IFSR President’s Message 2011

IFS Newsletter 2011 Vol. 28 No. 1 August
As professionals who are interesting in systems, are we making progress? The connectedness of the world seems ever more apparent. Economic problems have continued to ripple from one continent to the next, creating political backlashes as citizens have lost jobs and benefits. Natural disasters seem to have been on the rise, along with the disruption they have caused to our human-made environments. The tsunami in Japan not only caused tragic losses there, but also affected energy policies about nuclear power around the world. Weather changes created discomfort in some places, but severe draught in others, resulting in human migration, refugee camps and backlashes in response. And social media has evolved from tools for connecting friends to a means for organizing the overthrow of governments.
The language of systems continues to find its way into common places, but still mostly in terms of describing the problems. Lacking are the viable solutions that garner public support. We get frustrated with “those in charge” for their narrow views and short-sightedness, but if the solutions that we offer are only doing more studies and writing more papers, it is no wonder that we get ignored by those who make the decisions, and are held accountable on an hourly basis.
Our systems organizations have begun, in a number of arenas, to reconnect with members and organizations based in systems engineering. The newest provisional member of the IFSR, in fact, is the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). The mutuality of the professions is not surprising when simply looking at the ways in which engineering is now being applied – in genetics and other biological developments; to environmental issues; in large-scale infrastructure projects, and so on. The importance for us – the systems communities – is the need to become involved again with the kinds of real-world issues which many of our founders faced.
Theories and ideas are important. How we think about the world changes what we see. But words left dormant on unread pages are of little value. What people do with the ideas makes a difference. In order to make progress as systems organizations and individual professionals, we need to join forces to to move from ideas to actions – and to share the accountability for the outcomes. My goal is that the IFSR helps to facilitate this work.
Gary Metcalf

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