Monday, November 07, 2011

Southbeach 0.9 Released

An update to the original specification has been published by BPTrends. Information about it can be obtained from the Wiki of Southbeach Solutions, a software company that develops modelling and innovation software based on Southbeach Notation:

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Southbeach Notation Announced

Southbeach is a new visual diagramming and modeling style. It fosters integrative thinking—situations where the problem needs to be viewed from multiple perspectives and there is a need to resolve contradictions among opposing ideas to generate innovative outcomes. Southbeach is an extension of typical TRIZ and has been developed to support a variety of new applications where TRIZ methods are valuable. We believe that this notation and its methodology will have many applications in business, design and technology, including Change Management, Process Improvement and Re-engineering, and that it will appeal to management consultants and engineers, alike.

Southbeach Notation was conceived and developed by myself, Mark Burnett and Chrysogon Young.

Download the PDF specification of Southbeach containing example models

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

There are solutions in polarities

It turns out that whole books have been written about how to avoid solving problems!

In a quest to better understand organizations, Barry Johnson founded four of them: a 24 hour crisis intervention center, a community-based newspaper, a residential treatment center for addicted adults and, a manufacturing company. In the process, he received his Ph.D. in Organization Development. An independent consultant in the combined areas of management development and organizational design, Dr. Johnson has worked in both the private and public sectors in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Since 1975 has developed a set of management principles called Polarity Management.

Dr Johnson has a message for us, “The bad news is that there are a large number of unsolvable problems in your life, both at work and at home. I’m not talking about difficulties you could solve if you had more money, time, or other resources. I’m talking about difficulties that are inherently unsolvable, one you cannot solve with resources. The good news is that you can stop trying to solve them. Instead, you can improve your skills in identifying unsolvable problems and managing them well.” Johnson, B., Polarity Management, HRD Press, 1992

Is he right? Are there unsolvable problems? I don't think so. TRIZ tells us otherwise. Download the story in this comprehensive PDF.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Oliver's Garage

Here is an engaging, true story involving an eleven year old boy, a set of Lego bricks, three garages, and an innovation process. The story illustrates how, using P-TRIZ, any business process can be improved, yielding an ideal design.

We recently had our car vandalized while it was parked outside of our home. Our kids were upset, so we tried to turn a negative experience into positive learning. I asked my son Oliver, then eleven years old, to design a system that would help to protect the car from future attack. Being a boy of a certain age, he dreamt up a rather sophisticated solution, and, of course, went on to build a model of it using his extensive collection of Lego bricks. His solution consisted of a variety of deadly weapons and other military grade equipment, including laser cannons, infrared detectors commandoes, and helicopters. It was a very exciting design.

Oliver was pleased with his solution, but I felt he could do better if he used the theories of innovation. So I asked him a simple question. “Oliver,” I asked, “What are the useful and harmful features of your solution?”

Download a PDF (22 pages) for the full story and pictures of Oliver's Garage.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

TRIZ and the theories of Clayton Christensen

Will a hot new start-up succeed or fail? Which emerging technologies are consumers most likely to embrace? Does an entrant pose a legitimate threat to a leading incumbent? Which firms will come out on top? There are the questions that Clayton Christensen explores in his theories of disruptive innovation. His work seeks to explain why successful companies are often unseated by new entrants, how incumbents can protect themselves and even fight back against upstarts.

Every CEO has heard of Christensen, but you won’t find many board level managers speaking about TRIZ. TRIZ is best known as an engineering problem-solving tool. Yet the TRIZ methodology is ideally suited to the study and amplification of Christensen’s market strategy work. This is because it, like Christensen’s theories, deals in causes and effects, and the patterns generated that lead to solutions.

You can download a PDF to find out how to apply TRIZ in the boardroom.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The trouble with people

Confronted by powerful problem solving techniques like TRIZ, human relations can sometimes get in the way. This article explores some of the psychological factors and suggests one way to align stakeholders in the problem-solving process. Failure to take account of these human traits can denude systematic innovation methods of their potential.

You can download a PDF to read about a way to model problems from the perspective of multiple stakeholders, force them to be intellectually honest and then bring those perspectives together in a shared process of reconciliation, leading to effective solution directions that everyone can buy into.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Beyond SWOT and towards Change

As every process change practitioner knows, simple business tools catch on. Who hasn’t heard of a SWOT chart – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats? On the other hand, how many business people know how to perform a SWOT analysis effectively? Drawing a SWOT chart might look easy, but solving the problem it represents is far from trivial. Many of us use the simple SWOT framework and hardly ever stop to think about what the structure of the chart really means. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of considering our work done if we can get the team members to agree on what to write in the four boxes! Unfortunately, the process often ends there.

Advocates claim that a SWOT chart can help to uncover opportunities that your company is well placed to take advantage of. And by understanding your weaknesses, a company can manage and eliminate threats that would otherwise catch it unawares. By examining your company and your competitors through the lens of a SWOT, it is claimed, business leaders can craft a strategy that helps distinguish a company from competitors. But is it really that simple?

Have you ever thought about what a SWOT chart really is? It is more than just four boxes on a page. Each box relates to the other. When developing a SWOT, you are developing a statement about a problem. Think about it. Opportunities are problems. The problem is how to exploit those opportunities. Weaknesses are also problems. They must be overcome lest they prevent a company from your exploiting your its strengths in the pursuit of the opportunities. Threats are also problems, which could jeopardize capitalizing on strengths. Every SWOT chart is a conundrum, and this is why many SWOT charts sit on shelves with the problem unsolved. Rarely if ever does a company develop a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the outcome of a SWOT workshop.

Systematic innovation and problem-solving processes like P-TRIZ can move us beyond the basic SWOT to provide a comprehensive approach to mobilizing a strategy for action. To get from SWOT to process change requires a comprehensive process.

You can download a PDF to read about how to go beyond a simplistic SWOT analysis and move on towards an actionable implementation strategy using P-TRIZ.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Thinking Visually in TRIZ and Six Sigma

One of the strengths of TRIZ is that it can extend existing business methods. In this article I’ll illustrate the principle by applying TRIZ to a commonly used business tool, the Barriers & Aids chart, sometimes called a Force-Field diagram. These visual tools are popular with organizational change and Six Sigma specialists.

TRIZ is a visual technique, coupled to automated analysis. Some people make use of diagrams quite naturally, without prompting. Others would rather use a thousand words than a simple, quickly drawn, diagram. The great advantage of TRIZ models lies in their simplicity. They can be drawn by all, and are often sketched on the “‘back of napkins.”’ Yet they contain just enough semantics to generate useful output. The value of the output is sufficient to foster the continued development of the visual model.

Without something like TRIZ, it’s hard to get everyone on the same page. A set of diverse diagrams will not develop a clear picture of a problem.

You can download a PDF to read a comprehensive description of how to extend the power of your visual thinking using modern TRIZ.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

5 Whys On Steroids - Beyond Repeated Questioning to TRIZ Cause-Effect Models

Asking "Why?" is a favorite learning technique of young children, but is it a valuable problem-solving tool? By repeatedly asking why (five is a rule of thumb recommended by Creativity and Problem Solving experts) layers of symptoms can be peeled away, leading to the identification of the root cause of any problem. The claim is that very often the cause of a problem will lead you to another pertinent question.

Maybe this questioning would reveal a solution, maybe not. Every consultant knows that knowing the cause of a problem is 80% towards finding a solution. Sure sounds easy. “5 Whys” may be effective, but can it solve complex problems for which there are no obvious or known solutions? Can we realistically expect Six Sigma practitioners to rely on such a simple method?

Many of the methods that process analysts use in order to find improved process designs are out-dated given the complexity of global business today. P-TRIZ is emerging as a new method that can cope with such complexity. BPTrends reports that this "refreshing new approach to process and innovation is forcing lots of readers to rethink what they do when doing process analysis."

A complex problem is one in which there are connected, conflicting and counteracting causes and effects. Most process redesign falls into this category. A complex problem is one in which critical domain knowledge needs to be integrated during problem solving if solutions are to be revealed. Root causes are rarely linear where processes are concerned.

You can download a PDF to find out how to go beyond "5 Whys" and use powerful P-TRIZ analytic methods. Some have said it feels like "5 Whys on Steriods".

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Innovation Is - How Companies Develop Operating Systems for Innovation

Innovation isn't difficult because employees don't have good ideas. The world is awash with creativity and technological breakthroughs. Rather, myriad obstacles in the idea-to-cash process limit a company's ability to innovate. Seen as the creator of new value, innovation isn't hit-or-miss, trial-and-error lateral thinking, but a repeatable process. What is innovative about innovation today is the emerging realization that it can be achieved systematically. Only by understanding the true nature of innovation can companies strengthen their operating system for innovation.

For many global organizations, the value in their industry is shifting from perfecting the old, towards inventing the new - in processes, products and services. Today, companies are less certain that reducing development time, production costs, and product price is a sufficient strategy for corporate sustainability. Companies are wondering where the next generation of business value lies. Some are concluding that their operating system for innovation is insufficiently robust. There is growing interest in methods that can provide more reliable innovation outcomes and the realization of more significant innovations. A subtle blend of process and science is required.

You can download a PDF to find out What Innovation Is - and how companies are developing operating systems for innovation.

Do You Have Problems?

Think back to the last time you delighted your senior management team. Was it the result of systematic efforts or can your success be traced back to someone lower down in the organization who unexpectedly solved solving a key problem that was hindering progress? The problems you inherited from your predecessor are the solutions they created to counteract older problems buried deep in the history of your organization. How will you avoid leaving a similar legacy to your successor? If you must now cut further costs from IT budgets and at the same time develop valuable new business processes, there is no way out: problems associated with the existing legacy must be resolved. Can you afford to wait for flashes of genius by individual architects or for ad hoc ideas raised in skunkworks projects? Wouldn’t you prefer to be a more reliable problem solver? Isn’t problem solving your real job?

How do you feel about the problems you own? Do you bury those your team regard as insoluble? Do you believe the issues your organization faces are unique and have no known ideal solution? Do you often rely on compromise solutions rather than resolve real conflicts and so marry diverse requirements? Or are you of the view that, given sufficient time and resources, all problems that present themselves can be resolved? Perhaps you suspect answers lie somewhere ‘out there’ and that all that is necessary is to find the right book or the right consultant walking in through the door? Or would you prefer to use a reliable methodology?

You can download a PDF containing an overview of Modern TRIZ

P-TRIZ in History

The history of BPM is long and rich. It began in the 1920s and was dominated by Frederick Taylor’s theories of management science, empowered by Carl Barth’s machining slide rule technology. In a second wave, industrial processes were manually reengineered and, through a one-time activity, cast in concrete in the bowels of today’s packaged enterprise applications technology. In a third wave of BPM, executable digitized processes are now freed from their castings as engrained software to re-emerge as a flexible new form of process data. An era of process manufacturing has been ushered in. With these new capabilities at hand, attention is turning once again towards process innovation.

Each era of BPM has added new capabilities to the last. For example, BPM systems enable process architects to readily deploy creative new process designs, side-steppingsidestepping time and resource intensive implementation projects of the past that so denuded and distorted reengineering of its creative potential. Now, P-TRIZ is an emerging method that builds on the shoulders of those giants.

P-TRIZ is the application of modern TRIZ towards business process improvement, innovation, and transformation. Coupled to BPM methods, it provides the engineering discipline that amplifies the creativity of those who seek to re-design processes.

P-TRIZ can be considered an application of modern TRIZ. P-TRIZ will add to the body of worldwide TRIZ knowledge, including:

* Specific vocabularies for a consistent modeling of processes using TRIZ
* TRIZ solution patterns that apply specifically to processes
* Bindings between TRIZ modeling constructs and accepted process modeling in languages and notations
* Evolutionary trends observed as processes tend towards Ideality
* Workshop and project practices that facilitate the practical and efficient use of TRIZ in a “commerce time” reengineering context
* A small number of extensions to the standard modern TRIZ notation. The objective is to enrich TRIZ formulation in support of Business Process and Enterprise Architecture Innovation
* Unexpected or unusual process designs may be generated by P-TRIZ

You can download a PDF about P-TRIZ and its position in the field of BPM, which explains how it binds to existing intellectual property, including process models.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

P-TRIZ Formulation

While workflow, rules engines and BPM systems are proving effective at introducing new processes, the design of such processes has to be determined before they can be deployed – with or without new technology. That’s where P-TRIZ can help.

In P-TRIZ, every process model (swimlane model, BPMN diagram etc.) can be accompanied by one or more corresponding process innovation models. Where the swimlane model describes how the process should execute, the process innovation model describes how the process can be improved or re-invented.

In my second column I show how a P-TRIZ model can be used to generate an exhaustive list of re-design options. This first step in P-TRIZ is called formation.

You can download a PDF about P-TRIZ formulation.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Introducing P-TRIZ

Initially published at, here is a new idea that will be of use to anyone documenting, analyzing or re-designing business processes.

Innovation is the process by which new commercial concepts—products, services, processes—are brought into being, in order to generate business. It requires uncontrollable creativity positioned side-by-side with disciplined business practice. Most companies find it tremendously difficult. Innovation, the goal of creating new top-line value, is the antithesis of unreliable, hit-and-miss, trial-and-error, psychological means of lateral thinking and brainstorming. Rather, to satisfy shareholders, innovation must be repeatable, procedural and algorithmic. Making effective progress requires much more than inspiration.

Taking a creative or innovative idea and turning it into cash is an effort that involves almost every part of a company. The new competitive battlefield is not the technology behind the engine or the air conditioner but the design, the warranty, the service deal, the image and the finance package. In this environment, typified by General Motor’s advertising slogan ‘a car full of ideas’, you can hardly separate the product from the service and all services are driven by processes. The challenge in innovation today is thinking about and managing this extremely broad set of interrelated activities as a unified process. Those who model, re-design and deploy significant new business processes in support of innovation also need a process. I call that process P-TRIZ.

Now, in addition to the plethora of existing management strategies for adaptation and survival, there is something that may be a way of thinking, a set of tools, a methodology, a process, a theory or even possibly a deep science, but which may be gradually shaping up as ‘the next big thing.’ TRIZ, pronounced ‘trees’, is an acronym for the Russian words that translate as ‘the theory of inventive problem solving.’

From its roots in patent analysis in the 1950s, TRIZ has grown and is today an impressive and useful body of work that is being applied by leading organizations in North America, Europe and Asia. Many household name Fortune 500 firms use TRIZ today, but the methodology is far from a household name. Some claim it will soon take its place alongside Six Sigma as the flip side to Quality. Where Six Sigma perfects the known, methods such as Design for Six Sigma, and TRIZ, create the new. And just as Six Sigma has evolved from its roots in product tolerance and quality control toward helping organizations meet business goals more reliably, so too TRIZ is evolving from its roots in engineering to solve a much wider array of business problems. One of those problems is process re-design.

The potential for a reliable and general-purpose innovation methodology that can be applied to processes has never been greater. In a 2003 Communication on Innovation Policy, Erkki Liikanen, EU Commissioner for enterprise and the information society, wrote: “Innovation is … a multi-dimensional concept, which goes beyond technological innovation to encompass … new means of distribution, marketing or design. Innovation is thus not only limited to high tech sectors of the economy, but is rather an omnipresent driver for growth.” Companies that recognize this will not define innovation as owned by one part of the organization or applying only to those working in leading-edge R&D. Rather; they will pursue innovation as a broad business-led approach furthering commercial goals. Every aspect of how an organization operates is subject to innovation— administrative innovations, marketing innovations, financial innovations, design innovations, manufacturing innovations, service concept innovations and human resource management innovations. These process innovations are echoes of the reengineering mantra of the early 90s.

In the Third Wave of BPM, creative process design has been given a new path to execution in the form of business process management (BPM) systems. These are IT tools that bring work processes to life in the enterprise. Such tools have transformed our ability to visualize, develop and deploy enterprise applications for much needed processes. BPM software provides many benefits to both process owners and to IT developers and this is well documented in case studies. One documented benefit is a reduced process design to deployment time and resource cost. Yet BPM tools are no panacea. A BPM system is no substitute for human creativity.

BPM deployment tools can only provide a fast-track to results once the process has been re-designed. Re-designing any process beyond minor optimization is still very much a creative human act. “Real time” process dashboards may help companies understand current process performance, but identifying and exploring process re-design options to enhance performance is an art. Process simulation can be an aid to thinking, but before a new process can be simulated a new process design is needed. There’s currently no way around it, BPM solutions do little to reduce the process discovery to re-design thinking time and resource cost. To help solve that problem, we must look towards innovation methods. P-TRIZ can help, and refers to a modern version of TRIZ adapted for process work and with the objective of process re-invention.

You can also download a PDF of Introducing P-TRIZ.