The Systems Bible: The Beginner's Guide to Systems Large and Small Paperback – January 1, 2003
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- Item Weight : 1.05 pounds
- Paperback : 316 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0961825170
- ISBN-13 : 978-0961825171
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.75 x 8.75 inches
- Publisher : General Systemantics Pr (January 1, 2003)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #137,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Now for the bad. This is really Critical Theory as applied to Systems. It does a good job of highlighting weaknesses but offers no real solutions. It's great to get you thinking but like Critical Theory in general, you'll need to come up with solutions on your own. The author also undermines his own credibility by being pretty obvious about his biases.He is very much a part of the "you can't hug your children with nuclear arms" crowd and it undermines his credibility to some extent. Everyone is entitled to their views but the simplistic examples make you start to question the author's intent.
This is why I call it Critical Theory. It's very easy to cherry-pick your facts to bash something you don't like, especially when you don't consider benefits or alternatives. You can string together a bunch of facts about Oil Supertankers to make them seem silly but neglect to mention where the gas in your car comes from.
A quick example of his bias and simplistic analysis: in attempting to criticize Military systems he uses the example of what was the M1 Abrams tank, new when this book was first written.
"The latest model Tank for the U.S. Armed Forces are so designed that the engine must be removed in order to change the oil, a procedure that must be performed every few hundred miles. Huge cranes - themselves armored - must follow the Tanks into battle to ensure proper servicing."
Yes, these facts themselves are true for the most part, but even a little bit of research will give you the real story. Or, simply ask a Vet. The M1 has a turbine engine that is removed as an entire pack for quick replacement in the field. Oil changes are a bit different than crawling under your Honda. It's use on the battlefield might be a little bit different, too.
Overall, I like this book because it approaches systems from a different angle and really makes you think about then in a different light. However, you really need to be aware of the author's selective biases as you think about the implications of your own systems and processes. Just don't think it's a "Bible". It's a good thought exercise and will give you another lens to view your systems through, but it is by no means a complete reference to Systems or System design.
ANNOUNCING PITHY QUOTABLES IN ALL CAPS
Luckily these aphorisms, oh Student, are based on a Lifelong and Deep Study Of Systemantics, and proposed as semi-serious Laws (like Murphys). The approach wisdom in the limit, but often seem to rest on
ASSERTING THEM WITH CONFIDENCE
and when that fails, the Extremely Humble, But Very Perceptive Author can resort to
PROOF BY ONE MADE UP EXAMPLE
I want to like this book, but the whole thing reads like the prose above, and want Gall to settle down and spend time exploring his genuine nsights, and explaing why systems behave the way they do rather than Just Asserting That They're Weird.
The main axiom that the book leads back to is keep things simple. Gall describes many systems that morph into grotesque and unrecognizable behemoths that don't do anything they were intended to. In a way, this book also follows this idea. Each chapter is sort and to the point. Main points are in all caps. And then, for good measure, they're all collected in an appendix. Many books will take 300 pages to say something that could have been said in 3 pages. Not here. If Galt was a greedy man, he could likely have gotten 6 or 7 books out of the material in the book. But that's not his style, and we're all better off for it.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
Slightly more uplifting than Kafka.
Otherwise, the book itself is entertaining. The best part is all of the anecdotal evidence they produce to "prove" their theorems about systems.
Top reviews from other countries
From the perspective of personal experience I found this book to be (sadly) spot-on with these obsevations and criticisms of real-world "systems", for example installing an expensive MRP Purchasing System, requiring more IT support to maintain it and resolve crashes, makes ordering so cumbersome and convoluted that only a few select individuals can use and it, and eventually people resort to bypassing it and using a company credit card instead !
In fact I think this book should be required reading for management/politicians and any other "systems-oriented" people.
From reading the rest: It does get better.
The appendices (quiz questions and examples) are quite a nice read, and the second part (applied systemantics) also seemed more useful. Or maybe, it's just me getting too used to it. The book can give some interesting ideas for further exploration either way.
I understand this is the third edition or so, and that the book has expanded considerably from the original, with a lot of the same material referenced in different forms in the appendixes.
I have a feeling that I'll have to write my own few pages of summary to really extract the knowledge I need from it though.
Anyhow, some axioms maybe useful as food for thought.