My good friend Nick Duffill has done something interesting with my recent article on Outcome Relationship Models in his post Beyond Crayons: Turning systems models into projects.
In brief, what Nick has done has been to convert my example into his Funnel Timeline technique using MindManager. It’s interesting because for some, the systems thinking approach I presented in the Outcome Relationship Model (ORM) lacks enough structure and uni-directional flow. With the Project Funnel Timeline that Nick has perfected there is more structure, a clear centre of focus and a left-to-right flow.
I’m reminded of an experience I had in coaching one group in MSP a few months ago in London. We introduce the ORM as early as the afternoon of Day 1 of the learning programme and bring in the more linear Benefits Model in the morning of Day 4. (Benefits realisation is far too central a topic in managing programmes to reduce it to a single session.) Several in the group expressed dissatisfaction with ORM, complaining that their ‘result’ from the workshop looked too messy, confusing and unresolved. To my mind, these were the comments of left-hemisphere directed thinkers. There was real creativity in their work, but they wanted to resolve the tension to a linear plan too soon. One delegate even disliked the convention of ‘curvey’ lines, preferring more rigid straight lines(!).
When we made the ‘transformation’ of our ORM to the more structured, linear Benefits Model, where the entities are clearly classified, there was palpable relief among the group. Their desire for structure and linearity was appeased. We made a joke of it, but really, to explore creativity to any extent, we must allow R-directed thinking, as Daniel Pink would put it, to run its course for a little while.
Yes, I think both techniques have their merits, but let’s allow ourselves to live in the soft, divergent world of systems thinking a little while before we leap to resolving these causal links into more structured approaches. I believe this is particularly important when we are working towards the realisation of benefits and trying to model the dependencies between them, and with their enabling projects.