Sunday, August 2, 2015

What’s the Purpose of Designed Systems

The purpose is the source of all power.

Humans have purposes, organizations have purposes, and human society as a whole has collective purposes as well. What is the purpose? Does cause-effect analysis define purpose? According to the dictionary, the purpose is:
- the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
- an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
- determination; resoluteness.
- the subject at hand; the point at issue.
-the practical result, effect, or advantage: to act with good purpose.

The purposes of designed systems are to provide processes that enable specific outputs and that will meet specific needs. This is accomplished by developing the high-level requirements with main purposes or system requirements, and decomposing to lower-level requirements or subsystem requirements that define processes, in order to generate stated outputs under specific life cycle conditions; consequently, resulting from specific inputs, processes, and outputs. So, the purpose itself is a multidimensional system. It has the same properties as any other system.
-It has emergent properties that help us deal with future possibilities.
-It has outcome properties which help us get things done by relying on our past experience.
-It has relational properties that help us resolve the tensions between future possibilities and past experience.

Any purpose that a system has is defined by the observer looking at that system, man-made or natural. Systems are merely descriptions of what an observer notices and includes in their defined boundary of interactions. These descriptions, of course, are highly useful, but they are still only descriptions and not entities. This is why cause-effect is tricky because there are multitudes of causes and multitudes of effects which only become apparent as the observer changes how they describe the system (organizations, structures, elements, environments, etc). If using cause and effect logic to help distinguish between symptom and cause when evaluating activities within a system, you are able to draw from the results both the outcomes and causes of the system. Perhaps you know that there is more often, very few root causes and similarly a limited number of outcomes that reveal themselves when this work is conducted properly.

The cause-effect analysis does have to rely on different levels of abstraction (models). Depending on complexity, you can adjust the level of abstraction by applying inductive through deductive logic, the linear cause and effect logic is applicable depending on the entity under evaluation, both man-made and natural environmental risks. In many cases, multi-sequential adverse event propagation is applicable for man-made systems. Further consider the interaction of complex system elements: the human, software, logic abstraction, and the business environment. Consequently, the adverse propagation is dependent on physics, expected human dynamics and the specific entity design. Accordingly, Cause-Effect analysis anticipates purpose but not until the system is actualized, can you really observe manifest purpose.

If the original intent is expressed in Effect on Context, then a system design can be analyzed as to the likelihood of purpose. However, if the design is expressed as conformance to a pile of 'system shall' statements called requirements, then there is no solid basis for anticipating fitness for purpose because the purpose of the system is not conformance to requirement. The purpose of the system development may be conformance to requirements, but that does not mean the operating system will be fit for purpose. So using effect as a descriptor for the purpose has issues, in that when an observer changes what they see as the effect of that set of interactions, then the purpose also must be described differently, which begs the question why is describing purpose useful? Purpose entails a) Effect on context, b) Intended vs. Actual, and c) Source of Effect. Designers are the source of the intended effect and unintended effects. The system in operation is the source of actual effects, thereby reveals actual purpose, but is not the Source of Purpose, only the means for cause Purpose (both intended and unintended) to happen.

It’s important to distinguish between desired output and the purpose of a system and discern behavior vs. purpose as well. In mathematical programming, the purpose is called cost function and the solution is the desired output. It's true that we can express the relation as "cause and effect," but the purpose is introduced by the designer. It is also useful to discern behavior (response to stimulus) vs. purpose (effect on context). The effect caused by a stimulus is also called behavior. That 'effect' refers to the entity that experienced the cause. That 'effect' is different from the effect that system behavior has on its context. The effect of cause-effect may be seen as yet another cause. Thus, you need to put additional effort to do extrapolation and find the purpose. Certain "systems" attend to cause and effect and they do not define purpose. The systems "state," not "purpose," needs to be considered as well. These systems include "dynamic" complex sociotechnical systems. While they are unintended they include system failure outcomes, but nothing to do with system cause and effect purpose.

People have purposes that arise from our interactions with others. They too are influenced by unconscious emotions, these are manifest as values, social, political, technical etc.. These tend to be dynamic because our interactions are dynamic. People also have purposes that they associate with outcomes, these are influenced by their unconscious motives and are manifest as goals objectives etc. In a positive sense that ST thinking concepts can assist you to address a particular problem, situations that would otherwise would not for a particular purpose. It’s helpful to view system models in an outcomes sense, and that can be reflected through cause and effect and intentions of those involved.

The purpose is the source of all power. It is amazing what people can do when they see they have a source of all power within themselves, a system can be seen, to have a purpose of its own when it produces unexpected behavior. And some complex systems produce behavior that is hard to fathom and sometimes impossible to understand. But these properties function together as one interactive, dynamic, multi-dimensional system of purpose that is at the heart of any human system.


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