17 Corollaries (11-17)

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Corollary: C11 regarding stakeholder interests

What: There is an increased chance of success if stakeholder interests are aligned.

Why: Common sense tells us that we are more likely to be successful if we ‘pull together’ as oarsmen do in a boat race. We are more likely to pull together if we have a common purpose.

Corollary: C12 regarding processes

What: Systems models are processes.

Why: If we accept that change is ubiquitous then everything is a process. Why is this helpful? Because it shifts our focus and leads to a new understanding of change. It provides us with a means of integrating many ideas and enables us to create simplicity in complexity. Unsurprisingly perhaps many people find it hard to think of a table as a process since they cannot reject the idea that it is a thing composed of ‘stuff’ – such as wood. It may help to think about the life cycle of the table from raw material, through design and making to usage, maintenance and disposal to see the table is constantly being and becoming. Everything exists in the process of time.

Corollary: C13 regarding feedback

What: Processes may be loopy involving feedback and feedforward.

Why: Most engineers are familiar with the ideas of feedback and feedforward in hard systems. They apply equally in soft systems where they are often called loops of influence.

Corollary: C14 regarding leadership

What: Managing a process to a desirable outcome requires appropriate leadership and collaborative learning.

Why: Traditional learning is something we do to acquire knowledge that may be useful to us in some way. We tend to think via a prescribed framework which promotes a strong distinction between the academic and the vocational which devalues practical wisdom. To change, people need vision. Leadership is about engaging with that vision then building and coaching teams to achieve it – and it applies at all layers.

Corollary: C15 regarding outcomes

What: Unexpected and unintended changes may result in future consequences that may be opportunities to create benefit or hazards that threaten damage.

Why: We must protect ourselves from the harmful effects of unintended consequences that is why we need to be alert to the possibility of ‘incubating failure’. Just as importantly we must take advantage of possible benefits from unintended consequences – they lead to new opportunities and genuine innovation.

Corollary: C16 regarding the six ‘honest serving men’

What: Attributes of processes can be classified into the categories of why, how, who, what, where and when. ‘Why’ expresses the purpose which drives the ‘how’ of the methods, transformations and procedures of change in the descriptors and measures of people (who), performance indicators and systems variables including impedance (what), contextual influences (where) and measures of time (when). One way of expressing this is ‘why = how (who, what, where, when)’.

Why: Rudyard Kipling’s six good men are generic. They provide the means to capture, model, control and improve processes in systems.

Corollary: C17 regarding ‘trade-offs’

What: Trade-off decisions may be required when two or more output variables are negatively related. For example the trade-off between lower NOx and lower CO2 pollution in exhaust gas recirculation of a diesel engine. A balance of disadvantages may have to be struck. For complex systems, the balance between the multiplicities of variables becomes even more difficult.

Why: Axiom 5 states that complex systems often cannot be ‘solved’ rather they have to be managed to desirable outcomes. One of the means of managing trade-offs is through evolutionary learning recognising that many trade-offs are non-linear and step changes may be created by innovation.

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