Cutting off the ends of a Roast

Working with a colleague who recommended a book Whole System Design: An Integrated Approach to Sustainable Engineering, Peter Stasinopoulos. Started skimming the book. A good compilation of materials around design, systems thinking and sustainability. What I found an interesting ah ha moment yesterday was that all this knowledge was known before, initiatives in business were started but failed to catch on. I wondered what has made today’s sustainability and whole systems efforts different? perhaps its been the global warming alarms in the press, maybe the economic crisis, or political unrest. Then again maybe its just the boomers and flower power generation has just grown up and looked at their ideals versus our actions to say we need to really get ourselves in alignment with our principles and values.

I look at the General System Theory references, the older engineering references, and systems engineering materials of the past few decades and see all the same things. But the question becomes, why haven’t we applied it all? Maybe we’ve gotten so caught up in making a living, acquiring status that we forgot to have a life. Those that I’ve talked to that have a full schedule of activities seem to be in no better shape; they acquire experiences much the same way others acquire material possessions. They can list dozens of activities they and their family have done, but it sounds more like a checklist off a to do list and an actual meaningful event.

A little off my typical technology blog, but still relevant. Have we spend so much time doing our checklists that we have forgotten what we’re doing them for? I recently talked to a client about their operations. The processes they use were old, inefficient and in some cases just didn’t accomplish anything. The typical answer I got when asking why they did what they did was “We’ve always done it that way”. It reminded me of the joke about the family roast recipe. A great granddaughter carefully cut off the ends of the roast before placing it in a pan. The husband asked why. She didn’t know and called her mother who call her mother and so on till they reach the great-grandmother who was asked why she did that. Her reply was the roast was always too big for my roasting pan.

The question I have for us, myself included am I cutting off the ends of a roast at work or in other activties?

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