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Systems always seek their real goal

The system will seek its goal above all else, even if it’s not actually what you want.

Even if it’s not what anyone wants.

If you want to improve education, and set a goal of 20% more dollars spent per student, then the education system will spend 20% more dollars per student. But that does not mean education is improved.

If you want to improve software, and you set a goal of less than one defect per 10,000 lines of code, the development process (a system) will not have less than 1 error per 10,000 lines of code. But that does not mean the software does what’s intended, or needed.

If you want your engineering team to get more done, and you set a goal to hire five more engineers this year, the hiring process will hire five more people this year. But that does not mean your engineering team will get more done.


I’m learning this first-hand tonight, the hard way.

I want to write a helpful book.

I have a goal to write a thousand words per day.

And finish a chapter every month.

So my system has produced 20,000 words and two chapters.

But that does not mean the book will be helpful.


One of the most powerful leverage points to change a system is to change the goal of the system.

I’m doing that with my writing system.

My first step: remove the word count goals from each chapter and section.

My second step: I continually ask myself if it’s helpful and if I’m having fun writing it.

We’ll see what this system produces – I’m well aware it might not be what I expect.

It probably won’t be.

But then I can try another experiment.

Remember: systems always seek their real goal.

If you’re not sure what goal your system is seeking, look at what it’s producing. The output you observe is what the current system design is producing.

If you don’t like it, change the design, and tweak the goal.

Take care,


About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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