Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Snow, Parked Cars and a Creative Solution

Is this a viable solution? When there is heavy snow, in a country that is not prepared for it, roads become unpassable and traffic flow is impeded. As a result, people stay at home, or abandon cars, restricting the width of the road. This further impedes traffic flow. As a result, snow ploughs either cannot gain access to the road (Prevented), or can only clear the center of the road of snow (Counteracted). There is a physical contradiction at the heart of this situation. Cars will be parked in the road. The road clears to be clear of cars to clear it of snow. Both cannot be true at the same time. What is the solution? How about this? Separate in Time. Park on one side of the road on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the other side of the road on Tuesday and Thursday. The snow plough could then clear both sides of the roads by the end of the week.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

My Problem - Elaborated

Models such as the one below are useful in thinking through problems. In this case, the model was generated automatically from a central block "My problem", using a series of 'transforms' that intelligently add blocks to the diagram, such as:

Missing enablers
Harmful side effects
Additional benefits
Compromised solutions
Improving factors
Necessary evils

Such a model is useful to exploring abstract problems, or by changing the text, actual situations.

What is a contradiction?

There are many ways of creating a contradiction. In Southbeach, there are four simple types, well known to practitioners of TRIZ. They are:

1. Something useful produces something harmful
2. Something useful counteracts something useful
3. Something harmful produces something useful
4. Something harmful counteracts something harmful

In cases 1 and 2, when you try to increase the useful element, there is a harmful side effect. In cases 3 and 4, when you try to reduce the harmful element, there is another harmful side effect. In case 3, less of something useful and in case 4, less ability to counteract something also harmful in the situation. It is sometimes hard to spot contradictions. Take a look at case 3. Something useful is being created, so the color of the effect line is green. However, we want to reduce the harmful element or remove it altogether. We therefore are minimising the useful production.

These four simple contradictions are the basic situations that must be solved, if a situation is to improve. Revealing the contradictions in a situation is central to problem solving.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Adding Agents - Elaboration Patterns

There are many ways to add a new agent to a Southbeach diagram, so as to gain additional insight into the situation represented. A common one is to insert an agent between two others, thereby clarifying the effect between them. Here, we illustrate how to expand a model from an existing useful function, and from an existing harmful function. The eight possibilities are:

* Adding a harmful side effect (a complication)
* Adding a silver lining (useful output of a harmful function)
* Adding a 'necessary evil' - a harmful function which nevertheless counteracts the existing harmful function
* Adding a solution, an improving factor
* Adding a worsening factor - another problem
* Adding a contradiction - a useful function that also increases the harmful function
* Adding in a solution, which is unfortunately compromised by the harmful function
* Adding in a problem which is counteracted by the existing harmful function

A similar model  could be drawn around a useful function. It would share some of the patterns as before, but the language would change because of the change of perspective. For example, what was called an improving factor and a worsening factor in the context of a harmful function, could now be called barriers and enablers. Note also how the effects, and their color, are different between the two diagrams. For example, the contradiction above is an additional useful function which increases the central harmful function. Whereas in the diagram below, the additional useful function counteracts the central useful function. We want more of both, but one is decreasing the other.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Voice of the Customer - Part 2

In part 1 of Voice of the Customer we looked at how responding to a need far up the change of requirement, can lead to the wrong solution being proposed. In this model, we expand that picture with the problems that led to the client stated needs, and the solutions that emerge from the unstated requirements. You can see that, reading across from left (problems) to right (solutions), is consistent with the way the voice of the customer conversation could develop. We wonder which consultants, working with their client, could make the conceptual leap from "I need a drill" to "Here are recruitment services"? Everyone has something to sell. Knowing how to position the idea or solution in the chain of stated and unstated needs and wants, is the clue to uncovering the voice of the customer.

Take care with the Voice of the Customer - Part 1

This model illustrates how easy it can be to make a mistake about a customer's underlying needs or intentions. They say they want a drill, but they really mean they want a hole. Etc. Reading down the left column illustrates how requirements can expand. Reading down the right hand column illustrates the forward implications of  need.

When working with customers, make sure you understand the difference between stated and unstated requirements. The cross links in the model below illustrate how easy it is to make a mistake. The customer asks for X, do they really need Y? Good 'listening' consultants will look several blocks ahead. When a customer says they need X, question them carefully. Find out why.

@stated "What problem led you to say {this}?"
@stated "What are you hoping to achieve when you say {this}?"
@stated "What could we give you that would make the need for {this} irrelevant?"
@stated "If we had an alternative to {this} which achieved the end result by other means, would that be of interest?"
@stated "What was the original motivation that led to {this}?"
* "Etc."

(The questions are expressed in the MyCreativity language)

In Part 2 of this article we add more details

Friday, 12 November 2010

Climate scientists plan campaign against global warming skeptics

The American Geophysical Union plans to announce that 700 researchers have agreed to speak out on the issue. Other scientists plan a pushback against congressional conservatives who have vowed to kill regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. The model below is based on the following news media:,0,3784003.story
(click on image once, and again, for full resolution in your browser)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Why it's hard to solve problems

Southbeach, being a notation for problem solving, can also be used to document problem-solving processes. Here is one such example. Templates like this can be developed to clarify the approach to a project for a team. The template can also be used as a starting point for the development of a specific model for a specific situational improvement effort. In other words: copy taken, words replaced with specifics, and other details added.

The best Southbeach consultants will develop many such templates to support the work they are doing with clients. In the Modeller tool, the Explorer view (left panel) lets you browse into your growing library of best practices, with no need to open each model file. Elements or models can be dragged onto the canvas to create new models for specific projects.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Use of 'Historical' for Lifecycle Mgt of Southbeach diagrams

Southbeach Notation supports the idea of an element being 'historical', for example, a risk we no longer face, a goal we no longer need to achieve, a useful function that is no longer needed, etc. Historical is shown in a Southbeach diagram using a cross. This can be applied to any object type. Consulting firms and individual consultants use this to manage the lifecycle of a model, for example, things done, things yet to do, etc. See image below.

Synonyms for 'historical' include: in the past, no longer exists, former, prior, retired, obsolete, strike-out, old news, noncurrent, not in play, completed, concluded, ended, terminated, defunct, dead, extinct, heritage, missing, lost ...

Monday, 27 September 2010

Colombian plane crash - Southbeach Notation hexagons (knowledge)

This model illustrates the use of Southbeach Notation 'knowledge' agents (hexagon shape). Here, they are used to represent what is known or believed about the crash (based on a BBC news article in this example), so that evidence and beliefs are kept separate to the root cause analysis (RCA).

In Southbeach, hexagon refers to Knowledge (what we know or believe), i.e. information, facts, data, news, intelligence, context, circumstance, belief, assertion, evidence, rumor, opinion, sacred cows, elephants in room, realities, principles, truth, laws, science ..... Southbeach gives you nine colors for setting out your knowledge context in a Model, and the shape is transparent so that it does not intrude on other important areas of the diagram.

Of course, all other agents are a form of knowledge, but hexagon is used to distinguish those elements of knowledge where you explicitly don't want to take a perspective (useful or harmful etc).

Knowledge can be given other attributes, such as insufficient or potential knowledge, and it could be typed, e.g. evidential knowledge, hearsay, etc. using agent type, allowing for the generation of different MyCreativity questions (screen shot) using, for example, the 5x5Whys rule set of RCA (root cause analysis).

In some Southbeach Models, users include such knowledge in the notes field of any agent. Now there is a shape to make the important statements explicit in the visualization and generation of suggestions.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

9Boxes for Problem Solving

Here is a Southbeach template which uses the typical TRIZ 9boxes tool. To this has been added agents showing the steps involved in looking at a deep seated problem. Such a method may also be used in conjunction with TRIZ trend analysis and the business methods called scenario planning, e.g. Backcasting. 

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Stephen Petranek counts down to Armageddon

In his TED talk, Stephen Petranek urges us to consider, and fund, solutions to problems other than terrorism. (transcript here: Visualising possibilities like these, and the potential solutions, is perfect territory for Southbeach. This is why consultants, including risk analysts and futures analysts, are finding Southbeach an effective way not only to communicate ideas, but to propose solutions.

Here, we show two models developed from Petranek's text. The first illustrates his central assertion. The second illustrates the solution he proposes to problem #10 - rising depression. In the first model, a notable feature is the use of box size to signify disproportionate attention to terror and associated funding. In the second, a grid is used to show the different aspects of this assertion on lack of mental health services. This 'separation' clarifies the model instantly, something which is unique to Southbeach notation. Commonly used by consultants, separation techniques coupled with cause-effect modelling is highly effective at illustrating competing views or aspects of a situation.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Exploring alternate theories - Global warming sceptics

(Click on the diagram for hi res)

Southbeach MyCreativity can be used to explore alternate theories of cause and effect. Here, four theories of the relationship between rising CO2 and rising mean temperatures are represented in Southbeach Notation. Simple rules are used to 'question' each model, with the following results, see below. Each set of output was generated by clicking once in the model, using these rules:

questionable(,) "Does {from} really produce {to}?"
potential "Does {this} exist?"
produces+not(,) "If {from} does not produce {to}, what else could be causing it?"
produces(,) "What is the process behind {from} producing {to}?"
harmful "What does {this} cause?"
harmful "What causes {this}?"

Here is the output from the model:
1. What does 'rising CO2' cause?
2. What causes 'rising CO2'?
3. Does 'rising CO2' really produce 'global warming'?
4. What is the process behind 'rising CO2' producing 'global warming'?
5. Does 'global warming' exist?
6. What does 'global warming' cause?
7. What causes 'global warming'?

1. What does 'rising CO2' cause?
2. What causes 'rising CO2'?
3. If 'rising CO2' does not produce 'global warning', what else could be causing it?
4. What does 'global warning' cause?
5. What causes 'global warning'?
6. What is the process behind 'hidden factor' producing 'global warning'?
7. Does 'hidden factor' exist?
8. What does 'hidden factor' cause?
9. What causes 'hidden factor'?

1. What does 'rising CO2' cause?
2. What causes 'rising CO2'?
3. What is the process behind 'hidden factor' producing 'rising CO2'?
4. Does 'hidden factor' exist?
5. What does 'hidden factor' cause?
6. What causes 'hidden factor'?
7. What is the process behind 'hidden factor' producing 'global warning'?
8. What does 'global warning' cause?
9. What causes 'global warning'?

1. What does 'rising CO2' cause?
2. What causes 'rising CO2'?
3. Does 'rising CO2' really produce 'global warming'?
4. What is the process behind 'rising CO2' producing 'global warming'?
5. What does 'global warming' cause?
6. What causes 'global warming'?
7. Does 'global warming' really produce 'rising CO2'?
8. What is the process behind 'global warming' producing 'rising CO2'?


1.   What does 'global warming' cause?
2.   What causes 'global warming'?
3.   What is the process behind 'hidden factor' producing 'global warming'?
4.   Does 'hidden factor' exist?
5.   What does 'hidden factor' cause?
6.   What causes 'hidden factor'?
7.   What is the process behind 'global warming' producing 'rising CO2'?
8.   What does 'rising CO2' cause?
9.   What causes 'rising CO2'?

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Stakeholder Map

Stakeholder maps (somestimes called political maps) can be a very powerful way of assessing the people change risks of a programme. This map provides two axes on which to place people according to how much power they have (y-axis) and to what extent they are for or against the programme (x-axis). Note that this model is drawn from the perspective of someone trying to execute the programme and make it a success; so the people for the program are considered useful (green) and those against it are considered harmful (red). The idea is to identify your main advocates and detractors and how they are influenced by others in order to determine how to manage change.One way of using such a map is as follows:

  1. Place people on the chart according to their power and behaviour (the degree to which they are for or against the programme)
  2. People against are harmful, so should be red. Right click each to set this
  3. People for are useful so should be green. Right click each to set this
  4. Draw 'produces' arrows from supporters or influencers to those they support/influence
  5. Draw 'counteracts' arrows from between people who influence each other but have opposite opinions
  6. Use this to inform your stakeholder alignment strategy

These steps are shown in the blue actions boxes on the diagram itself. You may also wish to draw 'is-a' arrows from people to the stereotype you believe the exhibit. If you were to later write any creativity rules to help you come up with strategies for dealing with the different kinds of people, this information could be useful as you would take quite different approaches with someone who is merely a cynic from someone who is a saboteur.

Your stakeholder map will not necessarily have people at all of these levels of power or advocacy. The stereotypes are provided to help characterise the behaviour of people in a more specific way than for and against. This lends itself to providing a better assessment of the likely outcomes of the change and the interventions that may be necessary to assure success.

The sterotypes are briefly characterised here:

Opponent - someone who is openly and directly opposed to the initiative
Saboteur - someone who will use their every waking breath to kill the initiative (not necessarily openly; they could be as powerful as a direct opponent but this is less likely)
Cynic - verbal sabotage (but not physical - How powerful they are can be increased depending upon who listens to them)
Skeptic - someone who doubts that the initiative will succeed, but is generally willing to give it a hearing
Silent Doubter - someone who has doubts, but keeps quiet so they are not apparent to others
Not Involved - either someone who doesn’t know about the initiative or someone who should not be involved in it at all (they could still potentially be converted to be for or against)
Observer - watches what is going on in the initiative, but takes no action (perhaps until they make their mind up, or until someone involves them)
Follower - takes part in the initiative but only because they follow the crowd (they could be at risk of swaying against the initiative if there were more doubters than supporters)
Active Participant - takes a full and proactive part in the initiative
Advocate / Change Agent - has no direct accountability for or involvement in the initiative, but senior or influential, so can promote it. There are many influential people who are not senior. Its important to take account of the unofficial (but very real) power/influence hierarchy as well as the official control hierarchy.
Champion - has an official role in driving the initiative and is directly involved in demonstrating the value of the initiative. They may be responsible for a workstream or for providing leadership of some kind.
Sponsor - the person who owns the initiative or whose personal success depends on it

Sunday, 21 February 2010

PDCA - Plan Do Check Act

This Southbeach Notation Model shows the key steps in the PDCA cycle developed by W. E. Deming during the 80s. This compliments the previous article on the Capability Maturity Model (CMM). Whereas the CMM describes what characterises the levels of maturity of an organisation, the Deming cycle provides a way of evaluating the issues with the current situation and doing something about it.

The CMM focusses on defining what characterises the performance and quality of processes at different levels of maturity and improving the organisation by institutionalising the processes to make them more objective, measurable, and repeatable. The Deming cycle provides a simple four step process... Plan, Do, Check, Act to do just that:

  • Agree what we are trying to achieve (what are our goals?)
  • Analyse the current situation (whats useful and harmful and why?)
  • Identify Options for achieving our goals with Critical Success Factors for each
  • Assess potential impact of change for each option (useful and harmful)
  • Agree which options and approach to implement
  • Define Key Performance Indicators
  • Create implementation plan with resources, roles & responsibilities
  • Take small steps
  • Control the circumstances
  • Attribute improvements and failures to your actions
  • Track improvements and failures against KPIs and planned benefits
  • Assess whether your actions are yielding the desired result
  • If your actions are having the desired result, great - get started on standardising that activity so it becomes institutionalised and the improvement becomes repeatable, business as usual
  • If your actions are not having the desired result, understand why and go round the loop again
This Southbeach Notation model shows the steps in the process along with the key activities involved in each step. Such models can be used as guides when embarking on an improvement programme. The structure of the model can even be adapted to provide an associative map of the challenges faced by an organisation and what they plan to do about it.

Taking a high level conceptual model such as this and evolving it into a specific model for what you are going to do in a particular situation can be a powerful way of driving a process.

This approach to driving a process is precisely the kind of activity described in CMM process maturity level 5; where standard processes are available along with guidelines on how these can be tailored to suit your particular sitution, and the results of your work are systematically re-incorporated into the formal body of knowledge of the organisation and used to improve those processes further.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Capability Maturity Model

This example Southbeach Notation model shows what qualities characterise an organisation at each of the different maturity levels defined by the Carnegie Mellon Capability Maturity Model.

The maturity levels are shown here as Southbeach goals (filled in boxes). Note that levels 0 and 1 are considered harmful (red), whilst levels 2 through 5 are considered increasingly useful. The useful (green) and harmful (red) qualities of the organisation are shown for each level.

Note how increasing levels of maturity characterise increased understanding, documentation, and management of the processes. The activities involved in executing those processes, and in moving towards higher quality, more efficient and autonomous processes are managed through repeatable, objective, statistical means rather than through dependency on heroic behaviour, individual knowledge and personal judgement.

Models like this can be used to assess the maturity of an organisation. More specific versions of this model can be created as issues impacting quality and performance are identified. The ability in Southbeach to indicate the cause and effect of situations can then be used to perform root cause analysis to identify ways of improving the processes and maturity of the organisation in manageing those processes. Having clearly articulated improvement milestones enables remediation planning to be directed in a more coherent and effective way.

Models and appraisal methods for services, acquisition and development processes are available from the SEI website:

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Abstract models are useful starting points for concrete models

Often, developing a model in the abstract, helps create a useful starting point for a concrete model. Here, the abstract model shows a problem, its root cause, and upstream harmful impacts. Around these red (harmful) blocks are green boxes indicating potential (dotted line) intervention points. The two blocked in green (useful) boxes are considered goals. Why? Because intervening to remove the root cause, or converting the problem into a solution, are considered 'preferred' (goals) solutions.

Use the 'quick edit' mode of Southbeach Modeller to rephrase the boxes with your problem. Add creativity rules to generate suggestions for verifying the solutions. For example:

1.   We have plenty of pros for [intervention] - are there harmful side effects? What are the downsides/cons?
2.   Is there a strong case for [intervention]?
3.   Is it the right thing to do?
4.   Do we have support for [intervention]?
5.   How could the case for [intervention] be questioned?
6.   What types of criticism could arise?
7.   Who will object to [intervention] and why?
8.   What's the defence against critisim of [intervention]?
9.   Is there anything we have forgotten? Is there anything to add?