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Systems Thinking and the Art of Simplification

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A brief introduction to Systems Thinking, Modelling and Simplification

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Systems Thinking and the Art of Simplification

  1. 1. LORRAINE STEYN @lor_krs Systems Thinking and the Art of Simplification
  2. 2. Agenda Systems Archetypes What goes wrong? Systems Thinking basics How do we get it to go right? Techniques for simplifying “Because of feedback delays, by the time a problem becomes apparent it may be unnecessarily difficult to solve”
  3. 3. The Universe is not actually malignant, it only seems so. Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will
  4. 4. All your eggs in one basket A system with multiple pathways and redundancies is more stable than a system with little diversity
  5. 5. Policy Resistance: actors in the system have their own goals ?
  6. 6. Escalation: trying to get ahead of the competition
  7. 7. Tragedy of the Commons: abuse of a shared resource DAY ZERO
  8. 8. Success to the Successful: the rich get richer
  9. 9. Shifting the Burden to the Intervenor: addiction, addressing the symptoms not the problem
  10. 10. Seeking the Wrong Goal: confusing effort with results
  11. 11. When are we supposed to stop being busy and THINK?
  12. 12. Rule Beating: obeying the rules, but not the intent Camp requires kids to write a letter home
  13. 13. Drift to Low Performance: not holding standards absolute
  14. 14. What are Systems? How do we understand and manage them better?
  15. 15. ELEMENTS Easy to identify parts of a system INTERCONNECTIONS Physical flows, information flows PURPOSE Observe how the system behaves over time
  16. 16. Intuitive understanding of complex systems vs rational analysis of small pieces of a problem
  17. 17. a university? What is the PURPOSE ofThe purpose of a university is to be the guardian of reason, inquiry and philosophical openness Students: To get a diploma so I can get a good job!Accounts Department: ??? To collect money
  18. 18. Companies lose market share through their own policies. Competitors scoop up the advantage. 1975 Kodak invent digital camera – leaders said NO ONE will want it 1981 Sony launches a digital camera 2012 Kodak files for bankruptcy
  19. 19. Good News! Our policies cause the outcomes – we can change our policies
  20. 20. Modelling Basic Systems Diagrams
  21. 21. Boundaries, Stocks and Flows
  22. 22. Feedback Loops
  23. 23. Case Study Let us apply Systems Agile Teams:  What is our “stock”?  What are the inflows outflows?  Goal: Working Draw a diagram of the factors that affect a team’s productivity
  24. 24. Conway's law: Organizations which design systems ... are constrained to produce designs which are communication structures of these organizations. Organization
  25. 25. The Art of Simplification
  26. 26. No computers in 1687 Hundreds of thousands of calculations needed to work out gravitational forces in our solar system Newton’s genius was to recognize that it could be simplified into pairs: the sun and each planet
  27. 27. 1. Less is more 2. No (or minimal) crossings 3. Orthogonality – keep things straight! 4. Parents (most important) first 5. Tidy – alignment, fonts, sizes, balance
  28. 28. Occam’s Razor The simplest answer is probably correct Do not make more assumptions than you absolutely need
  29. 29. Pareto 80/20 By Better than Yesterday
  30. 30. 1. Less is more 2. No (or minimal) crossings 3. Orthogonality – keep things straight! 4. Parents (most important) first 5. Tidy – alignment, fonts, sizes, balanceyour thinking
  31. 31.  The ability to bounce back into shape after being pressed or stretch  Tends to have rich feedback loops Placing a system in a straitjacket of constancy can cause fragility to evolve CS Holling Resilience:
  32. 32. Intuition vs Analysis Boundaries constrain the problem (simplification) Other References: Systemantics – John Gall An Introduction to General Systems Thinking – Gerald Weinberg Dr Russel Ackhoff Peter Senge Thinking in Systems – Donella Meadows
  33. 33. Systems always behave exactly as they are designed, just not always as they are intended. Be creative and courageous about systems redesign. Lorraine Steyn @lor_krs www.krs.co.za

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