am 5. April 1999
In a world drowning in a lot of mostly useless information, at last this outstanding yet accessible work from one of the leading social systems thinkers, educators and practitioners, one who not only makes coherent and comprehensive sense of the complexity and apparent chaos characterizing our new realities, but provides us with the operational principles and methodology for managing change and creatively co-designing a desired future, both in business creation and transformation toward an order of magnitude improvement in the pursuit and performance of multiple concurrent ends, as well as in community and national development.
Outlined systematically in this work by Gharajedaghi, is a conceptual and operational methodology that is indeed applicable to any type of social system, whether a business corporation, government institution, community or nation. It is a vehicle for understanding and learning how to do more with less, and achieving not only higher levels of economic performance, but also quality of life, learning and development for the members of our organizations and communities, who are after all, the true 'ends' which our productive efforts should serve.
Here you will not find simplistic 12 step programmes and gimmicks clothed in the latest buzzword terminology but which bring no true understanding of social systems and their dynamics, but a meaningful, comprehensive understanding of how social systems work and how they can be participatively transformed to serve our human purposes and needs. The author deals not only with economic variables, but also those pertaining to power (participation; beauty, (that which excites and inspires people); human values (culture); and knowledge (our pursuit of truth and understanding), and how they collectively and interactively, define the nature of a society or business. Visible also is his own compassion and appreciation for people's efforts to create a better world, an understanding that has allowed him to create a truly human systems approach, and one which inspires others to have the courage to do what so far, only the 'gutsy few' have done.
This work, in moving from systems philosophy and theory, to a method for understanding and designing social systems, explained in accessible language and concepts which make sense of what otherwise must seem complex and obscure, is about learning to do, learning to learn, and learning to be - a way to understand and create truely multidimensional organizational and societal development, not the tunnel-visioned fixation on financial performance to the detriment of all else.
This bootstrapping integration of theory and practice in one congruent and consistent methodology, is something which no systems methodology has thus far achieved in comparable depth and breadth, placing effectiveness ('doing the right things'- or ENDS)in primacy over the single-minded pursuit of efficiency ('doing it right'- or MEANS), the latter invariably occurring at the expense of people and the natural environment in the absence of a systemic methodology - and something which virtually all management 'solutions' out there in the market continue to pursue despite lip-service to the contrary. The purveyors of quick-fix solutions and 'panaceas' may apologize (belatedly) for the societal and real human suffering caused by downsizing and 'hardwire' reengineering 'solutions', but few aside from Gharajedaghi, Ackoff, Senge, Banathy and a handful of other systems thinkers, have sought to create and develop (to the level of operational applicability), a way of overcoming the dilemma of inverting technological means over human ends, which is the source of so much of our societal dysfunction.
In this methodology, aimed at the present and coming global development and business challenges in which knowledge, understanding, and dare one say it, wisdom, are critical requirements, people are seen not as 'costs to be minimized', but embodied capital, and an organization and nation's chief asset, since they bring to their work and communities, the irreplaceable, namely their time, creativity and commitment.
Gharajedaghi brings a multidimensional and coherent conceptual light that allows us to see the dynamic patterns behind the turbulent and ever-changing detail characterizing social and economic reality. This work is based on more than 30 years of systemic thought and hands-on, ongoing learning experience in the transformation of business enterprises and national development planning. It comes to grips with the nature of change, itself a complex and multidimensional reality, and demonstrates how counterintuitively, success is transformed to failure in a changed environment.
This leads to questions of how we can understand and manage the multiple dimensions and change drivers that coproduce economic and social complexity, and the criteria which should define 'success'. He also explores the nature and meaning of management, planning and leadership for this and the coming era, a domain where linear thinking and socalled 'tried and tested' piece-meal analytical solutions create more problems and more intractable ones, than they solve, as each addresses single variables in a type of system (a social, open, dynamic one) where 'multimindedness'and the increase in differentiation behavior, is its chief feature - (each person has choice and the ability to influence the system, and knows it, yet at the same time, needs the larger systems of which they are a part), and therefore interdependence of the whole, AND autonomy of its parts, BOTH need to be accommodated, in organizations no less than in the broader society.
This multidimensional reality, characterised by emergent behaviors and phenomena that cannot be understood through analysis of its parts, requires the ability to manage 'paradox', to stomach high levels of ambiguity, and to integrate what appears to be contradictory, but are in fact complementary tendencies. Such a talent is about managing interactions, not controlling the actions of people and parts of a system.
This work represents a dual paradigm shift - one in our thinking, in the form of a shift from analytical displinary knowledge to systemic understanding; and one in our modes of organization, from organismic and mechanistic, fixed structural solutions, which create ongoing conflict between 'management and labor', as well as between society and nature - to a flexible, adaptive learning model, characterized by membership and the integration of authority and responsbility in every part' of the organization, the only way to achieve true accountability, both in business and society.
Gharajedaghi's systemic interpretive framework allows us to see the nature of the 'mess' in which we are embedded, an interacting system of problems, its dynamics, dimensions, and the governing principles which codefine social systems of any kind. It shows us, both through its conceptual framework, and the application of these principles in business design and national development projects undertaken by INTERACT, how businesses and communities can interactively and iteratively, create their desired future on an ongoing basis.
We see also that organizations in government and business do not have to 'die' as people do, but can continually recreate their products, services, processes and organizational structures to accommodate and function within a rapidly changing environment.
The principle of iteration, which we see also in chaos theory, where complex patterns emerge from the iteration of simple equations, is a central concept in this methodology, both in our mode of inquiry and in design, where depth and detail are added with each new iteration, and where former assumptions and specifications can be redefined and re-examined continually through a process of second-order (social) learning.
The model of organization developed here, is highly flexible and modular, based on internal market principles, and on the purposes and values of its members and the broader community it serves. It is one where the trauma, conflict and dislocation of periodic restructuring and reorganization are bypassed, and where conflict is dissolved through ongoing learning, participation in the formulation of decision criteria, and iterative design addressing three levels of purposeful human behavior, namely those of an organization or community's members, its management and owners, and the stakeholders in its containing environment.
Jamshid Gharajedaghi has brought new resolution, depth and dimensionality to a social systems methodology long in the making and remaking, by himself, his colleagues at INTERACT (The Institute for Interactive Management in Philadelphia, of which he is the President and CEO); through his collaboration with Russell Ackoff (founder and Chairman of the Board of INTERACT) and others, and through his own experience in working with a diverse array of clients in business and governments, in many countries. Some of these experiences and organizational and development transformation projects (Oneida Indian Nation, Butterworth Health Systems, Commonwealth Energy