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OOP2023-Systems Thinking for Impactful Changes

July 06, 2023

OOP2023-Systems Thinking for Impactful Changes

Software development is at the core a human activity - and the created artifacts are among the most complex humankind has ever produced. In this talk, Xin Yao will tell a transformation story at a large Nordic bank through the systems thinking lens. Three themes will be touched upon using the story as a backdrop: systems thinking basics, system dynamics modeling and systems changes. Systems change require our full humanity, and profound changes are often both deeply personal and deeply systemic. In a world that is interconnected by software, to survive and thrive, we need high technical sophistication and high human sophistication to come together to shape a better future.


July 06, 2023

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  1. Contextualizing DDD & architecture in large change efforts Conversation facilitator

    Boundary spanner, connector Idea spreader, change maker About me 01 02 03 Xin Yao Independent consultant Lives in Copenhagen, Denmark Loves gardening, yoga, sci-​ fi, theater, good food, hanging out with friends and family @settling_mud [email protected] @[email protected] /in/xinxin/
  2. A tale of transformation at a large bank Systems thinking

    basics System dynamics modeling Systems change What we will cover today
  3. A tale of transformation at a large bank Systems thinking

    basics System dynamics modeling Systems change
  4. Context: A large Nordic bank 3,5 m+ customers (B2C +

    B2B) 22,000+ employees 4,000+ in engineering (10 countries) +150 years old 2000+ IT systems
  5. Systems building blocks: feedbacks & delays Reinforcing loop Balancing loop

    Births Population + delay + Deaths + delay - NOTE: Causal loop diagram is one tool, among many, in system dynamics modeling.
  6. Cause and effect can be far apart in time and

    space linear cause & effect Non-​ linear feedback loop There’s a fundamental mismatch between the nature of reality in complex systems and our predominant ways of thinking about that reality. The first step is correcting that mismatch is to let go of the notion that cause and effect are close in time and space. ~Peter Senge now in one year
  7. The eventual consistency time span in a social system is

    much larger than that in an engineered system.
  8. Policy should protect the future from the past, not the

    past from the future. ~Tim O'Reilly medium.com Predatory Delay and the Rights of Future Generations We owe the future. How can we be more responsible for the future by the choices we make today
  9. A tale of transformation at a large bank Systems thinking

    basics System dynamics modeling Systems change
  10. 2020: Reorg & change initiative DDD & API evangelism Cloud

    & DevOps evangelism Agile coaching Decoupled & reusable APIs Software delivery speed Agility, autonomy + + + + Engineering maturity + + + + Enabling tribe Enabling tribe Enabling tribe Journey/Platform tribes Source: Henrik Kniberg & Anders Ivarsson delay delay delay
  11. DDD reinforcing feedback loop Facilitated DDD workshops Eagerness to practice

    DDD Perceived value of DDD API delivery speed Domain modeling quality Domain understanding + + + + + + delay delay
  12. Facilitated DDD workshops Eagerness to practice DDD Perceived value of

    DDD API delivery speed Domain modeling quality Domain understanding + + + + + + Availability of DDD enabling capacity Utilization of DDD enabling team Demand on DDD workshop facilitators + + + - DDD enabling capacity limits DDD "growth" Reinforcing loop Balancing loop
  13. Pressure to increase WIP for DDD enabling team Pressure on

    DDD evangelists to rush domain discovery Premature convergence DDD enabling team attrition Stress & burn-​ out in DDD enabling team Idle API engineers in enabling team API specification velocity per domain Intervention makes matters worse Facilitated DDD workshops Eagerness to practice DDD Perceived value of DDD API delivery speed Domain modeling quality Domain understanding + + + + + + - - - + + + + +
  14. System dynamics modeling vocabulary System variables Causal links Delays Feedback

    loops now in one year problem symptom Symptomatic solution Fundamental solution + - + - side effect + - nouns, verbs sentences, scenes Recurring plot lines System archetypes example
  15. Why do we keep seeing the same problems recur over

    time? What leverage do we have to impact the system's underlying structure? diagnostic use prospective use How do system archetypes help us • Limits to Growth (aka Limits to Success) • Shifting the Burden • Eroding Goals • Escalation • Success to the Successful • Tragedy of the Commons • Fixes that Fail • Growth and Underinvestment • Accidental Adversaries • Attractiveness Principle ... System archetypes
  16. What is systems thinking Interdependencies Living systems Many parts Synthetic

    holism Analytical reductionism Synthetic holism Analytical reductionism Graphics: Systems Innovation Network Mechanistic thinking Systems thinking
  17. Philosophy of systems thinking Relationality See the whole Living system

    Causality Meta-​ cognition *multivalent interdepend-​ encies (both-​ and vs. either-​ or) *multi-​ dimensional decision -​ product, business, domain, tech, people To cultivate an appreciation of *step back and look from outside *ask "why & where" before "What, when, how" purpose-​ driven design relation-​ driven design design for self-​ organization impactful design thinking as an emergent property *autopoesis - designer embedded in system *VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) *model and understand system dynamics *influence at high leverage point *thinking itself as a CAS (complex adaptive system) *Practice moves & grooves to think better, together (DSRP**) **DSRP: Distinctions, Systems, Relations, Perspectives (Dr. & Dr. Cabrera, Cornell University)
  18. What happened? What did we expect? What can we learn

    from the gap? 1. 2. 3. How much do we study what has succeeded or failed in the past operational models past strategies organizing approaches It's no wonder that a new CEO typically sees his or her job as pushing a new strategy, almost as if there were no history. ~Peter Senge, "the Fifth Discipline" Retro? Illustration: Michael Sahota
  19. Credit: John D. Sterman, James E. Paine Change efforts often

    fail because we don't understand the full range of feedbacks operating in the system Yesterday’s solution can become today’s problem
  20. These models are hypotheses that need to be put to

    test, and those tests become part of the feedback loops. Our system models are not perfect, but they are necessary for us to make sense of the complex reality, and act in it. System dynamics modeling helps us build models of closed feedback loops
  21. A tale of transformation at a large bank Systems thinking

    basics System dynamics modeling Systems change
  22. The transformation story: You are only seeing my view of

    the world My experiences My data selections My perspectives My assumptions My conclusions My beliefs half empty? half full?
  23. Predictive mind 1. See scraps of the world 2. Piece

    it together with the help of filters & priors 3. Pick up prediction errors - update mental models observation prediction correction We see less than what's really there because of filtering We see more than what's really there by adding our "priors" How we build and evolve mental models
  24. We don't see things as they are, we see things

    as we are. ~ Anaïs Nin We create the world we expect to see
  25. gustdebacker.com Cognitive Biases (2023): Complete List of 151 Biases [Psychology]

    - Gust de Backer Cognitive biases, there are so many of them... Decisions we make based on emotion, cognitive biases are irrational 'errors' that are programmed into people's brains and affect the decision- making process. Plenty of different articles have been written a… Our mental models are full of cognitive biases
  26. A transformation isn't an event. It's a progressive accumulation of

    habits. -​Andrew Clay Shafer Transformation programs React events Trends Structures Mental models Anticipate Design Transform Credit: Systems Innovation Network
  27. Culture (collective habits) for an organization is like personality for

    a person. Your energy to try to change it will tend to make it stronger. ~Peter Senge
  28. Workshop retrospective You are too in love with your model

    :-). We don't see forest, only trees You=Me model=event storming
  29. discussion Reflective conversation Credit: David Bohm, Peter Senge, Chris Argyris

    advocacy advocacy inquiry Here is how I see it. Here are the facts that support how I see it I know I don't see the whole picture, how do you see it? Here is what I think this data/episode means... Do you see it differently? Oh, that's a perspective I haven't considered Do you see gaps in my reasoning? Here is my view and here is how I arrived at it. dialogue
  30. What is it about this situation, and about me or

    others, that is making open exchange difficult? The questions that got us unstuck What are you most passionate about contributing to in this domain? What is the future we dream of for this domain?
  31. To DDD or not to DDD Q: Why do you

    still want to finish the DDD Workshop series? A: You were trying to convince us before. Now we are testing ideas together.
  32. Freedom wasn't possible before I updated my mental model of

    what enabling is, and is not. For change makers and change facilitators, the changes required are not only in our organizations, but also in ourselves. Let's be mindful of our urge to evangelize what we believe is right. How the truth set me free
  33. Connection before content Inspired by: Peter Block As the quality

    of relationships strengthens, the quality of thinking improves. When we engage in reflective conversations, we connect better with each other. we connect better with ourselves. we connect better with a larger and emergent outcome, not attainable individually.
  34. Systems changes go far beyond systems thinking Thinking together ("meta-​

    cognition") Learning together ("meta-​ awareness") Systems change Learning together is more than thinking together
  35. Shared aspiration Systems changes require our full humanity A cognitive

    approach won't take us all the way there Creative tension Reflective conver-​ sation Growing from struggle A common deep caring a creative yearning Generate energy & focus See reality as an ally Deep commitment Relatedness Willingness to be vulnerable, to be exposed with our biases & limitations Learning together ("meta-​ awareness")
  36. Listening to the wisdom of the system Creativity Politeness Discussion

    Dialogue Learning together ("meta-​ awareness")
  37. Life is not a problem to be solved, but a

    reality to be experienced. ~ Søren Kierkegaard
  38. What if I am not a leader How do you

    change the world? One room at a time. Which room? The one you're in. ~ Peter Block
  39. Profound changes are both deeply personal and deeply systemic. Systems

    changes require us to look outward, forward and backward, and inward. Peter Senge Russell Ackoff Donella Meadows
  40. What is needed in sociotechnical systems changes technological sophistication human

    sophistication modeling analysis simulation visualization synthesis categorization leadership advocacy self-​ organization listening inquiry meta-​ cognition (DSRP) emotional intelligence systems thinking system dynamics modeling technological advancements architecture adaptive learning creativity productivity mental models meta-​ awareness (interoception)
  41. A tale of transformation in a large bank Systems basics

    Systems dynamics modeling Systems change What we've covered today