What is Structure LO25554

From: Fred Nickols (nickols@att.net)
Date: 10/26/00

Replying to LO25540 --

[Host's Note: Gremlins, again! A large part of Fred's message was
truncated. I am redistributing it... This time, I hope, in full. ..Rick]

Replying to David Wilkinson in LO25499 --

>My question is - What is structure in a system? Is it visible, invisible
>or both? Is it formal or informal or both? What is it?

Several others have already responded to this but I think what I'm about to
say is sufficiently different as to warrant going ahead.

To me, "structure" (in anything, including systems,) has three
components. First, there are the elements that make up the
system. Second, are the connections between and among these
elements. Third, are the relationships that exist between and among the
elements by way of their connections. Elements, connections and
relationships; these are the stuff of structure.

Example: Profit is an element in many companies' financial system. For
simplicity's sake, let's define it as the difference between revenue and
expenses. Mathematically (or arithmetically -- take your pick), P = R - E

A diagram could be (and commonly is) drawn similar to the crude effort below

. Revenue

. minus = Profit

. Expenses

Enclose those terms in boxes and connect them with lines and you have a
picture of the structure of one of the basic elements in what we all call
"the bottom line."

The elements are revenue, expenses and profits. The connections are
arithmetic. The relationships are such that profit varies directly with
revenue and inversely with expenses and is equal to the difference between
the two.

In the shipboard analog fire control computers I used to tend as a young
Navy technician, the same basic principles held. There were elements
(e.g., servomechanisms, computing networks, dials, knobs, etc.),
connections (e.g., wires) and relationships (e.g., some were inputs to
others, etc, etc.). Ratcheted up a click, the entire weapons system could
be viewed in light of elements, connections and relationships (e.g., the
director and radar provided a continuous stream of information about
current target position, the computer calculated the aiming point for the
guns and send orders to the guns, and the guns fired a projectile at the
target's predicted position.

So, whenever anyone asks me about "structure," I immediately respond (as I
just did): elements, connections and relationships.

Fred Nickols
The Distance Consulting Company
"Assistance at A Distance"
(609) 490-0095


Fred Nickols <nickols@att.net>

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