Wednesday 20 January 2016

Systems Thinking

What is systems modelling? At what level of thinking is MBSE done? Let’s take the analogy of the Game of Chess.

As a Pawn, I may think that I understand the game. I can see all the other players on the board (well most of them but sometimes I have to stretch). I know the moves each can make. But, as the Pawn, do I understand everything that is in the Chess players head? Well, I’m not sure. There’s the whole bigger picture about the current game-plan, the strategies like Fool’s Mate and the Fortress Endgame, the tactics for countering the opposition, and fooling the opposition.

As the Chess Master in a game I see the bigger picture, the tactics and the plan, I’m at a different level of abstraction. Both levels of viewpoints are abstraction, of course, and both valid. However, I can do things and see things at the system level that are not possible at subsystem level. Then there’s the question about why the Chess board is like it is? Does every Chess Master understand why Chess is like it is? Well, probably, but imagine they don’t. Imagine Chess was not invented and were trying to come up with a game. What characteristics do we want the game to have? Perhaps we want a game between two players, a game that mimics the tactics of battlefield, a game of cunning, a game that has evolved from other games...

All these levels of abstraction are valid. They are all about the same system. However, they are at different levels of abstraction. This is one view of what successful modelling can provide, if you embrace systems thinking. Of course, there are other views of MBSE but for me the trick is to have multiple views that are all valid and all useful with no duplication. That's an art not a given.