Symbiosis in LOs LO11279

Thu, 5 Dec 1996 10:19:19 GMT+2

Replying to LO11220 --

The 'symbiosis thread' has been very interesting, although much
(IMVHO) has been an exercise in semantics.
Sherri's suggestions relating to depth, At's ideas and examples,
Ben's comments, Durval's statements, and so many other contributions
of ideas - too numerous to mention - all underline a very fundamental
systems engineering concept, namely, the value of rich picture
There are some well known steps in this process.
Firstly, the boundary of the system needs to be identified so that we
can decide on what should be taken as given, and what we should try
to engineer.
Secondly, at least Eight characteristics of the system need to be
explored in detail. I won't go into all of these but the two most
important are the transformation process (what the system does) and
the hierarchy of weltanschauungen associated with the transformation
process (in the case of human activity). These weltanschauungen can
be broadly subdivided into two main classes: gemeinschaft and
geselschaft. The first relates to personal attitudes and beliefs
towards the process and the values expressed at peer group level
(Durval's 'community') and has everything to do with the
transformation per se. The second relates to attitudes and beliefs
concerning the wider system (Durval's 'society').
The exploring of these system properties (process and weltanschauung)
makes explicit, inter-alia, the various symbiosis characteristics and
linkages that exist in the problematique, and of course the many other
aspects in which we may be interested.
If the rich picture is well constructed then the REAL problems are
uncovered and we will not make the mistake of trying to alleviate
symptoms or trying to engineer constraints. Both these errors often
result in the precipitation of a self-defeating system (At's tree
planting example). Perhaps one of the best known examples of a SDS
is the Challenger Disaster.
According to Hunsucker and Law [1986]:
"The commission concluded that there was a serious flaw in the
decision-making process leading up to the launch. They felt that the
rising doubts about the joint seal should have been flagged and
brought to management's attention."
Another famous self-defeating system, one from Africa (my home
continent), is the building of dams in Masailand (old name for the
territory - can't get used to all the changes!)
The number of dams built, and the acre-feet of water they provided
made inspiring reading in the departmental reports and in the annual
reports to the United Nations.
But the whole of the Masailand dam-building project must be subject
to suspicion. It should have been known that water supplies alone,
and not the amount of grazing, were the controlling factor regarding
the number of livestock the Masai owned (where was the rich picture
formulation?) but no measures were taken to control the number of
livestock when the water supplies were increased. No ecological
survey of Masailand was made (rich picture again!) and the results of
the whole of that mistaken and misguided effort was worsened by the
fact that the Veterinary Department had eradicated rinderpest (hence
a new problematique was precipitated needing updating of the rich
Until then rinderpest had acted as a form of biological control over
the number of cattle.
The result of this great increase in cattle, and particularly small-
stock, is that the grazing throughout Masailand is fully utilized by
domestic animals (the weltanschauung of the Masai is that stock =
wealth). This caused the game to leave those areas and they have
simply vanished. The disappearance of game from the great open areas
of Masailand is complete and the eradication has been effective. The
great tragedy of the Serengeti and its once vast herds of migratory
plains game has drawn to a close.

Not nearly enough attention is given to rich picture formulation and
albeit indirectly.

Finally, we need to be careful not to believe that there actually is
such a thing as a system. This is purely a human construct which
helps in rich picture formulation and subsequent design, analysis,
engineering, and synthesis. The ideas associated with 'System',
like those associated with probability lead to useful concepts and
methodologies but all are weltanschauung driven.


Keith Sandrock Systems
FAX 27-11-339-7997



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