Reflections on much work and lack of knowledge

Posted on

I have subjective experience from my career path, but familiar with every company – from startup and middle-sized to big tech companies. From linear managers to C-level executives, all are stressed with hectic calendars and overloaded with calls and meetings.

Even worse, often, there is lots of work because a company sometimes decides “much work” as a solution to multiple problems: how people interact with each other, and how the value is pushed from development to client.

But the problem couldn’t be determined without feedback from outside. We can’t find and solve problems in the company’s system, that we bring together without new knowledge in this area. And we also often lack appropriate feedback.

We will make the situation only worse if we will follow solving only consequences issues. To understand deeper, we try to find more root causes. And we will find some. The more we practice self-reflection, the deeper this chain can continue. But our communication hierarchies can be so complicated and our rules and processes so rigid that, trying to fix the root cause, we pull the organisation’s load-bearing structure. And we won’t move any detail in this system without broad authority and people’s support.

Making things only locally better can make things worse in other teams because organisations with problems can also be strongly coupled. We are like in the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle but in making things worse scenario. We have an issue. We plan and do something but make things more harmful. And on the next twist, we go deeper into dive. And need to solve something worse. Or, accidentally, we make something better, and everything goes fine until the context changes again.

We are often very biased people. Generalising our own experiences leads us to mistakes. Without new knowledge addition, we respond the same way without considering many context changes. Or making a jump of faith into a new direction without considering essential facts.

But why do so few talk about it? There is no widespread education. Cybernetics and Systems Theory are less stylish to learn than modern books and conference talks.

Also, it’s about profound changes in mindset. It works only for corporate education on a level that approves it. If the director of one department supports education, it will work most in this department, not in another. So it is challenging to educate linear staff and management because of not-so-wide authority. But to ring bells to a higher level is very difficult. Why? Because top executives are busy to understand, the problem is often not in people but in the inbuilt system.

Advice? Let’s start with the easiest. And it does not exist, sorry!

My advice is based on my experience and encompasses three levels, which are not quick and straightforward.

Level 1 – hard:

  • Find a community for discussing problems
  • Ask why? for things more often
  • Reserve time for reflection and education
  • Journey diaries can help

Level 2 – very hard:

  • Includes all mentioned in Level 1
  • Approach higher level supervisor with stated problems and best approaches to solve them

Level 3 – the hardest:

  • Consists from the elaboration of Levels 1 and 2
  • Dive and understand social and technical systems
Instead of a conclusions

A lot of work and a lack of time to reflect are one of the system’s internal signals that something can go better and need to dive into. And if you are further interested in the topic, I recommend reading and reflecting on two of Russell Ackoff’s pieces. First is Writings on Management: the whole book is excellent, for the above topic part about Systems is more valuable. The second is On Purposeful Systems: logically structured for more detailed diving into theory.

  • Ackoff, Writings on Management, the whole book is great, for our topic part about Systems is more useful, Amazon
  • Very logically structured for more detailed diving into theory: Ackoff, On Purposeful Systems, Amazon

Comments & email subscription

I’m Alex, a software engineer with technical and engineering management experience from startups to middle-sized and big-tech companies. Loves to make effective and friendly team processes.

You can freely drop a message to [email protected] or to greet and ask questions about any topic.

I’m also mentoring pro bono at

Good guys reference: now working at Prestatech in Berlin and making B2B fintech solutions. We are small and hiring: