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Systems Thinking for agile service design

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When building digital products and services, we are designing complex systems.We need to think the customer experience through on several channels, figure out the system architecture, gain understanding through data and research, decide what to iterate... - not easy, but fun!

In this keynote talk given at Agile Cambridge 2016, Johanna introduces core systems thinking principles for designing better services, discussed how data and feedback mechanisms help us understand what is going on in a system, and addressed the challenge of bringing about change in a system.

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Systems Thinking for agile service design

  1. 1. Systems Thinking for agile service design Johanna Kollmann | @johannakoll | Agile Cambridge 2016
  2. 2. “A system is a set of elements or parts often classified as its function or purpose.” that is coherently organized and inter-connected in a pattern or structure that produces a characteristic set of behaviors, Donella Meadows
  3. 3. “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
  4. 4. HARD systems SOFT systems ! You can’t “fix”problems with systems thinking, instead there are “situations you could improve”. Peter Checkland
  5. 5. Systems exhibit purposeful behaviour over time. Systems get ‘soft’, unpredictable once humans are involved.
  6. 6. Agile SERVICE DESIGN 😮
  7. 7. UNDERSTANDING CHANGING
  8. 8. UNDERSTANDING THE SYSTEM
  9. 9. MODELING systems MEASURING systems
  10. 10. MODELING systems
  11. 11. Models are the starting point to look at the situation, and see what change should be introduced, and how.
  12. 12. Checkland’s ‘Rich Picture’ 1. Construction of the Humber Bridge (adapted from Stewart and Fortune, 1994)© The Open University 2. Distance Learning Situation © Wood-Harper et al, Information Systems Definition: The Multiview Approach, Blackwell Scientific Publications 1985
  13. 13. Checkland’s ‘Rich Picture’ Stakeholders Worldview Connections Conflicts
  14. 14. Journey maps
  15. 15. MEASURING systems
  16. 16. Measuring tools (combined with qualitative research!)
  17. 17. Service design challenges: 😮 Human actors who are employees? 😮 How do you measure “soft value”?
  18. 18. 3 things to pay attention to in a system: 1) Stocks & Flows 2) Feedback loops 3) Delays
  19. 19. 1)Stocks & Flows inflow outflow information feedback, control stock Conversion, churn rates
  20. 20. 2)Feedback loops A feedback loop occurs when a change in something ultimately comes back to cause a further change in the same thing. Reinforcing Loop (positive loop) births/year population Population Growth Balancing Loop (negative or goal-seeking loop) heat Thermostat temperature target temperature temperature gap Viral engines of growth
  21. 21. 3)Delays inventory days
  22. 22. 3)Delays inventory days Reacting faster
  23. 23. 3)Delays inventory days Reacting slower Data informs iterations
  24. 24. Service design challenges: 😮 Getting data can take a long time
  25. 25. Look at systems behaviour over time, rather than focusing on single events. ! Spot trends, and ask: ‣What came before? ‣What might happen next?
  26. 26. By the time you see what is going on in a system, it has already happened - and you are already a step behind.
  27. 27. CHANGING THE SYSTEM
  28. 28. Use this tool to help you think more systemically! THE ICEBERG MODEL EVENTS What is happening? PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOR What trends are there over time? SYSTEMS STRUCTURE How are the parts related? What influences the patterns? MENTAL MODELS What values, assumptions, + beliefs shape the system? IncreasingLeverage Download at: http://donellameadows.org/systems-thinking-resources/
  29. 29. Donella Meadows’leverage points 10. Numbers (subsidies, taxes, standards). 9. Material stocks and flows. 8. Delays 7. Balancing negative feedback loops. 6. Reinforcing positive feedback loops. 5. Information flows.
  30. 30. Donella Meadows’leverage points 10. Numbers (subsidies, taxes, standards). 9. Material stocks and flows. 8. Delays 7. Balancing negative feedback loops. 6. Reinforcing positive feedback loops. 5. Information flows.
  31. 31. For reference: Donella Meadows, http://donellameadows.org/archives/leverage-points-places-to-intervene-in-a-system/ Structure of information flows ‣How does information flow through the system? ‣What information is shown, how, and to whom? ‣Who can manipulate and control information?
  32. 32. Service design challenges: 😮 Enabling timely information flow can be tricky
  33. 33. Donella Meadows’leverage points 10. Numbers (subsidies, taxes, standards). 9. Material stocks and flows. 8. Delays 7. Balancing negative feedback loops. 6. Reinforcing positive feedback loops. 5. Information flows. 4. The rules of the system (incentives, punishment, constraints).
  34. 34. For reference: Donella Meadows, http://donellameadows.org/archives/leverage-points-places-to-intervene-in-a-system/ Rules of the system ‣Constraints, social rules, rules about roles of actors in the system ‣Who can take which actions? ‣How can actors in the system engage?
  35. 35. Donella Meadows’leverage points 10. Numbers (subsidies, taxes, standards). 9. Material stocks and flows. 8. Delays 7. Balancing negative feedback loops. 6. Reinforcing 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.
  36. 36. Use this tool to help you think more systemically! THE ICEBERG MODEL EVENTS What is happening? PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOR What trends are there over time? SYSTEMS STRUCTURE How are the parts related? What influences the patterns? MENTAL MODELS What values, assumptions, + beliefs shape the system? IncreasingLeverage Download at: http://donellameadows.org/systems-thinking-resources/
  37. 37. UNDERSTANDING CHANGING
  38. 38. Matthew Milan “The fundamental shift design will need to navigate over the next decade: Going from designing for people to designing with people at scale.”
  39. 39. Design as Participation |Kevin Slavin http://jods.mitpress.mit.edu/pub/design-as-participation Cynefin Framework|Dave Snowden http://cognitive-edge.com/ Donella Meadows Institute http://donellameadows.org/systems-thinking-resources/ Ask me anything: @johannakoll

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