Managing Knowledge through Systems Visioneering

Even wordsmiths like Amanda Andrei know that knowledge sharing unequivocally requires that words and pictures work together to get anything valuable done. Visualization and the training that makes it possible become more valuable every day. All of the posts for April touch on how to help our sponsors see their data so that they can make the right decisions. Don’t stop here—keep clicking! —Editor

Author: Amanda L. Andrei

At its heart, Systems Visioneering is about listening. MITRE employees start by learning and practicing Systems Visioneering techniques in a MITRE Institute class. A typical in-person class guides participants through four hour-long collaborative sessions where they take pen to paper and sticky notes to canvas in order to physically draw, map, and voice the complex problems of their sponsors or teams. This sort of structured and artistic brainstorming expands participants’ abilities to think creatively, rapidly identify a sponsor’s needs, and capture those needs with simple yet powerful techniques—saving MITRE’s sponsors valuable time, energy, and money. Task leads and team members take these techniques to the MITRE sponsors, collaborating with the sponsors to solve their complex problems. Problem solving starts with listening and follows with translating the input into a new medium. A task lead listens to the sponsor’s needs and then interprets them into a medium where the task lead and sponsor can look at (or listen to) the same story. For instance, a task lead may construct storyboards, fill out a Business Model Canvas, interview stakeholders and narrate a story, or draw a map of the problem space.

Do the MITRE team members and sponsor see (or hear) the same thing? If they do, the sponsor can take these artifacts back to their team and clarify their process. If not, the task lead iterates on the process, continuing to draw or map out the input from the sponsor until the vision is achieved. As French artist Edgar Degas said, “Drawing is not what one sees, but what one can make others see.”

In addition to making others see, Systems Visioneering is also about making others hear. Jeff Brooke, a principal adviser in MITRE’s Human and Organizational Systems department, found that the techniques he learned in Systems Visioneering, particularly interviewing, allowed him to summarize and visualize his sponsor’s roles on a single page. This was a new organization whose role was misunderstood in the agency. Listening to stakeholders, using their own words, and recreating those words in a visual and written format greatly cleared up organizational issues and improved collaboration efforts.

“People are far more expressive and accurate in conversation,” Brooke noted.

MITRE is known for its rigorous scientific research, analysis, and systems engineering methodologies. When Systems Visioneering is added to the mix, we can powerfully, holistically, and creatively address our sponsors’ needs and hard problems. We can listen closely, visualize and brainstorm, and define the problem space in ways that everyone can understand. How do you listen alongside your customer?  

© 2016 The MITRE Corporation. All rights reserved.Approved for public release; distribution unlimited Case Number 16-0639. 

Mar 28, 2016

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