[sociate] Ackoff and Systems Theory

  • From: "Jerry Michalski" <jerry@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Sociate News" <sociate@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2003 12:46:19 -0400

Some seminal documents from Systems Theory
The discipline Operations Research (OR) has been highly influential. Robert
McNamara and his Best and Brightest used OR techniques to plan and justify
the way the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations ran the Vietnam... er,
situation. (Eventually McNamara resigned, troubled by LBJ's decisions.)

In 1979, Russ Ackoff wrote a paper that was a milestone in management
thinking, though it is little known. Published in the Journal of the
Operational Research Society at the height of OR's influence, The Future of
Ooperational Research is Past (pdf) indicted the ways that OR had come to be
used by its many practitioners. Ackoff followed that paper with a more
hopeful one, titled Resurrecting the Future of Operational Research (also

Shortly after he published these papers, Ackoff started the discipline of
Social Systems Science and founded the Busch Center at Wharton, funded
largely by Anheuser-Busch, one of Russ's major clients over time. Russ now
heads Interact Design in Philadelphia.

Like the idealized redesign paper I just posted, I have permission to post
these two papers here. It's not every day you can see history change just a
bit as you read an article.

posted by Jerry Michalski at 12:25 PM

Idealized redesign
I've mentioned elsewhere that I'm a big fan of Russ Ackoff's thinking.
Frustrated because I couldn't find a description of his methodologies for
interactive planning and idealized redesign, I got permission to post a
paper describing those processes (pdf format).

I began to write a summary, but it is so crisply written that I recommend
you read it yourself. What I will say is that idealized redesign made me
realize that if you never take the time to imagine what you really should be
doing, as an individual or organization, you'll never get there. It also
brought home to me just how difficult a process redesign is, because we are
so wedded to assumptions we don't notice, historic business models and
other, often dysfunctional baggage we take for granted.

posted by Jerry Michalski at 4:30 PM

Other related posts:

  • » [sociate] Ackoff and Systems Theory