Monday, May 14, 2012

Snappy Systems

Warning: what I wrote here is based on my interpretation and reflections about some System Thinking concepts I read. The conclusion are just mine. 

I found an interesting activity related to System Thinking called “Snappy Systems” that should help to understand how many different "systems" we may have, from one single thing.

The shorter definition of System that I found is  "An interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something"

The problem of "dealing with different systems" leads to the "Epistemic Awareness".

Epistemic awareness is the awareness of the fact that “how I think, know and understand the world depends on me as much as it depends upon the world".

The Snappy System is a technique for breaking out of taken-for-granted understanding of what something is or does:

The method to create one is simple:

Take something that we may think as a system.

Phase 1 - List the possible systems we may think of it.
e.g. ... is a system to do|achieve|obtain ....

Phase 2 - List the different stakeholders related to the phase 1 definitions, For at least one of them repeat the phase 1 from his/her/its point of view.

Phase 3 (optional) Sinister System. An idea-storm phase concentrating on systems causing things to go wrong. (the purpose is of creating unwanted effects):
... is a system to do|achieve|obtain [something wrong].

Can be surprising discovering how many different systems can come out from one single thing..


Seems to me that not having a common system view is like having a continuously changing mixture of different system views (including sinister system) with a very unwelcome additional complexity, and latent conflicts as well.

Probably a good option for having convergence to "the same system", is having a small group of people, supporting them in converging to a specific shared system view. This may significantly reduce the complexity of understading, planning, doing,  interpreting feedback,  and so on.

I'll  show here some examples of practices that I think may facilitate that issue (with a bias, given that I am referring to the some Lean/Agile assets, that I support):

- Short common target oriented cycles (Scrum Sprints, P.D.C.A. cycles), with rapid feedback, so that there is just need to compare an outcome with a well known goal, e.g. a “Sprint Goal”, or the "so that... " part of a user story, or an “A3 target condition” etc...

- Protecting the core group of people committed to some goal from all the others (pigs from the chickens).

- Keeping the groups small, for example using the "Magical Seven Number" rule.

At the opposite side, there are many options to create a "mess": Creating physical distance in a team; hiding purposes of the activities, i.e. telling what/how to do, and not why; letting sometimes “chickens” play as  “pigs” (Chickens may have developed their own definition of a system that differs or even conflicts with the one developed by the core group)...

Sounds familiar.

(references: Growing Wings On The Way, Thinking in Systems)

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