The Uncertainty Mindset 2019-2020

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#15: Maintenance by design

vaughn2nd January 2021 at 2:25pm

This issue is about designing maintenance into a system—maintenance by design.

Maintenance by design means building systems (individuals, teams, organizations, supersystems) to intentionally be sensitive to change, to display the effect of change transparently, and to be malleable in response to that effect.

Maintenance by design has at least two principles:

  1. Design the system so it shows clearly and swiftly how it is affected by unexpected changes in the environment without becoming incapacitated.
  2. Design the system so it can be easily and undisruptively modified to respond to unexpected system behavior.

Uncertainty in the environment is both growing and increasingly unavoidable as the world becomes more complex, interconnected, and interdependent. We see more evidence of this every day (demagoguery arising out of seemingly nowhere, stable polities breaking down unexpectedly quickly, long-established incumbent businesses falling apart within a few years, continents suddenly aflame for months, pandemics shutting down cities, etc). What we need is more maintenance by design—people, teams, organizations, supersystems that are designed to respond quickly and uncatastrophically to changes in the environment. Population wheats are an example of an agricultural system with designed-in maintenance.

Unfortunately, though maintenance by design is self-evidently crucial for the world we live in today, we seem to barely invest in it at all. (This is also related to agathonicity.)

You can find it here: #15: Maintenance by design