Life in Organizations LO9898

Julie Beedon (
Tue, 10 Sep 1996 16:46:47

Replying to LO9754 --

Rol explains that the aging into dysfunctionality of systems is less about
the earlier compromises not being understood by later generations and more
about the unknown and unknowable during the design. Yet it occured to me
that the example given of the functionally oriented system:

> Five years ago I designed a
>system that is still recognized as best in its class for its purpose.
>however, it is designed to be used by one department, and now we
>understand something we simply did not understand then. Systems to be
>really effective need to process-oriented rather than functionally
>oriented. This system could probably not have been better than it was at
>the time because there was no knowledge that told us to build
>process-oriented systems.

is an example of a design compromise which would not be understood today -
the knowledge about process-orientation was around 5 years ago - Deming
described it to the Japanese in the 50s - other factors meant that other
knowledge was more 'acceptable' at the time - this strikes me as being a
design compromise....

As I listen to what Rol has to say about system design and this expereince
I wonder if there are some rigours we could build into system design work
which would help us be open to more rapid change processes as we move

* stating assumptions about technological factors - ie we keep doing this
whilst CDs are too expensive to produce for the marketplace...

* stating assumptions about organizational design factors - ie functional
orientation - other options explored etc...

* stating assumptions about the internal culture which the system needs to

* stating assumptions about the external environment etc...

* state the key realities/polarities which were being balanced and the
compromises which were made

then as any of the assumptions and factors change and other factors emerge
we never knew about we can make speedy course corrections and keep the
system on track without anyone feeling they were 'wrong' or instigate a
major redesign without judging the original work as ineffective....


Julie Beedon <>

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