Wednesday 10 February 2016

Systems thinking - The Skydiving analogy

I heard an interesting comment recently about how to ensure that engineers have “enough room to breathe”. The danger, of course, is that if you specify things at the wrong level, over specify things, or simply specify things that you don’t have a right to specify, then you can easily end up with contention. Conversely, a perfect world lives in harmony.

Copyright: <a href=''>joggiebotma / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Engaging an SysML modeling at multiple levels in an organization is a bit like skydiving. When you first jump out of the aircraft everything is very abstract. You can see areas of blue (sea) and green/brown (land). Unless you have a life-raft you probably will make a decision to go for the green/brown. Of course, there’s also the white areas of uncertainty (the clouds). As you get closer to the ground, the level of abstraction changes. The ground and sea distinction still holds but you can now see field boundaries, rivers, and tree-lines. You're through the clouds so things are looking a little clearer as well but you're not home and dry yet. As you get closer to the ground, the level of abstraction changes again. You’re now closing in on the field you picked for landing; its soft and hard bits, the support vehicle that's taking you home, and herd of Bullocks that you weren’t anticipating. All these levels are valid, of course, as they exist at the same time. They’re in harmony because they’re at different levels of abstraction just like a good MBSE/SysML multi-level system hierarchy. Abstraction enables you to understand the big picture, and different teams have precision over the aspects that they own. The perfect world lives in harmony.

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