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Surviving Change

Building redundancy into the one system that never has backups: the human system

Andrew Frederick Cowie — Operational Dynamics

SurvivingChange.pdf (A4)
SurvivingChange.pdf (Letter)


Ever increasing complexity means that people charged with maintaining production systems face an impossible task: they need to spend time developing new ways to manage their platform but are constantly fighting fires which prevent them from concentrating on the real challenges at hand.

In essence, the solution to the problem is a human one. These issues are not unique to systems administration, so this paper takes a far reaching approach to addressing them. Expertise from software development, military operations, the scientific revolution, and even NASA are used.

Three themes are dominant: we need a systematic way to learn from our experiences, bridging structure and flexibility is key, and above all, it is leadership which makes the difference.

Using procedures for specific events offers a breakthrough approach. A formidable tool is created when procedures are used in a way that resists bureaucracy while encouraging knowledge transfer and learning.


Andrew Cowie is an operations consultant based in Sydney. His firm helps clients improve the effectiveness of their technology by focusing on people and the processes around them, driving usability, scalability and maintainability through team building, establishing procedures, and improving systems performance. You can reach him at andrew@operationaldynamics.com


Copyright © 2004 Operational Dynamics Consulting Pty Ltd, All Rights Reserved. Permission to redistribute this document may be obtained by contacting us.

We believe the ideas presented here are universal and so encourage you to make use of this paper in your organization. If you do, please contact us so that your experiences and views can be incorporated into further research on this subject.

This paper was first presented at SAGE-AU's National Conference, August 2004, Brisbane. Also available are the presentation slides which accompanied this paper. You can view them online, or likewise download them in PDF form.

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