Monday, July 5, 2010

Systems Thinking in the Development of Strategy Against Somali Piracy

While currently a Technical Instructor of System Dynamics at MIT, I am actively searching for a position in which I could use System Dynamics as a tool to develop innovative solutions to business, policy, technology assessment, strategy, and organizational challenges.

An example of the innovative possibilities of a systems thinking approach to contemporary problems can be seen in a (3) month team project for the MIT course ESD.33 - Systems Engineering, during the Summer of 2009.

My MIT SDM team project's development of an effective international policy to resolve Somali piracy in the Gulf of Aden is an example of how individuals from a variety of backgrounds are able to apply system thinking to solve many of the problems associated with complex systems that are becoming more prevalent over time.

The ESD.33 project team members were:
  • Charles Atencio, SDM 2009
  • Mario Montoya, SDM 2009
  • Vijan Bhaumik, SDM 2009
  • Clayton Kopp, SDM 2008
  • CDR Doug Schofield, USCG, SDM 2009
The System Engineering V-model was used as a framework in the application of the following development tools:
  • System Dynamics (SD) causal loop diagrams to identify stakeholder needs, problem context, and solution objectives.
Master System Dynamics Causal Loop Diagram (click the image for a full-size view)
    • The simplified causal loop diagram identified (8) major causal loops:
      • Internal Somalia Causal Loops
        • Economy / Infrastructure (Reinforcing)
        • Government Stability (Reinforcing)
        • Tourism (Reinforcing)
        • Pirate Gang Insurgency (Reinforcing)
        • Pirate Gang Funding (Reinforcing)
      • External Somalia Causal Loops
        • Shipping Costs (Balancing)
        • Shipping Reliability (Balancing)
        • Supply Chain Stability (Balancing)
        • Naval Operations (Balancing)
        • Naval Costs (Balancing)
  • Object Process Methodology (OPM) to architect requirements.
    • (4) critical operands and (4) solution neutral functions.
    • (9) system function attributes leading to (10) concept evaluation criteria.
  • Quality Function Deployment (QFD) to prioritize customer requirements.
  • Pugh Concept Selection to iteratively determine the best solution concepts.
    • Pugh analysis round one entailed (20) possible policies narrowed to (4).
    • Pugh analysis round two entailed (4) policies narrowed to (1) short term and (1) long term policy.
      • Short Term Policy - establishment/enforcement of high-seas safe shipping corridors.
      • Long-Term Policy - Somali internal law enforcement, judiciary, and infrastructure reconstruction.
  • Cost Benefit and Risk Analysis to determine best solution implementation.
  • Verification and Risk Mitigation to verify solution design to requirements and solution robustness.
 Project Presentation Poster (click the image for a full-size view)

Our Policy Recommendations were as follows:
  • Short Term (1-5 years approx)
    • Adoption of United Nations safe shipping corridor resolution within (1) year.
    • Establishment of United Nations naval coalition to provide naval ships and crews for enforcement and protection of corridor.
    • Establishment of naval coalition command and control active tracking system for ships within the corridor.
    • Increase effectiveness of naval task forces by decreasing assigned patrol area.
  • Long Term (5+ years approx)
    • Establish United Nations committee to develop economic and infrastructure development plan in Bosasso, Somalia.
    • Establish United Nation resolution to instate peacekeeping ground forces in Somalia, beginning in Bossaso.
    • Promote irrigation/agriculture as immediate industrial alternatives to piracy.
    • Promote tourism in Bosasso as a safe coastal city.
    • Eventual leveraging of natural gas resources to fund an active developing economy.
Our Project Takeaways were:
  • Traditional product development tools are difficult to use in developing policy.
  • Group deliberation is key to develop the most comprehensive policies.
  • Iterative Pugh comparisons are crucial to develop optimal policies.
  • Short term policies address symptoms, not root causes and are not sustainable.
  • Long term policies should address root causes. While they may initially be ineffective, they are sustainable in the long term.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, if you believe these tools and others like it may be useful in your organization, perhaps I and my colleagues in MIT SDM are useful individuals for your team.