Not building a Jumbo, but a Jimbo

Having just posted up the latest “Armchair Pilot” missive, this time Joe Sutter’s book about the development of the Boeing 747, my wife reminded me of this episode of Jimbo which somehow manages to combine aircraft and computing in one easy-to-digest 5 minute delight.

Enjoy Jimbo And The Jet Set – Episode 15 – The Computer Clanger


Death to Venn Diagrams!

This post has been mulling around in my mind for a while now, but a question asked by a fellow OU Systems Thinking in Practice (STiP) alumni, précised as “Are there other Systems Thinking methods are out there that we could look at?”, has encouraged me to finally put finger to keyboard.

My question in return is “What counts as a Systems Thinking approach, method or tool?”

In fact it raises the whole subject of categorisation which may have been covered on the Open University course B823: Knowledge Management, but sadly it’s no longer running and so I can’t study it having instead to scratch around this area trying to find little nuggets that might help my understanding.

Categorising things can work well when the world is pretty static but, well, that isn’t really the case these days. But it’s not just the change of things, its the change of about their properties and value to us.

Our previous IT Director used to bemoan the fact that there wasn’t a “killer app” for the Blackberry that he felt was needed to drive adoption, yet it was the device itself that had become compelling, the “killer app” if you like. I’d suggest  suspect that in his mind he was looking to classify his Blackberry under some sort of category that he had such as “It does one thing better than anything else” but hadn’t recognised that it was a category that was no longer valid.

Continue reading

If not Targets, then what?

A fellow OU alumni kindly pointed us at this article in the Guardian last Friday: Payment by results – a ‘dangerous idiocy’ that makes staff tell lies written by Toby Lowe. It’s an interesting article telling us about how targets are driving the wrong behaviours, something that is frequently debated by the Systems Thinking community. My problem is that we can all agree that it is wrong, but we can’t work out what is right (the  tell-tale signs of a wicked problem)

Pieces like this bring me round to thinking that there are two key aspects to target setting which are subtly linked:

  • What problem are the targets actually trying to solve
  • What is the cost of collecting the measures

Continue reading

When is enough, enough?

I was drawn to this post by Simon Guilfoyle called Great Expectations posted only a few days ago. Using his broken Subaru as an example, Simon looks at the delivery of services arguing that any system for delivering a customer service should be designed to handle the peak demand placed upon it.

In one sense I can empathise with Simon’s view. He points to the public services such as Health & Policing,  an area with which he is intimately acquainted if you read his background, and calls for capacity to satisfy peak demand. Were it me stood at any incident waiting for the appropriate blue-light service to come to assist then I, too, would want capacity free to deal with it. To be fair, Simon also points out areas of inefficiency in some service areas, inefficiencies that could be easily resolved to free up capacity for handling the core needs of the service delivery system.

It’s worth pointing out here that there is a significant amount of bias creeping into my interpretation of Simon’s words here, but I can’t help but defend the point Continue reading

At last: Systems Thinking collides with Enterprise Architecture

As a de-facto Enterprise Architect, a little bit of serendipity  today left me feeling much better with the world.

It’s a fact of life that our modern world is awash with fads, and my working life in IT has been no exception, but the one thing about fads, whether they are  IT, Management or any other fads,  is that they tend to follow a similar sequence of steps each time:

  1. The fad enters the mainstream through the efforts of journalists who tell us why this is the “next great thing”
  2. This is rapidly followed by vendors telling us why they are the supplier of choice in this field
  3. Enter stage left the “Consultants” who have experience to bring the fad to your organisation with all it’s fantastic benefits that no-one can quite understand yet
  4. Our senior leaders then get worried as to why they are missing out on the fad, so commission a piece of work based on it

Worse still, every so often opposing factions appear trying to achieve the same marvellous end accompanied by media excesses telling us why one particular type of the current fad is far better than any of the others. Generally, in amongst the fad-meisters are a small core of pragmatists in the know, who try in vain to explain the truth behind the ballyhoo.

Thankfully, after a little while a new fad appears to displace the old one. Meanwhile the majority of us get on with quietly making whatever the previous fad was actually work, delivering realistic benefits, not the hyped conjecture.

Enterprise Architecture hits the streets promising that IT will deliver massive benefits to our organisations

Continue reading