Saturday, March 5, 2011

Failure in Complex Systems

These is being touted as one of the best papers on systems failures. I'm dumping it here so I can find it when I need it.

18 Truths--The Long Fail of Complexity

"1. Complex systems are intrinsically hazardous systems. The frequency of hazard exposure can sometimes be changed but the processes involved in the system are themselves intrinsically and irreducibly hazardous. It is the presence of these hazards that drives the creation of defenses against hazard that characterize these systems."

Getting organizations, be they corporate enterprises, or public sector, (etc), to think of themselves as 'complex systems' is a start to implimenting the kind of processes that can create better understanding around 'system failure' and how to get the most out of the event. Learning to be better means better understanding why things fail.

As the 18th 'truth' say;

18. Failure free operations require experience with failure. Recognizing hazard and successfully manipulating system operations to remain inside the tolerable performance boundaries requires intimate contact with failure. More robust system performance is likely to arise in systems where operators can discern the “edge of the envelope”. It also depends on providing calibration about how their actions move system performance towards or away from the edge of the envelope."

It's a great paper, a must read as one IT blogger said. There is a lot that could be incorporated in making organizations the kinds of sustainable winning organizations the future needs.


  1. Link to the 18 truths does not work.

  2. Thanks for that heads up, Ward!

    I'll track down the original link/piece.