Saturday, 15 October 2016

SIAM a Complex Adaptive System

Establishing a successful SIAM capability requires the co-ordination of a multiple dimensions including People, Organisations, Processes, Suppliers, Governance, Contracts, Incentives and Beliefs.

As such, a SIAM capability could almost define the Wikipedia entry for a Complex Adaptive System. Any change to the system will set off a chain of events as the component parts of the system react to the initial change.  This adaptive nature creates particular challenges to designing and establishing a SIAM capability, as many of the outcomes from a change are unpredictable, and could include unintended consequences, emergent phenomena and perverse incentives.
Fortunately, much progress has been made over the last thirty years in defining how best to deal with Complex Adaptive systems and these techniques must now be harnessed and applied to the SIAM domain. 
The most successful interventions take a whole system approach and avoid overly engineered up-front design and simplistic, reductive thinking.
In order to enable an effective SIAM operating as a complex adaptive system, organisations should:
  • Apply principle-based rather than prescriptive design patterns
  • Use external reference models to frame and test a design, but accept that the only ‘right answer’ is the one that builds in the organisational context, including current state
  • Be able to sense weak signals, interpret in context and respond early
  • Course correct continuously and be comfortable doing so
  • Deliver change as a series of small interventions that are treated as experiments and then scaled rapidly when evidence of success is established
  • Maintain a Decision Framework that allows the rationale for a decision to be understood – if a decision is reversed it may not have been a wrong decision, just the best decision that could be made with imperfect data
  • Make simple decisions as soon as it can; and complex decisions as late as it dare
  • Be on guard for the homeostatic tendency of the system. Without careful monitoring and active interventions, the system will revert to its previous state regardless
  • Ensure that incentives are fully aligned and understood across the system

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