The Art of Systemgestaltung

The Art of SystemgestaltungThe complexity of systems engineering cannot be captured by a single narration comprehensively and accurately. For this reason, the Art of Systemgestaltung recommends four basic interconnected narratives. Each narrative follows a strict time-logical sequential pattern to facilitate a straight transition from theory to practice. The four basic systems engineering narratives are:

The four basic systems engineering narratives are not chosen arbitrarily. Breaking down the Art of Systemgestaltung into four basic narratives exploits Norbert Wiener’s insight to model complex systems with mutual dependencies by a network of forward and feedback paths (Wiener, 1961). Each of the forward and feedback paths follows strictly a time-sequential sequence resulting in the complete process satisfying a time-logical sequence as well. Further evidence on the benefit of the chosen approach comes from narration theory (Koschorke, 2012). All four basic narratives are close to follow the basic narrative structure: “Then … and then … and then … and then …”. Narrations are most comprehensible, if the “thens” express causality in accordance with the definition established by David Hume (Hume, 1739):

In other words, causality as defined by David Hume is coincident with time-logical sequences. Narration theory has also revealed that side stories have a high potential to convolute a narration with adverse impact on its comprehensibility (Koschorke, 2012). For this reason, comprehensive side stories are avoided. However, without some side stories the basic narratives would not capture the Art of Systemgestaltung completely. Important side stories are introduced in the flow of thoughts of the basic systems engineering narratives when their interference with the main narrative is most appropriate. These are the rules and constraints observed by defining the four basic narratives.

I do not want to leave Taiichi Ohno – the inventor of the Toyota Production System – unmentioned (Ohno, 1988). For me, his most important concept is the precedence of time-logical sequences over pure logic. I appreciate especially Taiichi Ohno’s positioning of the human contributors at the centre of his thoughts. He could have claimed a lot of supporting scientific evidence from motivation psychology (Shah and Gardner, 2008; Heckhausen and Heckhausen, 2010). However, he followed the commonly observable pattern to draw conclusions from own experience alone instead of foreign scientific discipline knowledge in addition. Please, make a distinction between the Toyota Production System and the lean movement. Lean thinking is an invention of the MIT (Womack and Jones, 2003). It took a long time for them to learn about the important role of the human contributors (Morgan and Liker, 2006). But this is another indecent story. When I read Taiichi Ohno’s first book published in English mid of the 1990s, it encouraged me to have been on the right track in my own professional activities and thinking concerned with the development of high-integrity technical systems, and to stay on this track.


Heckhausen, J. and Heckhausen, H. (2010) (Hrsg.): Motivation und Handeln. 4. Auflage. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, DE.

Hume, D (1739): A Treatise of Human Nature – Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects. London, UK.

Koschorke, A. (2012): Wahrheit und Erfindung – Grundzüge einer allgemeinen Erzähltheorie. S. Fischer, Frankfurt a. M., DE.

Morgan, J. M. and Liker, J. K. (2006): The Toyota Product Development System – Integrating People, Process and Technology. Productivity Press, New York NY, US.

Ohno, T., (1988): Toyota Production System – Beyond Large-Scale Production. CRC Press, Boca Raton FL, US.

Shah, J. Y. and Gardner, W. L. (2008) (Edts.): Handbook of Motivation Science. The Guildford Press, New York NY, US.

Wiener, N. (1961): Cybernetics – or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. 2nd ed. The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge MA, US. (First published in 1948)

Womack, J. P. and Jones, D. T. (2003): Lean Thinking – Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation. Revised and Updated. Free Press, New York NY, US. (First published in 1996)