Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Simple Business Improvement Model

This Southbeach Notation diagram illustrates some of the Southbeach Semantics in a simple model of a business. Its purpose is both to describe the situation and provide a basis from which to agree on key facts (e.g. there are insufficient sales) and priorities (e.g. marketing is the focus of attention). Southbeach models exist to support the analysis process in improving the situation. Thus, each element of a Southbeach model can provide a pivot point for improvement. Some examples are provided below.

Here is how to read this diagram:

Spending produces (arrow) materials which are used (small box end) by the manufacturing process to create (star) products which produce sales which produce revenue which produce profit. The profit is the goal (solid green box), and it is counteracted by the spending, considerd harmful and hence shown in red. Spending also produces marketing which increases the sales from the products. However, competitors (harmful) counteract the production of sales. Sales are shown as insufficient (dashed box) and marketing is the focus of attention (yellow highlight). Note the filled circle at the start of some effect lines indicating that the agent is necessary for the effect to occur, e.g. Spending is necessary to increase materials, manufacturing, and marketing.

Note the short dashed lines across some of the effects. These indicate that the effect occurs after a delay. For example, there is a delay between acquisition of the materials and use of those materials by the manufacturing process to create the product.

Here are some improvement alternatives illustrated by this diagram:

All green boxes are useful, so increasing them is likely to increase the usefulness of the overall system. Red boxes are harmful, so need to be reduced, but a balance must be struct as although spending is considered harmful, it has multiple useful effects - spending is necessary - so the reduction of spending is only useful if it can be achieved without reducing the useful products of that spending (materials, manufacturing, and marketing). Similarly, delays on useful effects are opportunities for improvement as they represent a delay in realisation of potential value held in the system. Note that competitors have no useful function in this system as they are harmful, counteract the useful production of profit, and have no useful side effects (from the perspective of the business), so finding ways to avoid, prevent, remove, or diminish the impact of competitors is worthwhile investment as long as it does not cost more than the profit (i.e. as long as the business is actually viable).

There are more subtle ways in which creativity techniques can be combined with Southbeach models. For example, the sales are insufficient. So how can we resolve that? From the model, we can spend more on marketing to increase the production of sales from products, or we can spend more on manufacturing to create more products - more kinds of products to hit more of the market, or more products to places where it is needed if the market is not uniform in its consumption. We can find ways to diminish the effect of the competitors; by selling the products where our competitor has no influence, by removing the competitor through acquisition, by branching out into markets not addressed by our competitor. We can also move into other kinds of sales than products; perhaps there is revenue to be made by providing service contracts. Combining creativity techniques of various forms with Southbeach models as a mechanism for driving a structured brainstorming approach can be a very powerful way to create improvement directions that will be more complete and more directed to where they are needed most.

The model below shows how these improvement ideas can be arrived at by working around the agents and effects in the diagram:

Blue boxes are improvement actions.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Human dominion over nature?

It used to be that humans had dominion over the world. The world was there to take. We invaded foreign lands, took the resources we needed, and created the built environment. Now we are not so sure. We sit at an uneasy juncture - somewhere between opposing mind sets. We are unsure of how to prevent the dilemmas we face.

(This model illustrates two new semantics in Southbeach 0.9 - 'prevents' and 'contributes to')

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Analysing the water crisis in Australia's Marray-Darling Basin

This model was created as part of an open ideation event run by http://circleofblue.org/.
It shows some of the problems being caused by over extractraction of water from the Murray-Darling basin in Australia. And also some of the solutions (blue boxes) being considered. This is a world issue that has manifested in many countries and will continue to manifest as our water consumption increases with population and adoption of water hungry appliances and crops in areas that require artificial irrigation.

Here is how one might go about developing a model like this:
1. Create a model, a hypothesis - describing the problem, and consequences of attempted solutions to date 
2. Elaborate the model with subject matter experts - from all walks, agriculture, industry, government, science, ... - Bring in other people's perspectives on the model 
3. Elaborate further, creating sub-models for drill down into complex or contentious areas 
4. Perform a root cause analysis to understand how this situation arose 
5. Share the model and report with others to gather feedback iteratively
6. Capture the feedback in terms of model elaborations and ideas entered into the report 
7. Create a plan of action, and show the to-be model next to the as-is model 
8. Do an impact and risk analysis on the plan of action and refine it by mitigating risks and protecting against adverse impacts 
9. Create the final report and action plan for improving your situation
10. Execute

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Viral Change (TM)

This model is based on the work of Leandro Herrero, a viral change specialist. The Southbeach model is based on a figure on page 16 of his book, Viral Change - The Alternative to Slow, Painful and Unsuccessful Management of Change in Organisations.

The model illusrates two new "experimental" effects in Southbeach - 'Specifies' and 'Implements'. These effects have no standard Southbeach visualization at this time, and are simply denoted by a standard closed arrow head and text label.

The concept of 'Implementation' is broad. A implements B means, in effect, that A is part of the 'engine' behind B, for example, a CPU chip 'implements' the logic required for a computer to work. A process engine, in BPM, implements the process design. Our brain 'implements' our conciousness. We are sure you can think of many other examples.

'Specifies' is another experimentation effect in Southbeach. It is a related effect to 'Implements'. A software design document 'specifies' a software program. A blueprint 'specifies' a building. A manager who sets out policy 'specifies' the way processes should be administered.

Experimentation effects in Southbeach are released in the software once it is clear that they are 1) useful, 2) have a well defined and distinct meaning (over other effects) and 3) once a clear visual representation has been agreed and developed.

Monday, 4 May 2009

You can now Draw in Southbeach too!

This image shows some of the drawing tools in Southbeach 0.9. It includes lines, boxes, circles, elipses, polygons and flexigons - solid, dashed and filled. Also provided is a text object and a block arrow.

These drawing tools are typically used sparingly to annotate key aspects of a model, for example, to draw a boundary around a set of agents. The tools provided are 'enough' for most purposes, and cover the common idioms we often see used in analytical diagrams.

Drawing tools in Southbeach have been implemented in their own 'layer', separate to the modeling agents, choices, decisions and effects. This makes selecting, moving, resizing and modifying agents and drawing objects separately very convenient. Even unfilled objects such as dashed boxes can be dragged by clicking anywhere inside the area.

Value chain transformation

This model illustrates some of the new features for modeling situations in Southbeach 0.9(Beta imminent). The model also illustrates a situation common in business. Here, a supply chain is represented, comprising parts manufactured by supply chain partners, contributing to a final legacy product. This product, and its supply chain, is owned by the supply chain leader. Way down the chain, a contract manufacturer of parts is aware of an innovation that can lead to a new product. In effect, a part is transformed. If this innovation were released on the market, the emcumbant supply chain would be de-stabilized. A choice (diamond) has opened up in the marketplace and is being driven by the two forces operating.

Thus, the supply chain leader has foreseen this and interjected a patent fence to counteract the transformation occuring (or at least to retrade its emergence in the marketplace).

This model also shows one of the new drawing tools in Southbeach. Lines, boxes, circles, pologons can now be drawn in solid, dashed and filled.