Friday, 31 October 2008

Holistic Problem Solving

This Southbeach model illustrates the benefits of pro-active, holistic problem solving over the more reactive approach of working blind and responding to issues by just treating symptoms. Southbeach models naturally support the ideas of root cause analysis and impact analysis through their cause and effect notation, useful things being shown in green and harmful things being shown in red.

In this example, the harmful causal chains in the centre start with "working blind" which leads to missing the big picture and creating more work for others, as well as treating symptoms and creating more work for one's self. Both of these behaviours naturally result in making things worse.

These harmful behaviours are in opposition to the surrounding useful behaviours:

On the left we have understanding whos involved to understand others' views and create shared awareness to produce support for change; resulting in making things better. This aspect of problem solving involves stepping back from the problem and understanding the context and effects of a problem to enable more effective, complete, and widely acceptable solutions.

On the right, we have understanding the root cause to deal with the real issues, remove the actual problem, and create lasting change; resulting in making things better. This aspect of the problem solving involves stepping into the problem and understanding the source and reasons the problem came about to enable more effective, sustainable, solutions that avoid problems coming back again in different forms later on.

These two behaviours are in opposition to each other, as are their consequences - making things worse often results from short term thinking and superficial attempts at improvement. Making things better may take more effort and require more commitment, however, results in a more sustainable solution with longer term benefits.

Not that the above Southbeach model shows the useful behaviours around the outside counteracting the harmful behaviours in the middle. Over time, a shift in behaviour to the outside can dissolve the harmful behaviour and improve performance and achievement.

If this approach is not adopted however, and an organisation, society, culture, or other group continues to contain elements that behave in this harmful way, the good work done by those who are investing the extra effort to address the real issues will be undermined by those that are merely taking superficial action without considering the bigger picture.

This results in opposing behaviours that create a continuing spiral of issues, as shown below. The difference with this model is that the useful bahaviours on the outside are not actually counteracting the harmful behaviours in the centre. They are shown here merely as in opposition - i.e. this system is not improving because the harmful behaviours represent a force for negative change that is holding improvement at bay.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs applied to business

According to Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, each need in the hierarchy (physiological, safety, love/belonging/social interaction, esteem, self actualisation) must be met before the needs in the layer above can truly be met. This is contested by some, sighting examples as the artist that will starve themselves through being absorbed by the need to express, create, self actualise; Parents that will sacrifice their health by giving their food to their children; A bear that will put herself in danger to protect her cubs, and so on. Nevertheless, the hierarchy has stood as a recognised basis from which to describe a theory of motivation. Exceptions permitting - good management and judgement must always override any rules or guidelines, the focus here when applying Maslow's hierarchy of needs to business is to ensure that people's needs are met in order to capitalise on Maslow's main proposition, namely, that once all other needs are met, these needs are no longer noticed, and the individual becomes self actualise - the only level in the hierarchy that creates growth and maximises potential.

This Southbeach model shows the motivational context that is often created in business to meet the needs identified by Maslow in the hierarchy.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Risk of paying families to have girls

In a previous article, I described a situation in India where daughters are perceived as harmful due to the need to pay a dowry when daughters marry. This has led to abortion of female foetuses on a massive scale which, in turn, has led the governement to pay poor families to give birth to and bring up female children. Daughters are now perceived as useful as they bring income. This could have terrible consequences.

One way this attempt to right the situation could go horribly wrong has been described in this model by Anders Jangbrand:

If having a daughter leads to money from the government, plus a bonus when leaving school, this could in turn lead to an expectation of higher dowries. Furthermore, this could lead to use of girls for cheap child labour, re-enforcing still further the perception that girls are less valuable than boys.

Risk Management

This Southbeach model shows some general principles of risk management. In this example, Work is the focus and is done in order to achieve the Goal. Issues and Risks may counteract achievement of the goal. Some risks may turn into issues and require significantly more effort to resolve if they are not addressed early. Risk mitigation is a useful activity and counteracts the risks and also reduces the diversion of resources that results from dealing with issues.

The following Southbeach model provides a more detailed example of risk management in action with the addition of a grid to separate the agents in the model by timespan and aspect. This simplistic yet realistic model shows how Southbeach can be used to assess the potential impact of issues and risks and how to mitigate against them.

This example shows swim lanes running across the page separating different aspects of a project into meetings, activities, Issues & risks, and mitigations. The columns represent months in the project plan. The project status meeting in October identified the issue that there are "more problems with the solution than expected". This model was then created to perform an impact analysis and create a risk mitigation plan.

The focus of this model is "delivery of phase 1 of the solution". The goal is "sign-off for phase 2". The ultimate delivery of phase 2 and realisation of benefits, the ultimate goal, are counteracted by lack of adoption of the solution, which has various root causes such as lack of understanding and lack of awareness. These are counteracted by different parts of the change management plan.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Goal Planning

This Southbeach template provides a structure for goal planning. This can be used for setting personal objectives, or planning company strategies.

The focus areas are the objectives themselves. However, these are arrived at by understanding the goal and what it means to have achieved that goal in terms of Key Result Areas

Here is an example of a partially filled in template:

Increasing revenue improves profit. Capability, new solution areas and building on success all increase revenue. However, insufficient skills counteracts capability; not knowing where to invest counteracts creation of new solution areas; no case studies makes it difficult to build on success. The root causes of new solution areas, too many options and failure to write up successes are counteracted by the useful enabling actions of recruitment, market research and enabling success.

In general:

Identify the Key Performance Indicators (what you will measure - your measures of success) for each Key Result Area. Set objectives designed to achieve these. Then assess the situation to determine your Critical Success Factors - the things that need to be in place in order for you to succeed at your objectives and achieve your Key Performance Indicators. Some of these CSFs may be missing, so identify the blockers and the root causes of those blockers so that you can create enablers to overcome them and pave the way to achieving your goals.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Selective abortion by gender

Whilst there is a law against Dowries in India, the social convention and pressure on the Indian People to pay dowries for families wanting to find a good home for their daughters has led to families with sons becoming richer and families with daughters becoming poorer.

This, in turn, has led to technology such as ultrasound scanners for checking on the health of unborn children, to be abused. There is now a whole industry in India providing selective abortion by gender.

The population in India is being skewed towards males with only 37.1% of births being female in one district, Daman, as a result of an estimated 10 million female abortions overall since 1985.

This Southbeach model illustrates the situation described in the Washington Post in this article of 2006:

and further in the Guardian in 2008, reporting on the situation being so critical now that the Indian Government are offering to pay poor families to give birth to and bring up female children:

Pregnancy leads to a son or daughter. Sons provide for the family and look after their parents when they grow old, compensating for the lack of a social security program in India. Sons also receive a dowry when they marry, whereas families with daughters have to pay a dowry. This often results in poor families taking out loans which then take up to a year to repay. Some families with multiple daughters are effectively bankrupt by the marriage of their daughters.

The Indian Government passed a law against dowries some time ago. However, this is widely ignored due to the social convention and pressure to pay dowries by families wanting a good home for their daughters.

This situation has led to a low risk, high profile business for doctors, who make a lot of money out of combined ultrasound and abortion packages, with advertisements such as "Spend 600 Rupees now, save 50,000 Rupees later" creating a trend of Mass female foeticide.

The Indian Government is now attempting to correct this harmful trend by offering to pay families to give birth to and bring up female children. They are expecting to save 100,000 girls in the first year.

Whilst this reaction to the problem may result in fewer female abortions, it is creating a new market based on paying for life where poor families can now receive additional benefit from the government if they bring a female child into the world which they cannot support.

This is a problem that is spiralling out of control with increasingly impactful false solutions that threaten to destabilise the whole society.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Developing a Green Program, with integrity

In this model, I show how a company can develop a sustainable green agenda, with a high degree of integrity for the long term. Leadership is required for any green corporate program. It creates focal points for what matters to the company, such as energy, consumables, etc. Only by identifying these focal points can measures and targets be set for reducing the company's environmental footprint. By doing so, the real costs are revealed. Revealing these costs is necessary is the company is to identify the opportunities and challenges they can act on. It is these that will generate ideas for green action.

Each idea has both benefits and costs, and must be realized in a business case. The raw ideas must be developed into a case for action under the guidance of sponsors in the business. They must work according to sound principles such as end-to-end process design, cradle-to-cradle thinking (cycle of inputs and outputs via the environment). It is these developed ideas, based on sound business case, that can create the change projects that can demonstrate results. Only this will create learning in the organization about the value of green thinking and sustainable development.

As part of this process, the leadership team must challenge the staff themselves to take ownership and create ideas. But unless that loop is closed with the sponsors - the business owners who areable to take action to create change projects, staff ideas and desire for green action will go nowhere. The model therefore shows the complex structures required for a successful program. Now that money is tight again, due to the financial downturn, looking recession and pressures on costs, making the business case for green will be more, not less, important.

Documenting solutions - TRIZ

Here, Southbeach is used to visualise a solution, well known to TRIZ practitioners. The tension in a system, between the length and weight of a moving part, can be overcome using just four solutions. Here, we show them counteracting the oppose relationship between the two system attributes. (Also see, TRIZ Contradiction Matrix and TRIZ 40 Principles)

Mind maps

Soundbeach can be used for mind maps, but it is not a mind mapping tool. The default box sizes for agents can be adjusted to work for different styles of diagram. In this case, a simple map.

Why Process Now - Gartner

At BPM 2008, the European annual conference on Business Process Trends, editor Paul Harmon gave an excellent keynote speech in which he explained some of the reasons why companies were increasingly focussed on process improvement projects, many including workflow and process automation. While he was talking, I penned a series of models. In this one, I captured his speech as it related to a report by Gartner.

Friday, 10 October 2008

A global solution is needed - counteracting the Minsky Moment

The world's seven richest developed nations meet to discuss a global solution to a potential Minsky Moment. Model based on commentary by Robert Peston of the BBC.

Day of reckoning on Credit Default Swaps, 10th Oct 2008

According to Robert Peston, BBC, The underlying illness remains in the financial system, as manifested in the record amounts banks were charging each other yesterday for lending to each other for three months.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

World on the Edge, 4th Oct, 2008

Whatover happens in Congress, the crisis is now global; that means governments must work together. The Economist, 4th Oct, 2008, World on the Edge, Leaders

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Financial Stabalization Bill 2008

This model was developed by Howard Smith. It shows media reporting of the situation surrounding the rejection of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. Key aspects of the model include:

Votes by both houses are required pass the bill. However, these votes depend on changes to the bill, proposed by both sides. These proposals however are in conflict. The proposals by Democrats, which they view as necessary to allow them to vote for the bill, unfortunately are disliked by Republicans, thus reducing the Republican vote. And vice versa. Thus, there is a tension between the proposals. This arises from politics - Main street back lash on the measures generated by the combination of the required draw down on tax revenues coupled to the real or perceived excesses of Wall Street, lead to calls to punish the greedy bankers.

Note how these factors conspire to degrade the vote, and this, delay the passing of the bill ... leading to political and financial uncertainty. This causes destruction of savings, pensions and investments.

Credit Crunch root causes in 2008

Model by Howard Smith. There are many theories about what caused the financial crisis of 2008. Here is one. Globalization and the connected world has led to intense competition and transparent markets, making it hard to make money via conventional means. Thus, esoteric business models and financial instruments are created. A focus on these, as well as service models and knowledge work far from the source of real value/work, lead to inflated virtual value bubbles. That's fine while confidence is high, but it hides systemic weaknesses in liquidity. But when the chips are down and a segment of the market collapses, the weakness of liquidity is clearly revealed, leading to a loss of confidence and a credit crunch.

The consequences could be a shift of economic power to those developing economies to whom real work has been "outsourced" by those companies in the developed economies that considered this step necessary in order to compete.

Subprime Crisis - grid example

Southbeach includes tools to draw grids, swimlanes and pools, so that it can be used for many common diagramming types. Here is an example of a grid used to illustrate the factors at play in the subprime financial crisis.