So long, and thanks for all the fish

How do you end a blog?

It’s easy to find stuff online on how to start one, and there’s loads on how to do one, once it exists, but there’s scant advice on finishing one. I’m not just talking how to end one, but when, and also of course whether.

This is a subject of interest at the moment cos I’ve realised that I’m blogging increasingly infrequently and with less gusto than I used to, and the question arose, how would I know when I’ve written my last post? If I got hit by a bus tomorrow then that would decide things, but let’s suppose my continued existence continues, but no longer than a human lifespan, then logically at some point there must be a last post. Either one that is purely the last one by circumstances cos it’s the latest AND the last one cos no more come after it, or its the last by design because I intended it to be the last.

You’ll have stumbled across blogs that tail off without a dignified end, no sign off or summation. No conclusion to the enterprise. They just are there with a series of posts, and then no more.

I’m always left pondering what happened, why are there no more? The whole thing then looks unfinished, tarnished somehow.

Did the “author” (blogger? typist?) just run out of ideas? When a blog is quite small, that’s probably what happened. This one’s quite big, so a sudden stop wouldn’t be that, would it?

Anyway I’ve got a load of half finished blog posts in draft, some just single sentences, there sitting there but they’re sitting there unfinished, and for a reason. I can’t be bothered to finish them. I just don’t care enough.

I enjoy the act of typing, sticking sarcastic glib gifs together to hammer home some point quite violently, but I’m increasingly just not bothered about the subject matter…work.

This blog started cos I wanted to record things I’d learned when I had the great good fortune to do some systemsy stuff at work. And it continued because I enjoyed talking about the lunacy of normal ordinary command and control management of organisations, from a systemsy perspective. There were lessons to be learnt from exploring it.

But now the subject matter isn’t worth spending any thinking time on. I feel a fool for caring about work, as a subject matter. The design and management of work in command and control organisations is not something I actually do anything about, so why keep on banging on? It’s there and there it will stay in its current form. The use of numbers, data, knowledge even, not down to me . I’m properly appreciating why all the Vangrad stuff refers to pull all the time, not just in the context of pulling work through a system. Pulling for help or advice or assistance on a work problem would be a way in, but in the complete absence of anybody pulling, there’s nothing can be done, by me at least.

So here’s an ending in case this is the ending. It might just be the ending for now, it might start again if there’s some kind of change that I can’t imagine right now. Either way, this is me considering this as an ending.

The sad thing about typing an ending is losing the identity of Thinkpurpose, being a tiny part of a much larger world of people in other places thinking similar things. Connecting to others, whether self described systems thinkers, Agilistas, or even Leansters, that was an unexpected treat. I gained enormous validation from seeing lots of other people click on the blog, leave comments or tweet it because they too thought similarly.

It also allowed me to find other stuff that these people created that taught me loads, whether from books, blogs, or tweets I’ve learned an enormous amount I otherwise wouldn’t, absolutely priceless.

Validation that you’re not wrong and that there are others is incredibly important, when you go systemsy cos otherwise you’d think you’d gone mad, as other people around you think you have too. This isn’t true.

Being the only person, that I’m aware of, in my organisation of thousands, that validation I gained from people sharing and reading the blog was enough for me to know that I wasn’t wrong, that things are wrong for a specific reason, that there is a better way. That validation was hugely rewarding so thank you for that.

As I slip back into the shadows, whether temporarily or for good, I’m reminded of the ending of Goodfellas when Henry Hill leaves the Mafia and goes into witness protection. No longer with the trappings of being a gangster he laments just being an average schnook….

Without the excitement of new ideas and the potential of change, there’s just turning up, putting in the hours, leaving at the end of the day. This is of course the life of millions, I’m not special so why should I be any different. I’m not, I just had the great good fortune to have a few years of thinking and typing about a better way that exists potentially everywhere, the only thing stopping it is the reluctance or inability of managers to think and act differently. Ha! Yes, the only thing.

I’ll finish, for however long I’ll be finished for, with the thing that I started with, the thing that prompted the name of this blog and the thing that blew my mind, the vital irreplaceable thing without which you’re just wasting your time. Thanks for allowing me to waste your time, so long and thanks for all the fish.

What’s this? It’s very unclear…

aaah, now I see. Now I have clarity of porpoise.”

This entry was posted in systems thinking and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

73 Responses to So long, and thanks for all the fish

  1. John Wenger says:

    When I first started blogging, I stumbled upon yours. I felt less alone, less nutty. My time with you has been far from wasted. I wish you all the best. I would happily pint-chat with you if I ever stumbled into you in real life. I have enjoyed your to-the-point-ness, which contrasts with my ramble-jots. I have enjoyed your humour, you inspired me to bring my own into my scribbles. I have enjoyed the fact that you seem to be a systemsy fellow-sufferer. Go well.


  2. antlerboy says:

    I’m sorry to hear it. I hope you’ll still be there on twitter, and maybe even on And I hope you continue to care about the work, maybe quietly, maybe secretly, and you get the chance to change it for the better again.


  3. Chris says:

    Keep WODing. And don’t delete this stuff. It keeps me sane too

    Liked by 1 person

    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Cheers, I’m not going to delete anything no. But I just realised the domain name is up for renewal every August I think, if I don’t renew then the main one turns off but remains. Not sure what that means Viz links but I’m not going to ABANDON it, I’ll still reply to comments and that. Like this.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. good point. my blog stopped but it was never a decision. Just all those half finished posts sat there longer and longer as the passion fizzled out. When i look at my little site i do feel like it needs an ending. So how DO you end a blog?


  5. Seuils Labs says:

    May I kindly suggest making a book of ThinkPurpose?
    To this end I recommend
    I would gladly contribute the fee.
    What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The System might have got you but it won't catch me says:

      That is a lovely idea and could be done print on demand.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      haha! thats a brill idea, and thank you very much for saying youd contribute the fee, but i couldnt take anything from anybody.
      i got loads from people like you signing up and tweeting and reading, that is priceless


  6. Adrienne says:

    I’m sorry to hear you won’t be blogging any more. I’ve gained so much from your blogs, and shared them with anyone who showed a hint of interest. A manager in one of the services I’m helping even did a version of the ‘marbles in the jar’ thing for her team this week. So it’ hasn’t been pointless on a wider scale.
    I very much hope you’ll be back, and please renew the domain name so it doesn’t disappear!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ThinkPurpose says:

      ha! I love hearing about stuff being used elsewhere, cos its never gonna be used here. Like i say in the blog post, i don’t much care about work anymore and until i do im not going to be in a position to do anything on here.
      I used to, but like that Deming quote about dead wood, ive been turned into dead wood. There’ll have to be a big enough change that I’m live wood once more, and I can’t see that happening here.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Henrik says:

    Thank you very much for your posts, I’ll miss this blog! I’ve enjoyed reading it very much. When working in a command and control system it’s nice knowing that there are people out there knowing how it could be done instead. Frustrating however to be aware of it but not being able to do much about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. John Liddle says:

    I absolutely sympathise with you . There does come a point when it feels like it’s time to bang your head against a different wall. My work experience often felt like a was a peasant with a pitchfork standing outside the castle walls and inviting them out for a fight. But it was worth it. Revolutions do start with a few people thinking another way. They are usually ignored, if they’re lucky, and executed if they’re not so I guess that we’ve been lucky. But someone will have heard what you’ve said, seen what you’ve done, and the fight will continue. In the end intelligence will win out over stupidity and you have fought on the side of intelligence. Well good for you pal. Enjoy your break.


  9. ACastle says:

    As a lone policy worker I have enjoyed your blog – didn’t understand all the systemsy stuff though! So, so long and farewell etc etc etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. ISOwatcher says:

    There is so much good thinking here. It would be a shame if it ended. Consider compiling all the entries in a single file we can download for reference.
    Chris Paris’s exposure of the ISO’s politics to prevented better management might inspire a few more posts:
    It’s worse than you might have thought.


  11. Barry says:

    Thank you for inspiring me, making me laugh, keeping it real and thinking with purpose. Please come back for the odd Christmas special or 5 year reunion


  12. Dambot says:

    Cheers Mr Porpoise. I’m afraid the whole management systems thinking stuff has been on the decline for a while. Mr Seddon was keeping it all front and centre with his loud and forceful personality, but Real Life caught up with him. Systems Thinking for Girls went and joined the consultancy establishment and the blog disappeared into the void. Last year I stopped following Vanguard – it’s just another consultancy company selling consultancy now – which sort of misses the point. Mr Squire has massively cut his output too. Systems thinking has had its time – I’ve been trying to be a part of it since 2001, but the battle has beaten me, and I guess its beaten you too. Have a good life.


  13. Charles Beauregard says:

    It’s sad to see you go TP.

    Your blog coincided with me first discovering systemsy stuff about 7 years ago, and it’s be an very welcome companion on my journey.

    I’ve genuinely learned stuff from your blog – evidenced from how much I’ve stolen from it over the years. The most welcome thing about when one of your posts appears in my inbox it is the respite it gives me from the ongoing frustrations and disappointments I have from seeing how absurd traditional organisations are, and constantly trying and failing to do something about it.

    I was re-reading some Margaret Wheatley only a few days ago, and she says this about systemsy people:

    “[They] act in isolation, unaware that they are part of a broader community…They feel alone and strange, often criticized, even ridiculed, by their community. They bear such labels as idealists, dreamers, innocents, for believing that they can lead in new ways, solve entrenched problems, and create sustainable progress.

    “All this changes when they learn that they are part of a community, that there are many more like them. They gain confidence and courage. They find new energy to stay in the challenges and struggles of pioneering the new.”

    Your blog has helped me find that confidence, courage, and energy to keep going. It’s helped keep me sane. Thank you – and keep on systems thinking!


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Thank you very much Mr Beauregard, if that is your real name. I googled that quote, it’s very good. I like that very next sentence in it, “The community they belong to is a community of practice, not of place.“, cos that’s very much what I got from here, all these other people like yourself that I would otherwise never have encountered.
      That thing you say about confidence, courage and energy is what I got from typing shit here and seeing that i wasnt wrong cos there were loads of other people in proper jobs who also thought and did similar. Where i work is the same it always was and always will be, but it’s heartening to know that’s it’s problem not mine.


  14. Mark Baker says:

    Sorry you are stopping. But I completely understand. My own old blog petered out years ago. Along with other things we need for a better society, Systems Thinking has no method in it to get it adopted, other than for those at the top to see the light and pull it into the organisation. But of course, those at the top are selected by a system that deliberately excludes such thinking.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      That’s it right there, it’s about those at the top. By making a hierarchical organisation with decision making separated from work the only change that can happen is at the top. The structure seals its own fate to the detriment of staff and customers


  15. The System might have got you but it won't catch me says:

    First of all I want to thank you. I stumbled across this blog when working out things for myself and realised – my gosh ‘I am not alone’! I have learnt so much from your blog and even last week was sending the link to others to follow.

    You’ve made me laugh, made me think and I’ve learnt loads. It’s been a wonderful resource and I’ll check back when I need a bit of sanity in the world.

    It’s been a real pleasure reading your work the last few years.


  16. K9 says:

    I’m so sorry your are stopping TP. I actually thought you might be working in the desk next to mine.
    Would you consider a forum or community where like minded people could learn from each other? I don’t think Systems thinking has had its day – its more about people and value than the traditional stuff and since work is about people it gives better answers. Can I use some of your stuff in my OU masters? I will reference you 🙂


  17. StigMil says:

    Thanks for the blog. I will miss the new postings – they have helped reassure me that my public sector organisation is not alone in struggling to commit to doing the right thing, rather than doing the wrong thing righter. And there have been some good jokes. I wonder whether the systemsy stuff really has traction across all work. “Purpose” remains a huge conundrum for the public sector. Ultimately it’s a political decision.The interactions of politics and public opinion at national and local levels make it almost impossible to agree what the purpose actually is. This in turn leads to uncertainty about what “the system” actually is, let alone how to measure how purpose is being achieved. All-embracing definitions become bland and unmeasurable. Tight definitions lead to narrow changes often limited to transactional improvements.
    And if your purpose has been to share your learning and experience, then …. job done. Thanks!


  18. Nooooo don’t go. Your blog is a goldmine. I use it for inspiration all the time. More than one of your posts has contributed to my work and I have even adapted the marbles post (using jet planes and milk bottles!) once or twice. I’ll sign up for the book too … all the best


  19. giantknave says:

    Thanks for your blog – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! It has given me a bloody good giggle, sandwiched in between some absolute gems of thinking (and presentation of it).

    A thought: Don’t let the fact that you have publicly stated your blog’s likely ending as having to make this so. If you find something that you feel a passion to write about (in a week, a month, a year….a decade…another work life) then please do. Not for us, but for you.



  20. Mark Baker says:

    A book is needed. I think the material on your blog could be converted quite easily into a book. A friend of mine has just had a book published by Bennion Kennedy, and it was a good experience for him.


  21. junkfoodphilosophy says:

    No, than YOU for all the fish.


  22. junkfoodphilosophy says:

    No, thank YOU for all the fish.


  23. Heartbreaking, but perfectly understandable. One way out of your misery would be to become boss man of a system yourself.
    Best wishes.


  24. GeeCee says:

    I will also miss your blogs but I have so many to catch up with so that will keep me going! I work in performance mgt and feel your pain but that’s why I love reading your posts because they are always so spot on!


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Thanks for that GC, performance management eh? Who did you accidentally kill in a previous life! Thanks for your nice comment. There’s 535 apparently, which is more than I thought. You know what I might do? I might tweet EVERY SINGLE ONE. Word by word.


  25. Adrian M says:

    I came across your blog a few months ago. I thought i hit the jackpot! Having come across and learnt about Systems Thinking about a year ago and read ‘The New Deming’, I enjoy reading your blog. Your writing style is amusing and I like it. As an Agilist I’m interested in this topic and I’ve been going through each and every blog post and I’m only halfway done.

    The company I work for is aware of Systems Thinking and is taking a systemic view of things. Or at least attempting to do so. We also sponsor a monthly Systems Thinking Meet Up (using I think you said this in one of your blog posts or comments “The people who are interested in Systems Thinking are usually the ones that dont have the power to effect such change”. I agree as I dont see the people who do have the power to effect change at the Meet Up event or engage in dialogue about Systems Thinking. Oh well, for now I’m one of the no-power-to-effect-change people who is going to continue reading your blog for as long as it is online or until I get through all the blog posts. Whichever comes first 🙂

    Thank you for all your insights and interesting commentary.


  26. mj says:

    Argh… what a shame, and so many of us get something out of these excellent posts. I am going to miss it so much.
    But, I have something to say because this is not right. How come, if we know a better way, and people can be helped, that we feel frustrated? I know that many people out here feel like that? Its driven by the frustration of not being able to make a difference, and to work with people who ‘just dont get it’
    I am not going to simply say that should not bother you, of course it does. But I have had to adapt, by changing the way I see the organisations I work with, and by not trying to implement the Toyota Production System in my organisation. But by doing something that I can achieve.
    I talk to an informal network of people, who know systems thinking, but get very frustrated. I help them with tactics and approaches where they can make a difference. It can happen. One person I spoke to a few weeks back said to me that he felt that a weight had been lifted off his shoulders – because he had been trying to implement the V method in his organisation, when it simply was not going to happen.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Lots of interesting thoughts to think there MJ, thanks for the long and useful comment.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Another thing I think it’s important to emphasise, I only want my work to make sense and be real. I’m not a meglomaniac who wants to transform an entire organisation into something I like. But if in my job I’m reporting numbers in a way I know is massively flawed and misleading, then it’s behoven on me to do something, which is what I thought was my job from my job interview onwards was so my work made sense and wasn’t pretend.
      If my bit made sense, I mightn’t have been interested in the whole thing. But performance and policy are so entwined with the command and control theory of organisations you couldn’t get my bit to make sense unless the whole thing made sense.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Thanks a lot for the comment, it’s amazing to hear of you doing something that big about it. Well done, I’m massively impressed. I’m humbled to hear I had a part however small in you improving your life. Cheers!


  27. jaqueslecont says:

    Best of luck dear Onion. Remember that Ziggy Stardust was abruptly retired in 1973. Good things happened after that.

    No Tin Machine though. No-one wants that.


  28. John B says:

    Ever seriously thought about working somewhere more systemsy?
    Shouldn’t some lucky organisation benefit from all that thinking?


  29. Bob Ainsworth says:

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts and found solace in knowing I wasn’t alone out there in command and control world.
    The more i read, the more it also made me realise I was banging my head against a brick wall in trying to get management to understand how that sort of environment is detrimental for everyone.
    So much so, I resigned from my job. Stuck a huge ‘twos up’ and walked.
    I may be on way less money, salary wise now, but I am so much fecking happier. My own boss (to a certain degree), no targets, no command and control, just left to get on with the job as I see fit.

    A big thanks to you for feeding that hungry thought in the back of my head that was telling me to get out for a long long time.

    How to read some more in the future but if not then all the best.


  30. AnnaJP says:

    Such a shame, TP! Wish you weren’t going, but I fully understand why you’d want to punctuate your porpoise with a full stop rather than an ellipsis, having formerly tried my hand (at knittingfog) in this arena myself. It’s difficult, caring yet not quite feeling motivated enough.
    I will keep you in my bookmarks for searchable gems of wisdom, and with 535 posts to choose from I feel certain there’s a gem for any given situation.
    Please keep the faith – even if you’re the only lonely petunia in an onion patch. You made my public sector working life so much more tolerable, even fun sometimes, with your observations about the inherent, forgivable idiocy all around us. So thank you, many times over, for committing to telling us all about it. If I take nothing else away with me, it’s that you can get away with far more than you think, if you communicate it with silly cartoon drawings of people yawning.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Thank you very much for your nice comments. I remember knitting fog! Liked it
      It’s very nice seeing all these comments, cheers me up no end.
      I like your thing about full stop versus ellipsis.


  31. Morag says:

    Sorry to see you go/temporarily exit but in the same breath appreciate the clarity and consistency of your choice which I respect. Something will come up to fully engage you again. And I look forward to you fully engaging us like minded creatures. Meantime “thanks” your work is much appreciated and “hats off” to an ending/pivot point which is worthy of it’s creator. All my best


  32. Paul says:

    Your post echoes my own feelings exactly. Hugely enjoyed your blog, best of luck with whatever you do next.


  33. Many people out there are using methods like Vanguard systems thinking in their work. They have been inspired and have understood a better way of seeing and working. But what about the frustration of not being able to influence and not being able to work in an environment that is aligned with your values?

    In my early days this was really frustrating, and I have learned ways of tackling some of the issues of working seemingly alone in an organisation. Recently I have helped a few people do two things better:

    1. Surviving in their current roles without getting (too) frustrated.
    2. Tactics to move the work they are doing forward with others, and new tactics to develop expertise and method.

    If you are reading this, and are interested to participate, could you please email to me at with some response to these questions:

    1. What sort of work do you do?
    2. Why are you interested in replying to this note?
    3. How would you suggest we can take this forward?


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