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Systemantics

systemantics
Peter Paul Rubens: The Incarnation as Fulfillment of All the Prophecies (1628-29)
" … without having yet achieved any maturity."


My Authoring efforts amount to nothing more than my attempts to master another system. An old systems thinking adage insists that learning one system provides insight into all systems, and having learned many systems in my time, adding Authoring to my vitae should not prove utterly impossible, and yet some days it seems as if Authoring might prove special by proving itself utterly impossible to master. The systems thinkers have this contingency covered, too, for as John Gall, system thinker and author of the sadly entertaining Systemantics- How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail (General Systemantics Press: 1975/78, 1986, 2002), all systems are not only part of larger systems but also comprised of many smaller systems, each of which exhibits infinitely complexity. Nested infinite complexity explains a lot of what I see when interacting with and attempting to master Authoring, and also what I experience when attempting to interact with even the more mature systems in my life, the ones I might naively expect to perform predictably.

I pulled into my pharmacy's "drive thru" window, responding to an automated voice message which alerted me to prescription refills ready for me to fetch.
There was a catch, though, because one of the prescriptions had been tagged as unfillable because it needed my doctor to reassure the insurance company that it was still necessary. It had been refilled as many times as originally indicated, and this situation might have been anticipated by the system, but it required human intervention. If automated systems are nested infinite complexity, systems which include human components—and which doesn't?—prove worse. The pharmacy had notified the doctor of record, the one I visited when I lived in Colorado, from where I relocated almost a year ago. The doctor onto whom I'd passed my prescription record upon arriving here had not yet updated the record. I gave the system a few days to figure itself out, figuring that early intervention might produce more chaos than satisfaction. Not having heard anything by the following Wednesday, I went into action.

I called my new clinic and left a voice message. Voice messaging is the backbone of the clinic's much-touted Patient Portal, another system imbedded within their system, this one clearly nested infinite complexity, too, because it seems capable of only over-promising and under-delivering, a common feature of all much-touted system components. After a few exchanges of phone tag, I received confirmation that the doctor had received my message and had intervened. The pharmacy, though, had not received his directive and figured the insurance company's "processing," a common system euphemism for stalling or ignoring, in other words, "not processing;" Normal Systematic behavior. I decided to wait it out since I had not run out of the prescription in question. For once, I'm grateful that the pharmacy, after offering to automatically refill my prescriptions, chose to refill them three weeks before I would exhaust the last traunch's allotment, a practice probably intended to improve the pharmacy's cash flow at my expense, a common Systemantic.

I confirm that the pharmacy has the current insurance information, since The Muse and I changed insurance coverage over the last new year. Surprisingly, they seem to have the current information, though I have no idea how their system gained access to it, another common Systemantic. I decide, two days after finally exhausting my supply of this medicine and two days after the pharmacy clerk lectured me on how missing a few days won't materially impact my health, as if he represented the Mayo Clinic or something, to just take the empty to my clinic and pass it, an actual physical artifact, to the administrator I spoke with on the phone, the one who confirmed that the doctor had approved the refill when he apparently hadn't. As I was sweeping snow off the car, my cell phone rang and it was that very admin reporting that the doctor had called in the refill order, confirming that he'd informed the proper pharmacy. I was headed that way anyway, my other prescriptions having reached their regular premature refill date, so I decided to kill two birds with a single stone. The pharmacy, though, had not yet received the confirmation in question, so I left empty-handed vis-a-vis the prescription in question. A half hour later, I received the automated voice message informing me that the prescription in question had been refilled and was waiting for me to fetch it.

Later that afternoon, I retraced my steps—was this the fourth or fifth trip across town to fetch this prescription?—only to learn that the pharmacy which had earlier sent me an automated confirmation that my prescription was ready had no record of receiving my doctor's latest confirmation. They supposed that the insurance company was holding it up. I'm reasonably certain that the prescription was there, somewhere in their complicated filing 'system,' perhaps with a typo birthdate assigned, likely lost for all time. I'll call the insurance company later this morning to learn if they know what their left hand has been doing, though I already know for certain that they will have never been involved in any part of this convoluted transaction. Systemantics, again.

The point of this lengthy story was not to malign The Best Health Care System In The World, but to illustrate the normal behavior of any mature system. I some days find myself feeling daunted by the utter immaturity of my budding Authoring system, but I take solace in recognizing that more mature systems often perform even more poorly than the immature ones, which have not had time to metastasize their worst practices into common habits, like has our Best Health Care System In The World. It's not in praise that I refer to it as The Best, but in humbled acknowledgement. If we were to start over to design a better system, it would still remain a system and exhibit all the familiar symptoms of the nested infinite complexity common to all systems. Better, perhaps, to prefer the one I have than to carp about the absence of the one I don't. I figure that my Authoring system, absent even a primitive automated portal or phone tag system, exhibits ample Systemantics without having yet achieved any maturity.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved







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