Transcript of "Systems Thinking workshop, given at Lean UX NYC"
Making sense of messy problemsJohanna Kollmann@johannakoll Lean UX NYC 2013Systems thinking for complex business modelsIllustration by David Wicks: http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/sansumbrella/467998944/
Intro about me: worked on a range of complex systems such as a voice communica;on system for the NASA, before learning more about systems thinking as part of my HCI degree in London. Interest in systems theory and organisa;onal structures remained when I was consul;ng, e.g. a large retailer who was reshaping their en;re business and data structure to enable mul;-‐channel. While geFng interested in business models and the startup world, I realised that systems thinking is also core to business models, lean manufacturing, and lean startup.
The next 2 hours of your life:Introduction to Systems ThinkingTools for modeling systemsSystems behavior over timeChanging systems
Systems Thinking?Why you should care about itIncreasing complexi;es and dependencies require us to think holis;cally.We need to think dynamic and over ;me rather than sta;c and short-‐lived Technology and business context changes.ST is relevant to both UX and LS.
In the past the man has been ﬁrst; in the future the system must be ﬁrst. ~ Frederick Winslow Taylor (1911)father of scien;ﬁc management and eﬃciency movement
In the past the man has been ﬁrst; in the future the system must be ﬁrst.This in no sense, however, implies that great men are not needed. ~Frederick Winslow Taylor (1911)According to Eric Ries, forgeFng the human part has led to 2 problems: 1) overly rigid business systems that failed to take advantage of adaptability, crea;vity, and wisdom of individual workers 2) overemphasis on planning, preven;on and procedure, which enable organisa;ons to achieve consistent results in a stable world.
“At the root of every seemingly technical problem is a human problem.”~ Taiichi Ohno
http://visitmix.com/work/descry/awebsitenameddesireThe systems we deal with in the world of a websiteRunning a business is taking this to a diﬀerent level -‐ being a founder is taking the running around and coordina;ng to a diﬀerent level!
“Systems-‐based thinking is the process of understanding how things inﬂuence one another. Then drawing on that knowledge to create eﬃciencies of process, infrastructure and communication.”~ Abby Covert
“A system is~ Donella Meadowsa set of elements or parts oZen classiﬁed as its func;on or purpose.” that is coherently organized and inter-‐connected in a paern or structure that produces a characteris;c set of behaviors,
Peter ChecklandHuman activity systemsSoft Systems MethodologyExamples: hard system = thermostat, motherboard. soZ system = game of poker, soccer game, mee;ng, healthcare.He developed the “soZ systems methodology”, sugges;ng that most problems in systems are caused because “human beings are hard to predict”. He did not think that there were things you could “ﬁx” with systems thinking, instead there were “situa;ons you could improve”.4 ac;vi;es of SSM:-‐ Finding out about the situa;on-‐ Making purposeful ac;vity models based on par;cular world views.-‐ Using the models to ques;on the situa;on-‐ Deﬁning ac;on to improve the situa;on.
Leverage points……places within a complex system where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything. …are often counterintuitive.
“Only by building a model of customer behaviour and then showing our ability to use our product or service to change it over time can we establish real facts about the validity of our vision.”~ Eric Ries
Personas from Design Jam London, by Jeﬀ Van Campen http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/otrops/tags/designjamlondon/This is where UX oﬀers lots of tools: personas, customer journey maps; Lean Startup’s hypothesis-‐driven approach also is modeling.
Flickr User Model by Bryce Glass http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/bryce/58299511/Models help us understand how things work.
1) Modeling 2) Behavior over time 3) Change Flowsinﬂow outﬂowinformationfeedback, controlstockBath tub example -‐ overﬂow pipe2 types of ﬂows. First one is material and stock ﬂows. Stocks change over ;me through the ac;ons of ﬂow. Stocks act as buﬀers or delays, and help a system to stay in balance.You can also apply this to people. Shows limits to growth if your resources aren’t endless. Key is to understand and monitor system behaviour over ;me. Do not focus on only individual events.The second type are informa;on ﬂows. While it’s hard to changephysical structure, materials, resources, changing how informa;on isdistributed and presented in a system can have major impact. "Informa;on holds systems together and plays a great role in determining how they operate. Most of what goes wrong in systems goes wrong because of biased, late, or missing informa;on." (Meadows)Adding or restoring informa;on can be a powerful interven;on, usually much easier and cheaper than rebuilding physical infrastructure.Notes on John Seddon: interes;ng to consider how customer inquiries/feedback come in and ﬂow through the system
1) Modeling 2) Behavior over time 3) Change Feedback loopsGeorge’s ability to solve problemsNumber of problems solvedNumber of remaining problemsTime available per problemProject in troubleManagement pressure to solve problemsR1 R3R2Need to involve PaulB1Reinforcing feedback loopsA posi;ve feedback loop is self-‐reinforcing. The more it works, the more it gains power to work some more.Posi;ve feedback loops drive growth, explosion, erosion, and collapse in systems. A system with an unchecked posi;ve loop ul;mately will destroy itself. Usually nega;ve feedback loop kicks in, eg epidemic runs out of infectable people—or people take increasingly strong steps to avoid being infected.Reducing the gain around a posi;ve loop—slowing the growth—is usually a more powerful leverage point in systems than strengthening nega;ve loops, and much preferable to leFng the posi;ve loop run.(...) control must involve slowing down the posi;ve feedbacks.Balancing feedback loop A nega;ve feedback loop needs a goal and a response mechanism. Self-‐correct the system, oZen inac;ve = emergency mechanisms. Seem costly as inac;ve, removing them has lile impact in the short-‐term, neglect the long-‐term impact.Here are some other examples of strengthening nega;ve feedback controls to improve a systems self-‐correc;ng abili;es: preven;ve medicine, exercise, and good nutri;on to bolster the bodys ability to ﬁght disease, pollu;on taxes.The informa;on delivered by a feedback loop -‐ even nonphysical feedback -‐ can only aﬀect future behaviour; it cant deliver a signal fast enough to correct behaviour that drove the current feedback. There will always be delays in responding.The loop that dominates the system will determine the behaviour.Consider the driving factors, how they might behave, and what drives them.! Dynamic systems studies are not designed to predict what will happen, but to explore what would happen if... -‐-‐> system dynamics models explore possible futures and ask what if ques;ons.Causal Loop Diagrams help reveal system dynamics. Crea;ng the diagrams involves more work than reading them, but can be done by anyone willing to take ;me to think things through and look for rela;onships. For example, what problems might arise by involving help? Is it possible that things will get worse before they get beer? And why would that be?
1) Modeling 2) Behavior over time 3) Change Behavior over time graphsinventorydaysperfect informa;on scenario
1) Modeling 2) Behavior over time 3) Change Behavior over time graphsinventorydayswhat really happensWhat came before?What might happen next?Focus on trends over ;me rather than single events. Learn if the system is approaching a goal or limit.Inventory = stock (could also be informa;on)
1) Modeling 2) Behavior over time 3) Change Cohort analysis
1) Modeling 2) Behavior over time 3) Change Cohort analysisEric writes: Cohort analysis: This technique is useful in many types of business, because every company depends for its survival on sequences of customer behaviour called ﬂows. Customer ﬂows govern the interac;on of customers with a companys products. They allow us to understand a business quan;ta;vely and have much more predic;ve power than do tradi;onal gross metrics.p 145 Cohort-‐based reports are the gold standard of learning metrics: they turn complex ac;ons into people-‐based reports.
1) Modeling 2) Behavior over time 3) Change Custom tools to monitor interactionsby @lukew
1) Modeling 2) Behavior over time 3) ChangePhoto by Anders Zakrisson http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/anders-‐zakrisson/4982281184/Talking to people, empathy, intui;on
DATAMEANINGhumanise the data – tell a storyInforma;on ﬂows enable other things in the system to happenConsider the feedback loopsObserve customer behavior over ;meUse qualita;ve ﬁndings and your gut
1) Modeling 2) Behavior over time 3) Changeinventorydays Flows and loopsDonella Meadows also says that its quite tricky to properly monitor a system and react appropriately, because the delays in observing, and then the delay in ac;ng means that by the ;me your change goes into place, the system is probably in a diﬀerent state. Its easy to over compensate. It seems to me that you need to try to get both stats as real-‐;me as possible, and gain a good understanding of natural ﬂows over ;me. shiZ aen;on from the abundant factors to the next poten;al limi;ng factor. layer of limits.If a decision point in a system (which can be a person) is responding to delayed informa;on, or responding with a delay, the decision will be oﬀ target. Ac;on taken too fast can cause unnecessary instability.When there are long delays in feedback loops, some sort of foresight is essen;al. To act only when a problem becomes obvious is to miss an important opportunity to solve the problem. genchi gembutsu from Lean: understands that a small change can aﬀect the overall system. the person close to the problem is trusted with solving it. You have to go and see for yourself. don’t change your strategy on a whim!
1) Modeling 2) Behavior over time 3) Changesystems with diﬀerent users: consider how role changes will impact everything. Some of this is quite hard to implement! Understand the system structure you’re building! Work with developers who draw diagrams about the soZware system, so you also understand technical legacies and ripple eﬀects.
9. Numbers (subsidies, taxes, standards).8. Material stocks and ﬂows.7. Regulating negative feedback loops.6. Driving positive feedback loops.5. Information ﬂows.4. The rules of the system (incentives, punishment, constraints).3. The power of self-‐organization.2. The goals of the system.1. The mindset or paradigm out of which the goals, rules, feedback structure arise.1) Modeling 2) Behavior over time 3) Change Leverage points
Take-‐awaysThe ‘worldviews’ that people and elements in the system holdThe processes that are necessary to deliver value to customersHow to gather and visualize information holisticallyHow user-‐centered design and empathy help to reduce uncertaintyWhat is the right level for the impact you are aiming for?What enables the change, where are conﬂicts, who can be your change agent?
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. More than anything else, this new century demands new thinking: We must change our materially based analyses of the world around us to include broader, more multidimensional perspectives.~Albert Einstein
ResourcesThe Lean Startup by Eric RiesSystems Thinking, Systems Practice and Soft Systems Methodology by Peter ChecklandThinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella MeadowsBusiness Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves PigneurDonella Meadow’s article Places to Intervene in a System can be found at http://www.developerdotstar.com/mag/articles/places_intervene_system.htmlPeter Senge is a key systems thinker, I haven’t included any of his material directly, but read about this perspectives especially on organisational change. Check him out.For the design geek in you, read up on Buckminster Fuller’s Design Science.