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Dude, Cut Me Some Slack

Since I enjoyed reading Tom DeMarco’s “Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork and the Myth of Total Efficiency” years ago, this diagram in  Jamshid Gharajedaghi’s “Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity” brought back some fond memories of that book:

Slack

The diagram shows the slow, insidious erosion in flexibility that occurs in a complex system when efficiency and optimization initiatives are relentlessly applied to the system by its uninformed stewards. As the “slack” is stretched out of the system due to increasing internal pressure, it: 1) loses its robustness to external stressors, 2) the tension between connected nodes increases, and 3) the inter-node couplings harden. At the system breaking point, one or more of the connections crack open, the nodes fly apart, and the conglomeration ceases to function as a whole – a system. I hate when that happens!

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