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  • Writer's pictureArk Wingrove

Review: 'Meltdown - why our systems fail and what we can do about it'

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

by Chris Clearfield and András Tilcsik

The recent interest in Chernobyl should trigger interest in management systems in general, but we need to realise their often unrecognised value as well as the corresponding downside risks of getting it wrong.


We build systems that integrate people, technology and assets in response to complexity and risk. These systems sometimes fail or create their own risks and can contribute to catastrophic failures themselves. An understanding of the nature of these failures is invaluable in order to build better systems.

Yes.....a bit more please

The book has two distinct sections: Part 1 sets the background and theory with many short examples. Part 2 examines a number of systems failures in more detail; Three Mile Island, Deepwater Horizon, The 89th Oscars ‘la la land’ error (yes, it is in this list!), the Global Financial Crisis any quite a few more.

This book is for people who are into systems thinking. True - the book is about how systems fail - but the value is for people who want to make them work better and fail less.

This book would be a good read for board members of large, complex, process-based (as the book terms it 'closely coupled') organisations.

HSQE’ers and QA folks will no-doubt nod along sagely to the stories and learning points, but may well have seen much the material before as bulletins, readers and lessons learnt.

This book is not for ‘big-picture' only thinkers, those who don't love a bit of techy detail or those who want simple 'do this' self-help style answers (there are none, and the book doesn't list any!)

The style is engaging and evidence-based, the book is well written in the new storytelling non-fiction style of many modern interest books. It’s an easy read. The multiple case studies give it a 'put-down-and-pick-up-ability' making it a great commute read.

Relevance to Asset Managers

Not a core text, but of interest to systems and integration aspects.

Wandering score - 3.5 / 5

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