Comparing Conceptual Models To The Real World
The last stage of SSM is implementing changes to the current ways of working. Although this overview of SSM covers this fairly superficially, this is probably the most complex and political stage of the analysis. The activity stages of each Conceptual Model of “ideal world” activity (one per Transformation) must be compared to real-world activities performed by human actors in the existing system of work.
At this point, we often realize that two potential transformations have been conflated in our earlier analysis. For example, when the changes for Transformation 4: No parking restrictions ➔ Parking restrictions in place and policed by parking enforcement officers were considered, it became apparent that this transformation contained activities concerned with two separate sets of activity, which achieved different purposes. The first set was concerned with identifying where parking should be regulated (because of congestion or accident locations), setting up restrictions: posting signs, painting road markings, etc., and reviewing how well these are working. The second set was concerned with policing these regulations and financing the system as a whole: ticketing parking offenders, collecting fines, and reviewing how well the system is working. So Transformation 4 was split into two sub-systems of human activity:
T4: No parking restrictions ➔ Parking restrictions in place and policed by parking enforcement officers
T4a: No parking restrictions ➔ Parking restrictions in place
T4b: No parking enforcement ➔ Parking restrictions policed & fines imposed by enforcement officers.
Each of these sub-systems was modeled using a separate Root Definition and Conceptual Model, each of the latter models was compared with real-world activity separately, to determine what changes to make to the current system of parking in the city.
Changes to real-world systems of activity must be considered by stakeholders, to determine the priority of various changes, and the feasibility of making each change. Sometimes a compromise must be sought, when changes would disrupt a core business process, or upset key groups of workers, so some changes may not be judged feasible at this point in time. Sometimes, an incremental plan must be derived, where changes are implemented one area of the business at a time, so as not to cause major disruption. For this reason, changes must be prioritized before an order of implementation can be planned.
Priorities for Change and Implementation Strategies
As with all approaches to organizational and IT systems change, there are two main planning strategies:
Incremental change, where changes in each of the various areas of impact (e.g. by functional workgroup or a single, cross-functional business process) are implemented one area at a time;
Integrative change, where changes required across business functions and areas of impact are prioritized and implemented according to strategic business needs.
Both types of change rely on prioritizing the areas of impact, one transformation (Root Definition) at a time.
For incremental change, changes will be implented one activity-system at a time, to minimize business disruptions. Changes are defined around a comparison of the “ideal world” Conceptual Model of human-activity to support that transformation and implemented in order of transformation priority. A basic way to prioritize changes is to use a weighted scorecard approach, as shown in Table 1. This starts with the strategic goals of the change initiative, scoring each system perspective against all goals, to prioritize those perspectives (system purposes) that meet most elements of the strategic goals.
Table 1. Weighted Scorecard Prioritization of Change-Impact Areas
| Strategic Organization Goals|
Relevant systems of human-activity:
|Reduce costs of local travel||Reduce traffic accidents||Provide easy, safe pedestrian access to stores||Provide safe environment for disabled ppl.||Parking system is self-funding*||Improve air quality: reduce particulate & CO2 emissions||Total Score For Each Transformation|
|T1: Cars parked in dangerous or thoughtless places cause traffic congestion ➔ Cars parked in safe places ease traffic flows||7||5||4||4||0||8||29|
|T2: Pedestrians at risk of traffic accidents ➔ Pedestrians can move around safely||2||10||10||10||0||0||32|
|T3: Free for all parking ➔ Charges for time-limited parking||0||8||8||8||10 x 2||0||44|
|T4: No parking restrictions ➔ Parking restrictions in place and policed by parking enforcement officers|
| T4a: No parking restrictions ➔|
Parking restrictions in place
| T4b: No parking enforcement ➔ |
Parking restrictions policed & fines
imposed by enforcement officers
|0||8||8||7||10 x 2||0||43|
|T5: Business access difficult ➔ Business access easy & quick||10||0||10||10||0||0||30|
|T6: Sidewalk parking presents dangers to disabled people ➔ Sidewalk parking prevented||0||8||8||10||0||0||26|
|T7: Traffic congestion causes high C02 & particulate emissions ➔ Congestion and emissions are reduced, so people want to spend more time in location||0||0||10||8||0||10||28|
For an incremental change approach, the changes required to set to the conceptual model for each transformation would be implemented before changes for additional transformations. Given the scoring for each transformation, shown in Table 1, Transformation 3 wins – mainly because the self-funding aspect is integral to the success of the scheme, so this goal is weighted double the importance of others. The ability for the system to be self-funding also depends on policing, so Transformation 4 is also high priority. The other transformations are prioritized according to how many of the goals each one supports – this is integral to using this type of prioritization method. So the order in which changes would be considered as core requirements for change depends on their being part of the conceptual model for this order of transformations
T3: Free for all parking ➔ Charges for time-limited parking
T4b: No parking enforcement ➔ Parking restrictions policed & fines imposed by enforcement officers
T2: Pedestrians at risk of traffic accidents ➔ Pedestrians can move around safely
T5: Business access difficult ➔ Business access easy & quick
T1: Cars parked in dangerous or thoughtless places cause traffic congestion ➔ Cars parked in safe places ease traffic flows
T7: Traffic congestion causes high C02 & particulate emissions ➔ Congestion and emissions are reduced, so people want to spend more time in location
T6: Sidewalk parking presents dangers to disabled people ➔ Sidewalk parking prevented
T4a: No parking restrictions ➔ Parking restrictions in place
The order of transformations always surprises me, when using a simple prioritization scheme such as this. This is mainly because we have not considered the core values that drive the changes.
Value-Based Change Prioritization
For a value-based change prioritization, the core values driving changes to the system of parking regulation are debated and used for explicit weighting of goals before transformations are prioritized. In a sense, we used a value-based prioritization when we defined that the need for the system to be self-funding should be weighted at twice the importance of other goals. But we seldom question “business priorities” as values – these are seen simply as “living in the real world.” For a realistic value-based analysis, we need to discuss the relative importance of each goal. We might weight some goals as “worth” more than 10 points, scoring some (e.g. Reduce traffic accidents, and Provide easy, safe pedestrian access to stores) out of 15 because they represent driving values of the initiative.
Debate about core values driving the initiative may lead change sponsors and stakeholders to define additional goals that reflect the underlying values left implicit in the original drive to regulate parking, for example supporting a strategic planning goal to make the city’s downtown area more pleasant and pedestrian-friendly, or supporting a financial goal to minimize the legal liability of allowing dangerous parking to go unchecked. The core idea here is debate. As a change agent, it is not your job to define priorities or weights unilaterally; they should be negotiated, debated, and weighted by the key project stakeholders. The resultant priorities may change the order in which changes associated with the conceptual model for various transformations are considered for implementation. Additional goals may even suggest additional transformations (root definitions and conceptual model analysis) that need to be implemented for the project to achieve its aims.
An integrative change planning approach would be used when changes to one area of the business will not achieve the desired effect without commensurate changes to other parts of the business work-system. Changes are first prioritized according to support for goals, then dependencies between changes are considered, to re-prioritize the order of implementation. In the Appendix pages that follow this summary of SSM, some examples are included, to provide more insight on how “ideal world” Conceptual Models are compared to the real world, and how changes are defined for implementation.