Parts and wholes (Ackoff, 2006)

25 October 2010

If you optimize the performance of the parts, you systematically suboptimize the performance of the whole. Collaboration is a more powerful force than internal competition and the job of leaders is to manage the interactions of the parts, not their actions. Solving one problem at a time doesn’t work when radical transformation is required. The challenge is to dissolve the mess – that is, the system of interrelated problems that are precipitating the crisis.

(Ackoff, 2006, p. xxv)


It’s a mess (Ackoff, 1979)

12 October 2010

Managers are not confronted with problems that are independent of each other, but with dynamic situations that consists of complex systems of changing problems that interact with each other. I call such situations messes. Problems are abstractions extracted from messes by analysis; they are to messes as atoms are to tables and charts … Managers do not solve problems, they manage messes.

Russell Ackoff (1979, s. 93)