- Publisher: Pocket; 1st edition (May 1, 1978)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0671819100
- ISBN-13: 978-0671819101
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Systemantics: How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail Paperback – May 1, 1978
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Top Customer Reviews
It has the slight failing that it can't quite decide if it ought to be another _Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown_ or not, so there's a few paragraphs to skip here and there.
The rest is great.
I can quote from memory my favorite system axioms:
``Systems grow, and as they grow they encroach.''
``Systems attract systems-people.''
``Intra-system goals come first.''
``Reality is whatever is reported to the system.''
``Fail-safe systems fail by failing to fail safe.''
My favorite chapter is ``Administrative Encirclement,'' where each researcher is asked to write out his objectives.
The deepest insight, very subtle indeed, is Orwell's Inversion: the confusion of input and output:
``Example: A giant program is to Conquer Cancer is begun. At the end of five years, cancer has not been conquered, but one thousand research papers have been published. In addition, one million copies of a pamphlet entitled ``You and the War Against Cancer'' have been distributed. Those publications will absolutely be regarded as Output rather than Input.''
Nobody who knows the book will be surprised that the biggest killers of dogs today are humane societies.
People who follow the book will understand why the small early version _General Systemantics_ (1975), privately published, is an absolute gem; this version is pretty good, almost the same; and today's version (_...the underground text..._) is expanded beyond belief. The author has made it a system.
Though jocularly written, this is really valuable, stimulating material. Its aphorisms may read like jokes, but they are all the more valuable for being quotable and easy to remember in context. Thinking back on all the godawful systems that I have seen, political, management, engineering and computer, there is not one that could not have been mitigated by intelligent anticipatory digestion of this book.
Unfortunately mentalities prominent among power-seekers, control freaks and grandiose designers, not to mention outright dishonesty among managers with conflicts of interest, cause considerable resistance to the ideas and attitudes that Gall promotes. If you are one such, I have nothing to say to you. If on the other hand you enjoy a bit of thoughtful and edifying entertainment, do your best to read this book.
The author refers back and forth to these common systems as it explains over 20 truisms of systems, especially large ones. Some of my favorites include:
- First rule of systems design: do without out one if possible
- New systems mean new problems
- A large system produced by expanding a smaller system will not behave like the smaller system
- Things are as they appear to be, not what they are
The book is written in a very lighthearted yet serious way which makes it easy to read, even funny. Everywhere, things are not working well and those outside of the systems that are failing are sure they could fix them if only their ideas were universally adopted. However, this book admittedly offers no solution. There is no single method to follow and all axioms are too fundamental for direct application. Rather the axioms provide clues and guidance to awareness of what makes a particular system faulty. The Systematics student, understanding the risk of failure, even catastrophic failure, knows that the undertaking should only be begun where the present evil is very clear and the consequences of utter failure are no more unbearable than the original unsatisfactory situation.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
While an amusing critique of systems not working the way we want or expect, fundamentally, I don't think he actually understands systems. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Arthur Brock
The Ultimate Comprehensive Rules of every organization of every kind ever assembled. I've given copies to friends for decades...
Don't take it all in one dose...
This is a classic book that I wish I'd read thirty years or more ago. It might have helped assuage my long-standing existential angst, and seemingly fruitless railing against the... Read morePublished on November 5, 2013 by Bear Jack Gebhardt
I have a masters degree in systems analysis, and this book tempers the enthusiasm one has upon leaving school. It should be included in the curriculum.Published on May 18, 2013 by Richard B. Renner
This book is a must-read for engineers, programmers or anyone who designs, builds or maintains systems of any kind.
It is very funny and very educational. Read more
The book came as agreed, even a bit early. Price was good, ans shipping cost was reasonable. Book is very academic, and a bit dated.Published on August 29, 2010 by A guy named Kim
Systemantics influenced me deeply when I was beginning my career as I found it gave me a real insight into how the world doesn't work. Read morePublished on January 30, 2010 by Bill Liao
This is neither an actual analysis of systems nor a humorous review, not that it does not try to be both. Read morePublished on June 13, 2008 by Richard C. Haven
Statists, collectivists, socialists and their liberal sympathizers and apologists need to read this book. Read morePublished on March 23, 2008 by Izzy Dunne