A living organism can survive only by exchanging materials with its environment: by being an open system.Vega Zagier Roberts
Every year, around this time, I like to share a tool which can help with your planning.
Though the shift from 2022 to 2023 is just a quirk of the calendar, the arrival of a new year tends to focus our attention on what’s coming. People make resolutions, use the holiday season to take stock and decide where they want to go next, or treat January 1st as a turning point for their lives at work or home.
This year, I want to share a tool which I created after reading Vega Zagier Roberts’ essay “The Organization of Work“. It explores organizations of all kinds – from projects to families, from teams to institutions – as “black boxes” with inputs and outputs.
It gets us to reflect on the pressures which are placed on us from within and without when we try to manage undertakings. It can form the basis for useful questions and reflections at the outset of a project, whether you carry out the task alone or with others. And it can also give insights into the state of a system which is already in place.
To start off, choose an organization, project, or undertaking which you want to reflect on. If you’re doing this task with others, you may each like to draw your boxes and follow the steps separately, or you can work together on, say, a shared whiteboard.
Draw a box like the one below, with an arrow going into it and an arrow coming out:
We can imagine that systems are boxes like these: something is put into them, they do their work, and as a result of this process, something emerges on the other side.Read more