Tag Archives: systems thinking

Reflecting Back On Choluteca Bridge!

I have personally never been to Honduras , but there is a bridge on Choluteca river ( or was ) by the name of Choluteca in Honduras , Central America which has caught lot of attention since last year as COVID started to rage wildly across the globe.

source – google

The image shows a 484-metre-long bridge on the river Choluteca located in Honduras, Central America. In 1996, the government had some brilliant architectural minds construct the bridge to withstand storms and hurricanes. Two years later, Atlantic’s second-deadliest hurricane struck Central America. Hurricane Mitch caused over 11,000 fatalities in Central America, 7,000 in Honduras alone. There were 75 inches of rain in four days, which was an equivalent of what the country would normally receive in six months. The Bridge stayed put and maintained its pride. While the Hurricane wiped away roads and wrecked bridges, The Choluteca Bridge emerged as the last-bridge-standing, that too in an impeccable condition.

Ok so what is the issue here ?

  • The hurricane swept away the roads leading to the bridge and rendered them as good as nonexistent!
  • Heavy rains caused the Choluteca river to change its course, creating new channel which was then flowing parallel to the bridge!

Therefore, the bridge lost its initial purpose. It then became a ‘bridge to nowhere’ , only to be connected back to highway around 2003.

For me whenever I look at the above , and reflect , I find multiple thoughts that cross my mind and different readings that I took from following books :

Both these books have many elements that will help you resonate on two aspects in simple terms

  • Uncertainty is the name of the game . a year back we talked about 5 year plans and couple of years back did strategic offsite huddles to frame our strategy but now planomics can only be as good as long it survives the next moment ! From Developed to Developing .. nobody is prepared enough to handle current COVID crisis. We are all reacting in moment to take us farther than what we are today !
  • Systems Thinking is evermore important skill to have in order to create better viewport of the solution we may have in mind ! Events like COVID require a systems level thinking to see through challenges that create better feedback loops and broad spectrum solution design !

I did like to leave my readers with the thought below . See it in above context . We all need to become better at saving time and managing in constraints !

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. – George S. Patton

Be The Thinker In System

In the modern world knowing only one thing does not suffice and it holds true across the board. The area in product management seems to become the biggest testimony to this aspect. If you want to be a strategic contributor as a product manager then in that case it becomes important that one should first become the thinker in system. I recommend everybody taking this path to definitely add to your reading list the following book : Think In Systems  by Donella H. Meadows

Coming back to the main point , what I did like to reflect here is that today, you can’t host your product on one platform. Usually, your product lives on multiple platforms or even more the platform itself is an net-sum product suite —your website, partner API , connecting systems etc.  Product managers need the experience and know-how to manage one product and features across all platforms. There’s whole art and science of keeping your product aligned and synced across diverse platforms.

One needs to be build understanding by observing and mapping the System, for example using the well-known method of User Journey Mapping.  They’re valuable as a way to describe your understanding of a system, and are best applied in collaboration with your critical stakeholders. The value of mapping and modelling the systems you’re trying to influence is that it helps you to spot the trends and patterns within that system.

Focus on following aspects:

Flow

What information is shown to who, how is that information shown, and who can manipulate information.

Rules

What governs the systems and how it operates. The bounded and unbounded context. The macro effects on the system.

Mindset

Changing behavior is not a joke but encouraging a new approach or adoption is an important point that needs to be kept in mind of a product manager to be a strategic thinker.

How do you organize the development of the product to match the way users consume it split up across different experiences?