Systems Thinking Coping with 21st Century Problems 1st Edition

by John Boardman, Brian Sauser

Systems Thinking Coping with 21st Century Problems 1st Edition In the hopes of initiating critical thinking and encouraging a systems response to problems the book provides pragmatic mechanisms to understand and address co evolving systems problems and solutions It uses several contemporary and complex societal issues such as the Iraq war the Google phenomenon and the C2 Constellation to illustrate the concepts methods and tools of a system as well as the meaning of togetherness in a system The text also interweaves the meanings of complexity para

Publisher : CRC Press

Author : John Boardman, Brian Sauser

ISBN : 9781420054910

Year : 2008

Language: en

File Size : 5.99 MB

Category : Business Money

Systems
Thinking
Coping with 21st Century Problems

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Industrial Innovation Series
Series Editor Adedeji B. Badiru

Department of Systems and Engineering Management
Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) – Dayton, Ohio

PUBLISHED TITLES
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Handbook of Industrial and Systems Engineering
Adedeji B. Badiru
Industrial Project Management: Concepts, Tools, and Techniques
Adedeji B. Badiru, Abidemi Badiru, and Adetokunboh Badiru
Systems Thinking: Coping with 21st Century Problems
John Boardman and Brian Sauser
Techonomics: The Theory of Industrial Evolution
H. Lee Martin

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Systems
Thinking
Coping with 21st Century Problems

John Boardman
Brian Sauser

Boca Raton London New York

CRC Press is an imprint of the
Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

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CRC Press
Taylor & Francis Group
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© 2008 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
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Library of Congress Cataloging‑in‑Publication Data
Boardman, John, 1946‑
Systems thinking : coping with 21st century problems / John Boardman and
Brian Sauser.
p. cm. ‑‑ (Industrial innovation ; 4)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978‑1‑4200‑5491‑0 (alk. paper)
1. Systems engineering. 2. Problem solving. 3. Systems analysis. I. Sauser,
Brian. II. Title. III. Series.
TA168.B594 2008
658.4’03‑‑dc22

2007034222

Visit the Taylor & Francis Web site at
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and the CRC Press Web site at
http://www.crcpress.com

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Contents
Foreword..................................................................................................................ix
Acknowledgments.................................................................................................xi
The Story So Far.................................................................................................xvii

Chapter 1 Perspectives...........................................................................................1
1.1 If You Leave Me Now...............................................................................1
1.2 Areas of Perspective.................................................................................3
1.2.1 Or.........................................................................................................3
1.2.2 And.....................................................................................................5
1.2.3 Not......................................................................................................7
1.2.4 Paradox...............................................................................................9
1.3 Perspectives on Google.......................................................................... 10
1.4 Returning to Iraq.................................................................................... 14
1.5 Time to Think.......................................................................................... 16
Endotes........................................................................................................... 18

Chapter 2 Concepts............................................................................................... 19
2.1 Just a Thought......................................................................................... 19
2.2 What’s the Big Idea?............................................................................... 21
2.2.1 E Pluribus Unum............................................................................ 21
2.2.2 The Sameness of Systems..............................................................22
2.3 The Conceptagon.................................................................................... 23
2.3.1 Boundary, Interior, Exterior........................................................... 23
2.3.2 Wholes, Parts, Relationships......................................................... 24
2.3.3 Inputs, Outputs, Transformations................................................ 25
2.3.4 Structure, Function, Process......................................................... 26
2.3.5 Emergence, Hierarchy, Openness................................................30
2.3.6 Variety, Parsimony, Harmony....................................................... 35
2.3.7 Command, Control, Communications........................................ 36
2.4 Time to Think..........................................................................................40
Endnotes........................................................................................................42

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vi

Contents

Chapter 3 Engineering......................................................................................... 45
3.1 Pressed into Action................................................................................. 45
3.2 The Way We Were.................................................................................. 47
3.2.1 Life Cycles........................................................................................48
3.2.2 Passing Through............................................................................. 50
3.2.3 Eggs Is Eggs..................................................................................... 52
3.2.4 See What I Mean............................................................................. 53
3.2.5 Spoiled for Choice........................................................................... 55
3.2.6 Modeling and Simulation.............................................................. 55
3.2.7 The Long Haul................................................................................ 58
3.3 Quite Another Story............................................................................... 61
3.4 Time to Think..........................................................................................63
Endnotes........................................................................................................64

Chapter 4 Dynamics.............................................................................................65
4.1 Thinks Can Only Get Better.................................................................65
4.1.1 A Systems Language.......................................................................65
4.1.2 Servers and Clients......................................................................... 66
4.1.3 Archetypes....................................................................................... 69
4.2 Time to Think.......................................................................................... 75
Endnotes........................................................................................................ 78

Chapter 5 Soft........................................................................................................ 79
5.1 Breakfast @ Tiffs ‘n’ Ease....................................................................... 79
5.2 Softly, as I Lead You...............................................................................80
5.2.1 What Seems to Be the Problem?................................................... 81
5.2.2 Getting to the Root of the Problem..............................................84
5.2.3 Ideally, This Is What We See......................................................... 86
5.2.4 It’s Good to Talk.............................................................................. 89
5.2.5 The Long Unwinding Road Map................................................. 91
5.3 Time to Think.......................................................................................... 91
Endnotes........................................................................................................ 94

Chapter 6 Systemigrams...................................................................................... 95
6.1 Into Great Issues..................................................................................... 95
6.2 Evolution.................................................................................................. 99
6.3 From Prose to Picture.......................................................................... 100
6.4 Going off the Rails................................................................................ 102
6.5 Normal Service Will Never Be Resumed.......................................... 107
6.6 Postlude.................................................................................................. 111

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Contents

vii

6.7 Time to Think........................................................................................ 113
Endnotes...................................................................................................... 115

Chapter 7 Togetherness..................................................................................... 117
7.1 Common Causes................................................................................... 117
7.2 An Intelligent Community?................................................................ 118
7.2.1 The Way It Is................................................................................... 118
7.2.2 The Way It Must Be, OK?............................................................. 120
7.2.3 Making Sense of Togetherness: 1................................................ 122
7.3 The Madder of All Wars...................................................................... 124
7.3.1 Future Capabilities........................................................................ 124
7.3.2 A New Constellation.................................................................... 126
7.3.3 Making Sense of Togetherness: 2................................................ 130
7.4 Principles for Togetherness................................................................. 132
7.4.1 Coexistence..................................................................................... 132
7.4.2 Cooperation.................................................................................... 134
7.4.3 Coeducation................................................................................... 135
7.5 Time to Think........................................................................................ 136
Endnotes...................................................................................................... 141

Chapter 8 Of........................................................................................................ 143
8.1 Social Networks.................................................................................... 144
8.2 Order Forms.......................................................................................... 146
8.3 Technology Networks.......................................................................... 147
8.4 Less Auto, More Mobile....................................................................... 149
8.5 The Price and Prize of Togetherness................................................. 151
8.6 The System of Systems Debate........................................................... 154
8.7 Essential Characteristics...................................................................... 155
8.7.1 Autonomy....................................................................................... 157
8.7.2 Belonging........................................................................................ 157
8.7.3 Connectivity................................................................................... 158
8.7.4 Diversity......................................................................................... 159
8.7.5 Emergence...................................................................................... 160
8.8 Back to Biology...................................................................................... 161
8.9 Time to Think........................................................................................ 163
Endnotes...................................................................................................... 166

Chapter 9 Paradox............................................................................................... 169
9.1 Make My Joy Complete........................................................................ 169
9.2 The World of Both................................................................................. 170

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viii

Contents
9.3 System Paradoxes.................................................................................. 172
9.3.1 Boundary........................................................................................ 172
9.3.2 Control............................................................................................ 174
9.3.3 Diversity......................................................................................... 178
9.4 Bothersome Bovines............................................................................. 181
9.5 Time to Think........................................................................................ 182
Endnotes...................................................................................................... 184

Chapter 10 Complex........................................................................................... 187
10.1 Life’s Rich Tapestry............................................................................. 187
10.2 Sides of Bacon...................................................................................... 190
10.3 A Weakness Stronger Than Strength.............................................. 192
10.4 Ready, Fire, Aim.................................................................................. 193
10.5 Snowballs and Seesaws..................................................................... 197
10.6 Significant Others............................................................................... 203
10.7 Postlude................................................................................................ 204
10.8 Time to Think...................................................................................... 205
Endnotes...................................................................................................... 207
Index...................................................................................................................... 209

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Foreword
It is a great pleasure to introduce this inaugural edition of Systems Thinking:
Coping with 21st Century Problems by John Boardman and Brian Sauser. In
response to the increasing relevance of “systems thinking” to global challenges from terrorism to energy to clean water to healthcare, these authors
provide a unique perspective on the word “system.” A perspective that
causes us to rethink its meaning and rationale, and to reconnect, in a conscious and explicit manner, with the inherent opportunities and difficulties
with a “systems approach.” This is increasingly necessary for us to address
the seemingly intractable systems problems within our society.
The authors first provide the context to systems thinking from an engineering systems point of view, and then extrapolate their discussion to problems that are decidedly societal, where engineering and technology is just
an element of an overarching solution. While the authors present pragmatic
mechanisms to understand and address co-evolving systems problems and
solutions, the primary contribution of this textbook is to initiate critical
thinking within the reader while addressing such problems in an attempt
to encourage “a systems response.” Within an environment where the treatment of subjects such as systems engineering and systems architecting and
systems thinking take on a decidedly linear approach, this is a most nonlinear treatment of the subject.
This textbook is ideally suited for business, organizational, and technical
leaders as well as political and social leaders. It can serve as a primary text
for courses on systems thinking and critical thinking, and as a complementary text for courses on systems engineering and systems architecting. The
material in this text represents significant research conducted by the authors
in the application of systems engineering and systems thinking principles to
engineering systems and enterprise systems, and has benefited from student
feedback from multiple courses taught on related subjects by both Boardman
and Sauser.
Dinesh Verma, Ph.D.
Stevens Institute of Technology

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Acknowledgments
Writing these acknowledgments is itself an exercise in thinking. That is
never easy for me, but it is an inescapable challenge. So I decided to use systems thinking as my guide. Who has helped me? When was this? How did it
happen? What did they do? Where was I at the time? Why did they bother?
Now it is easier. I have begun to think. All I need now are words, the tools of
my trade, in the service of grateful thanks to those who have made my world
what it is—fascinating, humbling, joyful, an unending learning experience
that brings meaning to origin, purpose, and destiny.
In 2004, Dinesh Verma plucked me from the golf courses of central Florida, where I had reduced my handicap from 22 to 14, and planted me in an
emerging systems program whose openness and dynamism is helping to
reshape industry, academe, government, and, most importantly, individuals.
I have not played golf for more than 3 years and do not plan to again until I
can confidently make a success of retirement. In the meanwhile, purposeful
employment, a principal fruit of which is this book, brings more meaning to
me than a birdie. Just about! Thanks, boss.
I attended the University of Liverpool in the early 1960s for three reasons:
to discover the secrets behind the Beatles’ success, to support the Liverpool
Football Club, and to inhabit ale houses. Majoring in electrical engineering
was a vehicle to these ends. However, it was the inscription on the university’s clock tower atop Brownlow Hill that started to make me think outside the narrow framework that I had created: “This Institution exists for the
advancement of knowledge and the ennoblement of life.” Wow! I was privileged to meet many people there who lived that out, two I can never forget.
They are Brian Swanick and Phil Mars. Scousers from top to bottom. Their
intelligence, humor, passion, insights, and candor infected me like nothing
I had known or have experienced the like of since. I still believe that if the
three of us got it together the world would never be the same. Guys, you have
a special place in my heart.
It is people who make the difference in your life. At the time I may have
been mistaken about the difference they were making. No one can ever go
back, but it is always possible to look back (and not in anger) and gain a better perspective. Accordingly, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to former but
unforgotten academic colleagues: Dave Sandoz, Ray Thomas, Sandy Robson,

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xii

Acknowledgments

Ken Woodcock, Barry Wilkinson, Niall Teskey, Graham Wilkinson, Terry
Duggan, Graham White, John Pickering, Neil Merritt, Dave Harrison, Stuart Wingrove, Julian Bulbeck, Mike Rose, Matthew Turner, and Ben Clegg.
Thanks for the memories.
In the mid-1980s I became involved in several committees of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (now the IET). Committee life has slightly
less appeal to me than seeing Liverpool lose a European Cup Final (they
have won five to date by the way). But I was thrown together with people of
exceptional talent whose energy, intellect, and friendship uniquely restored
my confidence and competence to make progress in academe. They are
Pete Gawthrop, George Irwin, Pete Fleming, John O’Reilly, Kevin Warwick,
Colin Tully, Pat Moore, Andrew Clark, Derek Hitchins, Philip McPherson,
and, lastly, Allen Fairbairn—probably the greatest systems thinker never
to play for England. All these guys, in my book, are World Cup winners.
Thank you for letting me play in the game with you. It was all too brief, yet
distinctly memorable.
Industry has always held a special fascination for me. It is the place where
mistakes are made, not just thought of. It demarcates the concepts of conclusion and decision. You really do have to be a gambler to play there—someone
who is not simply foolhardy but who makes a business of risk. Foolishness
I can hack. Calculated risk is something else. Nevertheless, I have been
privileged to work in, alongside, and for some wonderful companies whose
leaders, in my eyes, have influenced me as an engineer, a person, and, most
compellingly, a thinker. Their intellectual impact has been extraordinarily
immense, and curiously unsurpassed by professional academics. In my
first real job, Denis Farquhar, who ascended to chief engineer of MANWEB,
scolded me with the line: “John, you get the colleagues you deserve!” It was
intended to abate my complaining attitude. Far too subtle for me at the time.
Now I know. In GEC Marconi, I was privileged to encounter Bill Bardo, Bob
Wilkinson, Ian Jenkins, and Andrew Farncombe. These guys, metaphorically, could play for Liverpool FC, who incidentally need to sign footballers
of that caliber if they are ever going to win the English Premier League.
Thank you all for teaching me so much, for showing an interest in my thinking, and especially for supporting my research. In Rolls-Royce, I met many
good folk. Hard workers, great firefighters (some of them skilled and undetected arsonists), great engineers, and receptive learners, which is a remarkable attribute in a company with such a world-class reputation for excellence.
Chief among this band is Frank Litchfield, to whom I owe a special debt of
thanks for teaching me about process and listening to my thoughts on how
to leverage it. To all my industry colleagues I render a heartfelt thanks. My
systems thinking is what it is largely because of you. I am to blame, but to
you goes all the credit.
Latterly I have become acquainted with various elements of U.S. industry,
government agencies, and places of higher learning as a consequence first
of making this land my home and then my place of work. Consequently,.

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Acknowledgments

xiii

several people have made an impact on my life and my thinking, and to them
I extend my grateful thanks: Ruth David, Rick Dove, Steve Krane, George
Korfiatis, Mahesh Kumar, David Nowicki, Spiros Pallas, Art Pyster, Donna
Rhodes, Jack Ring, Mark Schaeffer, Todd Tangert, and Mark Wilson. Thank
you all for being in this brave new world. With your cooperation I look forward to many years of activity that will be fascinating and fun.
Writing a book is easy. You simply have an idea, sling a few words together,
and press on. When it is complete, you get some folks to read it, to say what
they think, ask them if it makes sense, and how it might be improved, never
believing this is actually possible. This is when thoughts and realities collide. It would be great if readers adored all the things that a writer enjoyed
at the time the words hit the page. Why they do not amazes me. No! It disappoints me. Then I have to think again. To practice what I preach. To listen
and to learn, which is what I would have my readers do. I am a better man
for this. Not at the time and never immediately. But finally. Brian Sauser
and I have had the benefit of many willing and beautifully capable reviewers. Intelligent, respectful, experienced people—students, faculty, and colleagues—who have wanted to be part of this book. We truly owe them an
extended amount of sincere thanks. They are Mark Weitekamp, John Wirsbinski, Robert Edson, Michael DiMario, Steve Bishop, Clif Baldwin, Larry
John, Nicole Long, Thomas Ford, Alex Gorod, Donny Blair, Vishwajeet
Kulshreshtha, and Devanandham Henry. Thanks guys. Your inputs have
transformed our work, making our outputs more than we ourselves could
have achieved. And while writing is one thing, actually producing this book
is another. For that, we express our utmost appreciation to Taylor & Francis,
including Cindy Renee Carelli, senior acquisitions editor, Jill Jurgensen, production coordinator, Jay Margolis, project editor, Eva Neumann, typesetter,
and Nadja English, senior marketing manager.
This book is in part a response to the creation of the systems thinking
course that forms part of the graduate program in the School of Systems and
Enterprises at Stevens. Over the past 3 years almost 200 students have taken
that course. Whether they know it or not, each one has impacted this book.
Some will be able to find their thoughts, maybe even their words, in these
pages. As much as any book can be living, this is, because it is an organic part
of a greater whole that includes this student body. May that body grow and
become wise. May this book help that process. Thank you, you great unknown.
We know you, and we even remember some of your favorite movies!
Speaking of organic wholes, authors themselves are part of a larger mix.
In our case that is Stevens and, in particular, the School of Systems and
Enterprises, which has emerged as a consequence of this incredible dynamic
that feeds on the desire for education, structure, progress, comprehension,
and systems of all kinds—technological, linguistic, computational, organizational, and entrepreneurial. We owe undying gratitude to our Stevens
colleagues, some of whom must of necessity be singled out for their loyal
support, inspirational interventions, and critical thinking. They are, first,

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xiv

Acknowledgments

Elaine Chichizola, Fionnuala Coyle, Shobi Sivadasan, and Kathy Connors.
Ladies, you are priceless in our eyes. Thank you hugely for your work and
comradeship. Second is Mike Pennotti, who not only manages the graduate
program but also manages to think and hugely influence our thinking. Third
is Ralph Giffin, who keeps order seemingly without ordering anybody to
do anything, and who puts his walk about leadership in line with his talk
about it. Ralph, thank you for getting me to read again. Finally, there is that
quite remarkable young man, a unique talent who is undiscernibly changing the world, one act of random kindness at a time. Dinesh Verma has been
willing to be the guy “they will hang” by assuming the mantle of dean. I do
not think they will find the rope, pal. There are far too many of us to keep
it hidden from them. Thanks for being you and making this book happen
for us.
Finally, a few personal remarks. First, my coauthor. I have been around a
long time now and known a lot of people and done a few things. Never in all
this time have I come across anyone like Brian Sauser. I wish I knew what it
was about this boy. Maybe it is not about him. Maybe it is about me and that
long time, filled with foolishness and errors and brilliant ideas and laughs
and tears. Whatever it is about, Brian Sauser is to me the most special person
outside of my family. To the point he is family. Brian, it is a privilege to know
you and an unsurpassed joy to work with you. May we work together for a
long, long time. I am hoping forever.
My mother, Charlotte, put shoes on my feet, clothes on my body, food in
my mouth, ideas in my head, and hopes in my heart. Footwear, flannels, and
feeding has frequently come and gone since those first days. But the desire
to imagine, to believe, to aspire, and to inspire endures. For all these gifts,
wrapped in God’s love from a devoted mom, I shall be forever thankful.
Thanks mother.
My children, Richard John, Sarah Elizabeth Renee, and Jonathan Paul, are
individually and together immeasurable blessings to me. They continually
surprise, delight, thrill, and inspire me. I love you. I know you know what
this book is really all about because you live its contents out so imaginatively
and practically every single day. God bless you.
Lastly, my wife, Alison, is a special person. A truly treasured possession.
Her love, faithfulness, and companionship are as clear a view of heaven that
I could ever have. Thank you for giving me up to my study for seemingly
endless hours, for tolerating my irascible behavior when it has not gone well,

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