Why investigate system responses?

May 27, 2007 § 3 Comments

Bow and arrow

Image via Wikipedia

Humans and collectives thereof can be perceived to use one of four ways of dealing with aiming for and shooting at targets. Depending on what product is required of a system to solve a particular problem, we need to pick one of these aiming and shooting stances as agreed upon way of getting “somewhere” and we also need such awareness for each and every problem or obstacle we will meet underway.

Note: this is but a teaching tool, and not a description of realities.


There is nothing to aim at, nowhere to go?


We aim at a target, and when we miss, we missed. We then take aim again. We’re learning shooting.

This approach suits innovative projects where we are willing and aware of entering The Great Unknown. There seems to no other way for entering uncharted territory than by travelling it and charting it. When used for the wrong product type this stance results in a blaming culture. No one will dare take accountability for any of the problems. Not me!


We aim at a target and when we miss we investigate why our body missed hitting the target. We’re learning how to learn to shoot better.

This approach is suitable for consolidation and balancing. When doing this, the systems products are its processes. Examples are archiving systems. When used incongruently this stance results in placating. People will spend most of their energy and time on maintaining the system, and the system will come to a grinding halt in terms of learning how to deal with changes in its environment. Every attempt to change anything is done in a routine manner, even when not intended as such. Foreign elements get rejected, encapsulated or fought.


We aim at a target and when we miss we investigate why we aimed at something else because our body shot something else. We’re learning how to aim better.

With this approach to aiming and shooting we can best create systems on demand. When used improperly this stance can result in head (executive system) and body (operational system) going to war (love/hate) or existing in total misunderstanding (irrelevance) of each others pressures and their own. Lots of rumours and puzzles flying. People start solving apparent non-problems as if the world depends on it. Other people vote with their feet – now that is really useful for solving any “real” problems! But whose problem is it really?


We imagine aiming at several likely targets, but do not really have to shoot the arrow each time. We can predict likely effects. We’re learning what to aim for.

This way of aiming and shooting is highly recommended for producing security and reliability products. When used for a non-fitting product this stance can result in super-reasonable behaviour of the system. The system looses endless energy and resources to maintaining a changing vision and may eventually drain all of its resources in no longer just seeking the essential vision, but in seeking the essential change in vision.


There is everything to aim at, and everywhere to go?

Problem solving

Having figured out what aiming and shooting stance we need to solve a particular problem, is only the beginning of solving a perceived problem. A required stance may not be the stance that we know (well) how to do. In fact, a stance may be uncharted territory in and off itself.

The first two stances seem widely known and practiced by many companies, even when products are chosen that would be better served with aiming and shooting stances mentioned in the third and fourth pattern. Many companies and individuals appear to get stuck in routine and thinking for the sake of thinking, in particular for shying away from The Great Unknown.

Investigating likely system responses in an aware manner can reveal and predict system pressures that we may need to deal with on a journey of learning to take steering and anticipating stances.

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