# Book : The Systems Bible: The Beginner’s Guide to Systems Large and Small (3rd Edition) (2003)

**Categories:**
Systems Thinking

**Tags:** book • communication • failure • function • gall • systems design • systems thinking

**Publisher:** General Systemantics Press

**Author(s):** Gall, John

**Published:** 2003 • **ISBN:** 0961825170 • 316 pages • **Delivery Format: ** Hard Copy - Paperback

**Available from:** Amazon (DE) • Amazon (UK) • Amazon (US)

## Summary

From the publisher

GENERAL SYSTEMANTICS™ PRESS is proud to announce the revised and much enlarged THIRD edition of SYSTEMANTICS™, THE UNDERGROUND TEXT OF SYSTEMS LORE. Sixteen years in preparation, this THIRD Edition includes a new Preface, three new chapters, new AXIOMS, THEOREMS AND RULES OF THUMB, and many new Horrible Examples, for a total of 40 chapters covering the entire field from the PRIMAL SCENARIO to the FAIL-SAFE THEOREM and including the celebrated definition of GARBAGE that is fundamental to any real understanding of SYSTEMANTICS™.

The FIRST EDITION of SYSTEMANTICS™ was “highly recommended” by the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science Books and Films and has since been translated into Spanish, German, Hebrew, and Japanese.

The SECOND EDITION has been favorably reviewed in the Whole Earth Catalogue (1986) by Kevin Kelly:

The author is having fun with a serious subject . . . insights come in the form of marvelously succinct rules of thumb, in the spirit of Murphy’s Law and the Peter Principle.And Computer Book Review remarks,From ‘Function-and-Failure’ to ‘Management and Other Myths’, here’s a collection of witty observations… grown into mature rules of thumb.

## Content / Structure

Part One: Basic Theory

A. The Mysterious Ways of Systems

1. The First Principles

- The Fundamental Theorem
- Conservation of Anergy
2. Laws of Growth

- Expansion and Encroachment
- Do-It-Yourself and Self-Service
3. The Generalized Uncertainty Principle

- Antics
- Climax Design
- The Non-Additivity Theorem
4. A..B.. C..Disaster (Feedback)

- Le Chatelier's Law
5. The Power of Positive Feedback: A Warning

- Runaways
- Oscillating Systems
6. What Next? (The Life Cycle of Systems)

- Fully Prepared For The Past (F.P.F.P)
- The Tenacity of Temporary Arrangements
- The New System and the Old System
B. Inside and Outside

7. The Grand Illusion

- Functionary's Falsity and the Operational Fallacy
8. Inside Systems

- The F.L.A.W
- Coefficient of Fiction
- Functionary's Pride
- Hireling's Hypnosis
9. Delusion Systems Versus Systems-Delusions

- The Jet Travel Paradox
- Manager's Mirage
- Manager's Mania
- Orwell's Inversion
10. Systems-People

- Specialized Selection
- Bypassing the System
- Exploitation Theorems
C. Function and Failure

11. Elementary Systems Functions

- Impotent Potentate Syndrome
- Vending Machine Failure
12. Advanced Systems Functions

- Functional Indeterminacy Theorem (F.I.T)
- The Kantian Hypothesis
13. The System Knows (System Goals)

- Equifinality
- Inner Goals
- Function
- Purpose
- Will
14. Systems Failure (Theory of Errors)

- Failure Mode
- Graceful Degradation
- Failure Mode Mantras
- The Fail-Safe Theorem
15. Glitches, Gremlins, Bugs

- Bugs: What Are They?
- Bug Behaviour
- Intermittent Failure
- Can Bugs Be Useful (Bug or Bonanza)?
- Some Famous Bugs
16. Form, Function, Failure

- The Origin of Novelty
- Specialized Incapacity
17. Colossal Errors

- Grandiosity
- Large Lumps of Liability
- Total Systems
18. Unexpected Interactions

- The Electric Turtle Effect
- Fearful Symmetry
D. Communication Theory

19. Communication Theory

- The Batesonian Sleeping Dog
- Transactional Theorems
- Dunn's Indeterminacy
20. Information

- Lynd's Lemma
- Information Theory
- The Basic Information Theorem (B.I.T)
- Rate-of-Decay Theorem
- Interconvertability Theorem (Garbage Transfer)
- Inaccessibility Theorem
21. Talking to the System

- Whole Dog Spot
- The Deregulated Dinosaur Effect
- System-semantics
Part Two: Applied Systemantics

A. Systems and Self-Defense: Meta-Strategies

22. How Not to Solve Problems

- Denial (No Problem!)
- Information, Please!
- Hopeful Traveling
- Getting Rid Of
23. The Tao of Problem Avoidance (Meta-Strategy I)

- On Not Joining The Coast Guard
- Creative Incompetence
24. The Creative Task (Meta-Strategy II)

B. Practical Systems-Design

25. Design Don'ts

- Occam's Razor
- Unfavorable Settings
- Uphill Configurations
- The Systems Law of Gravity (The S.L.O.G. Factor)
- Looseness
- Bad Design
- Gresham's Law
- Brook's Law
26. Catastrophe Theory

C. Management and Other Myths

27. Wishful Feedback

- The Potemkin Village Effect
- Output Phobia
- The Lesson of Three Mile Island
- The Model of the Universe
28. Fear of Feedback

29. Feedback and the Future

30. Catalytic Managership (Utilization)

31. The "Problem" Problem

- Fits and Starts
- The Crash Approach
32. The Limits to Grandiosity

- Limit Theorems
- Grandiosity
- The Perils of Perfection
- Perfectionist's Paradox
33. Disaster Control

- Minsk's Admonition
- Jung's Runic Riddle
D. Intervention

34. Where's the Problem?

- Change Agentry
- Parts Versus Whole
- The Ladder of Logical Levels
35. Probing the System

- The Laboratory Rat Scandal
- Cubology
- One More Strategy
36. The Problem in the Solution

- The Observer Effect
- Systems and Self-Reference
- The Nasal Spray Effect
- Finding the Thermostat
37. Taming Systems

- The Token System
38. The Problem in The Question

- The System Out There and the System In Here
- Switching Models
- The Importance of Being Properly Framed
39. The Net of Indra

40. Beyond Stability

41. After the Solution, What? (The Next Problem)

- The Dance of Accommodation
- Feedback, Flexibility, Creativity
Envoi

Apendices

I Annotated Compendium

- Basic Systems-Axioms, Theorems, Corollaries, etc.
- Select List of Meta-Strategies
II Self-evaluation Quizzes and Essay Questions

III Reader's Tear-out Feedback Sheet

IV Whole Systems Catalogue

- Outstanding Examples of the Operation of the Laws of General Systemantics ("Horrible Examples"). Entry Blank
V Glossary

VI Partial List of Animals

- That Have Contributed to our Understanding of Systems
VII List of Horrible Examples

Notes and References

Biased Bibliography and Good Reading List

Index of Horrible Examples

General Index

Third Edition, Copyright © 2002 by John Gall

## Reviews

## Elsewhere On The Internet

Chosen at random from all the resources listed:

- Management Systems: A Viable Approach by Maurice Yolles
- Seeing the Forest for the Trees: A Manager’s Guide to Applying Systems by Dennis Sherwood
- Systems Thinking, Systems Practice (30 Year Retrospective) by Peter B. Checkland
- Systems Thinking Basics : From Concepts to Causal Loops by Virginia Anderson
- Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson