Closed systems

Guest Columnist

Closed systems such as unions, professional associations, tenured educational systems, military services, health care delivery services, government agencies, large corporations, print media, television, civil service administrations and country clubs lose the intention of their original mandates over time.

The stewards of these organizations invest their energies in the maintenance of the status quo and their respective positions in that status quo. This vesting becomes the single most important focus of their attention. Systemic mediocrity closes in quickly and another well-intentioned institution becomes corrupt and ineffective.

The evolution of this form of stewardship produces a club that is not meritocratic. Persons within these closed systems often have climbed the same career ladders and have absorbed the same values, assumptions and expectations as their colleagues. They encourage their friends to join the good fight, place them in nomination for elected positions and then campaign vigorously to see that they are elected. This further cements their own views, creating a more and more intellectually insular and professionally self-protective environment. They forgive one another their mistakes, and mediocrity becomes cozy.

Often our institutions serve as a haven for managers and stewards who are neither particularly competent nor scrupulous. This good ol’ boy network exists because the very nature of closed systems perpetuates itself through inbreeding. Decades of this practice has led to the diminution of our local, regional and federal governments, as well as established institutions of every form.

Today and in the future, long managerial stewardships may not occur as easily as they once did. As our institutional officials, both public and private, continue to disregard our protestations of their present behavior, the scrutiny under which traditional long-term stewardships are placed increases. The continued emotional and financial funding of our present group of stewards loses its appeal with each passing day.

Continuing discussions about term limits, elimination of tenure within the whole of the educational system, continuing loss of membership in labor unions and reductions in membership in professional organizations show that confidence in our institutions is diminishing. Gaining in favor are organizations that are closer to home and more responsive to local wants and needs.

How can we improve the quality of the stewardships in our existing institutions? We know that we cannot begin anew, nor can we throw out the baby with the bathwater. The investments we have in our existing institutions are tremendous. They simply cannot be abandoned. Structural change may afford a fresh path for future stewards to pursue.

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1 Response for “Closed systems”

  1. Ken Caye, STCM(SS), USN, Ret. says:

    I will only take exception to the part I know because my life has obviously been much more focused than, Dr. Lawrence Kassouf. There is a saying in the U.S. Navy uttered by many an enlisted man when referring to a particularly disliked officer who exhibits a real lack of leadership & knowledge of his job & the job of those under his perview. Stuff in a septic tank tends to rise to the top. That said, I will take great exception to applying that across the board. I served with many officers who were nothing but the cream of the crop as was expected by Adm. Rickover & the commanders of the submarine forces. The enlisted men I knew & served with were in their positions because of hard work, increased knowledge & spartan efforts to be the best that they could in a very unforgiving atmosphere – that of the underwater world they live in most of the time.

    I could comment on some of the others, but don’t consider myself qualified. Another submarine saying is, “Life is simple. Either you’re qualified, or you’re not!”

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