..), but suppose you can fit it in, will it work? will it improve the performance of the car?
Without replacing the motor, just try to improve it (more power, no of cinders, capacity ..), what will happen? You may destroy the whole car!

"Performance of a system depends on how the parts fit together not how they perform taken separately."
So when you take parts of business, school or hospital, and try to improve the performance of the parts taken separately you don't improve the performance of the whole, you may destroy it. There is one profession that who realizes that and I never saw a manager do that consciously; is to do make the part worse in order to make the whole better. In Architect that's a common place. A principle: I will only change a room in a way that improves the house. He will never improve a part unless it's improved the whole. He may make a part worse in order to make the whole better. An incident that management do that in an unconscious way: Loss Leader in super market, when you offer a product with a less price (a loss) in order to let the customer get in and buy other profit products. Please notice that..

It does not say that every time you improve a part it will make the whole worse.

What it says is "the criterion that should be employed in changing a part is its effect on the whole not on its effect on the part." and that's what different.

So if I wanna change marketing, the question "how do I improve the marketing so that I improve the corporation?", not "how do I improve marketing so that I improve the marketing?"

Now, if I can improve the corporation and improve the marketing - of course I will do it that way. but if I can improve the corporation and make the marketing worse I will do that. And that's the fundamental difference! It's going from the whole to the parts, not from parts to the whole and that's the synthetic thinking in oppose to the analytical thinking. That does not it mean that you stop thinking analytically, but differentiate between the two ways of thinking.. If I wanna make what the system do what's currently doing better, then I use the analysis to make it work more efficiently. However, most of the systems suffer not by efficiency but by effectiveness. They are trying to do the wrong thing and the righter you do the wrong thing the wronger you become.
We should start to think about a thing as whole; and stop thinking about it as a self containing but looking at it as a part of a larger system.. “You never learn by doing something right, because your already doing it right. You only learn by mistakes.”


“There are two kinds of mistakes, the kind you shouldn’t have done. [..] That’s called an error of commission. The other type of error is when you didn’t do something that you should have done. That’s an error of omission.” He goes on to point out that only errors of commission are recorded, and therefore if employees/managers can only get in trouble for doing something they shouldn’t have done, what will they do? Nothing.
“It’s our treatment of error that leads to a stability which prevents significant change.”

- Russell Ackoff - “There are 5 types of content in the human mind: data, information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. It’s a hierarchy.” (See my previous post for details on the Wisdom Hierarchy)

- Regarding Peter Drucker’s infamous line, “There is a difference between doing things right and doing the right thing.” Dr. Ackoff says: “See, doing the right thing is wisdom, effectiveness. Doing things right is efficiency. The curious thing is that the righter you do the wrong thing, the wronger you become. If you’re doing the wrong thing and you make a mistake and correct it you become wronger. So it’s better to do the right thing wrong, than the wrong thing right.”

- “So we’re now questioning, that it turns out every major social problem today is trying to do the wrong thing righter.”
“So instead of looking at the efficiency with which we are perusing our objectives, we’re beginning to re-examine the objectives.”
Dr. Ackoff considers the education system. “Our system is not about learning, [...] its about teaching. We don’t recognize that teaching is a major obstruction to learning.”;

- “Who in the classroom learns the most…. the teacher. See the classroom is upside down.”

- “You can take each system [...] and you can see that they are all perusing objectives that are contrary to their intention.”

- “You never learn by doing something right, because your already doing it right. You only learn by mistakes.”

- Russell Ackoff The world is not organized the way the university is (in business, marketing, finance, etc.)

You learn at school about physical problem, chemical problem, economical problem, financial problem, social problem, health problem, and so on. And absolutely there is no such thing; it's absolutely an illusion. The adjective in front of the word problem does tell you one bit about the problem you face; it tells you something but it tells nothing about the problem.

It tells you a point of view of the problem; one of point of view of it. But the problem in the reality interacts of many other problems. and always remember that:

(1) A system is not the sum of the behaviors of its parts but the product of their interactions.
(2) The performance of a system depends on how the parts fit together, not how they perform separately.

- Russell Ackoff Nature and the world are not organized as science and universities are. There is no physical, chemical, biological, psychological, or sociological problems. (the adjective before the word problem tell you nothing about the nature of the problem - only a point of view of the one who describes it) These are names of different points of view, different aspects of the same reality, not different kinds of reality.
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Any problematic situation can be looked at from the point of view of any discipline, but not necessarily with equal fruitfulness.
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The higher in the evolutionary scale is the object of study, the larger is the number of disciplines that are likely to make a constructive contribution to that study.
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For example, a doctor may see the incapacity of an elderly woman as a result of her weak heart; an architect, as deriving from the fact that she must walk up three flights of steep stairs to the meager room she rents; an economist, as due to her lack of income; a social worker, as a consequence of her children's failure to "take her in"; and so on. Planning such an old lady's future ought to involve all these points of view and many others.

Progress in handling messes, as well as problems, derives at least as much from from creative reorganization of the way we pursue knowledge and the knowledge we already have, as it does from new discoveries.

- Russell Ackoff Problems are abstracted from systems, messes. Messes require holistic treatment. They cannot be treated effectively by decomposing them analytically into separate problems to which optimal solutions are sought .

- Russell Ackoff Very important..!
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When we know how a system works, how its parts are connected, and how the parts interact to produce the behavior and properties of the whole, we can almost always find one or more points of view that lead to better solutions than those we would have arrived at from the point of view from which the problem was formulated.

For example, we do not try to cure a headache by brain surgery, but by putting a pill in the stomach. We do this because we understand how the body, a biological system, works.

- Russell Ackoffv Systems thinking is holistic; it attempts to derive understanding of parts from the behavior and properties of wholes, rather than derive the behavior and properties of wholes from those of their parts.

- Russell Ackoff I've worked for over 400 different companies, in different 17 countries, and dealt with over 1000 problems. I can tell you that in at least 90% of those problems, the solution was not where the problem was identified; it was somewhere else.

But it takes somebody who was not looking at the part that's so called has the problem, but he is looking at the system as a whole to find out where its systemic deficiency so he can use the interactions of the parts to have the most effective solution of the deficiency that he has observed.

- Russell Ackoff So much time is currently spent in worrying about the "future" that the "present" is allowed to go to hell. Unless we correct some of the world’s current systemic deficiencies now, the future is condemned to be as disappointing as the present.


My preoccupation is with where we would ideally like to be right now. Knowing this, we can "act now so as constantly to reduce the gap between where we are and where we want to be." Then, to a large extent, "the future is created by what we do now." "Now is the only time in which we can act."

- Russell Ackoff So in idealized re-design, you design the system a whole and then derive the property of the parts from the properties of the whole as opposed to analytical design where you start by taking the parts and extracting the properties of the whole from the characteristics of the parts.

- from an interview of Russell Ackoff with E. Deming Unless the system is right, improving the "quality" of the parts taken separately will not necessarily improve the quality of the output of the system.

- from an interview of Russell Ackoff with E. Deming What is a "system"? Like a weather everyone talks and then don't do anything about it. similarly, everyone talks about systems and don't know anything about it.

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System = 2 or more E's / 3 conditions

1. Each E --> W.
2. Way each E --> W depends on other E's.
3. G1=[E1, E2,..], G2=[.. ].., Gm= [.., En], where each G -->W depends on other G's

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A "system" is a set of 2 or more elements that satisfy 3 conditions.
(Initially speaking this tells you that it's not an "indivisible" part; it's divisible)

1. Each element in the system can affect the behavior of the whole.

2. The way each element affects the whole depends on at least one of the other elements is doing. (In other words, no element has independent effect on the whole; the elements are all inter-connected)

3. If you take the elements and line them up (at any form at all, it does make any different how you do that to them) and you form sub-groups of them (at any form at all, it does not matter you group these elements), then each group of elements will have the following 2 properties:
1. Each group of elements will have an effect on behavior on the whole, and
2. No group will have an independent effect on the whole.

- Russell Ackoff So, the 2 critical aspects of the system, that we begun to recognize in 1954 as a result of focusing on systems. were:

(1) The essential properties of a system are the properties of the whole - that none of each parts have - which are lost when the system is taken apart.
(2) The essential properties of a part are lost when it's seperated form the system in which it's part of.

Now what was the big dilemma of the machine age?
For more than 400 years, the analysis dominates as the common way of thinking (when you say you are analyzing something it was a synonym of your are saying you are thinking about it)..

What is the first step in the analysis?
Taking the thing at hand a part.

And what does happen when you take a system apart?
It loses all of its essential parts!


What's the 2nd step of the analysis?
Try to understand each part taken separately.

And what does happen when you take a part out of the system which is a part?
It loses all its essential parts!!

So, in the 3rd step of the analysis which is trying to aggregate when you understood based on the previous steps you make sure you have understand nothing about this system!!!

And that's what we begun to realize in 1954 - we cannot understand a system by analyzing it; the analysis is a tool to get to know how the system works (its structure and components) not understanding it. (understanding is about explaining and answering the "why" questions and explanation always lie outside the system!) and that was the dilemma that broke the back of the machine age!

- Russell Ackoff In the mid of 1950's, the importance of the systems had grown up tremendously, and we couldn't find a method of thought that understand it. (The dominated method of thought at that time - since the machine age started - was the analysis. And by analysis you could not understand the system)

So, the direction goes into finding out a new way of thinking to complement analysis. Not surprisingly that new method is called "synthetic" thinking. It's the absolute opposite of the analysis method; opposite in step by step.

Analysis steps:
1. Take it apart (What's the opposite of that? Instead of looking at the thing under study as a whole and break it into parts, rather look at it as a part and look for the whole that's containing it.)
2. Understand the parts (i.e., try to explain the behavior of each part taken separately) (What's the opposite of that? Explain the behavior of the containing whole)
3. Aggregate understanding of the parts into understanding of the whole. (The opposite of that?) (Disaggregate the understanding of the containing whole into understanding of the part)

Just absolutely the reverse method!

Therefore, the synthetic thinking steps are:
1. Identify a whole of which the system which you're trying to understand is a part; identify the containing whole.
2. Understand the behavior of the containing whole.
3. Disaggregate the understanding of the containing whole into understanding of the part.

- Russell Ackoff Take an example: a university..

A university consists of collages which in turn consists of departments. Departments still are not indivisible parts, then you look further and you realize faculty, students and subject matters.

By analysis you examine those elements and then you aggregate that from bottom to the top. Well, the analysis just prevails how the university works; its structure; it does not tell why it works the way it does. It cannot!

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Why the automobile was 6 passengers at first and why it becomes 4 passengers now? Take all cars you want and take them apart and try to answer this questions.

Why the British wheel is on the right and why in the rest is on the left?

The answer of the why questions never lie inside the thing! But it lies in its relationship into a something that contains it.
The explanations always lie outside the system.
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Now let's apply the synthetic thinking to the university:
1. What's its containing whole? Well, it's the education system.
2. What's the purpose of the education system? It's a transmit of the traditional knowledge, understanding and information and to create new ones and to create a capacity to generates more and so on.
3. Then, what's the university? You explain the university by identifying its role/function in the larger system of which it's part. What's the role of the university within the education system? ..

What's the role of the vehicle in the transportation system? to carry the average family from one place to another. (average size of Americanfamily was 5.6 now it's 3.2)

In 50's we 've recognized that "analysis" yields "knowledge" and "synthesis" yields "understanding".

- Russell Ackoff What we learned in the 50's is that what "analysis" yields is "knowledge" not understanding; yo get understanding you must use "synthetic thinking." That does not negate the value of the "analysis". Science does not progress that way; it always build on top of the old. It says we must combine "analysis" and synthesis" to both know and understand our environment. And the combination of those two came to be called "systems thinking". And that's for that reason I will refer to the emerging age (after the machine age) as "systems age."

- Russell Ackoff Analysis is supplemented by synthesis to produce systems thinking;
(1) to know something you have reduce it to its elements, and
(2) to understand something you have to expand it to its larger system.

- Russell Ackoff We have 3 types of systems: (from the purpose/choice wise)

1. Purposeless System: a system that has no purpose by its own and its parts also don't have a purpose; just to serve the purpose of the environment which is containing it. Example of this type is machines and instruments don't have purpose of their selves, e.g., car, computer, etc.

2. Purpose System: a system that has a purpose but its part don't, e.g., you as a human has a purpose but your heart does not, your brain does not, and so each of your parts. This type of system are called "organisms".

3. Social System: a system that has a purpose and each of its part has a purpose and the containing whole (the larger system includes it), i.e., the environment has a purpose. The social system is seen as an instrument of a larger system which it's a part and an instrument of its parts.
Since, the behavior of the parts of a system affects the behavior of the whole. The way the parts affect the whole depends on the way the whole affects the parts. Similarly, the way the system affects the whole, i.e., the environment (the larger system) depends on the way the environment affects the system.

Therefore, we came to re conceptualize, to review, what the responsibility of a system is: The management of a system which is previously considered to be nothing but the direction of the system towards to obtaining of its objectives, is now seen as the direction of the system so is to enable a larger system which is a part to obtain their objectives, and to enable its parts to obtain their objectives. And that complete conversion of the concept of management in our new age. (He means in 50's after the World War II, but things to come to us a bit late! :-()

So, we see management today is dealing with 3 classes (levels) of purpose: (considering their "organization" as a "social type of system")

1. purposes of the containing whole (i.e., the environment, including the community or industry, socity,, country, etc.)
2. purposes of the system (i.e., your organization), and
3. purposes of the system's parts (i.e., the individual members, the employees)

The management has to deal with the all 3; has to deal with the interactions of it; and even perhaps more critical, is the fact that the purposes are not completable on each on each level, that it all parts don't want the same thing. So you have conflict between the 3 levels of purposes and within each level.

- Russell Ackoff A puzzle, story, and an important concept.. Problems can be treated in four different ways-absolution, resolution, solution, and dissolution - and these form a hierarchy, meaning that each is less effective, in general, than the one that follows it.

(1) Absolution means to ignore a problem and hope it will solve itself or go away of its own accord.

(2) Resolution means to employ behavior previously used in similar situations, adapted if necessary, so as to obtain an outcome that is good enough. This approach to problems relies heavily on past experience, trial and error, qualitative judgment, and so-called common sense. It is the approach to problems most commonly used by those who govern and those who manage public processes. Moreover, this approach has little lasting power because it deals with symptoms and short-term effects, nor causes. Witness the continuing struggle between labor and management despite more than a century of collective bargaining.

(3) The third way to treat a problem, solution, means to discover or create behavior that yields the best, or approximately the best, possible outcome, one that "optimizes,"
Problem solving usually involves research, often using experimentation, quantitative analysis, and uncommon sense.

Unfortunately, few problems, once solved, stay that way; changes in the environment, changing societal goals, and new information cause solutions to deteriorate. For example, streetcars (trolleys) once solved urban transportation problems. They no longer do so; today they are considered to contribute to the congestion in an automobile-dominated environment. Furthermore, the first three ways of solving problems generally do not change the structure or functions of the entity that uses them.

Moreover, solutions generally do not exist in isolation from other problems. Solutions obtained to problems isolated from the other problems with which they interact generally produce one or more new problems. These are often more serious and difficult to solve than the original problem. For example, the use of insecticides to control crop-destroying insects created a number of health problems involving plants and animals (including humans) that are more serious than the problems they solved.

(4) Dissolution, the fourth way to treat a problem, means to redesign either the society that has the problem or its environment in such a way as to eliminate the problem or the conditions that caused it, thus enabling the society involved to do better in the future than the best it can do today.
- Russell Ackoff A Good Example.. http://abdellatif.tumblr.com/post/36005186488?og=1&fb_action_ids=391757217565161&fb_action_types=tumblr-feed%3Apost&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582 https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=389808644426685&set=a.116004061807146.21046.100001926592046&type=1&theater
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