Using physical and operational boundaries is a common way to frame problems. Using the same approach for establishing problem boundaries is an excellent way to frame strategic communications. Framing the problem is also the first step in effective communication using the FINESSE approach for problems with high levels of complexity and uncertainty,
Problem framing usually consists of identifying a failure or desired outcome, identifying the measures associated with that failure or desired outcome, categorizing contributing factors, and placing boundaries around the issue to make resolution more manageable. The problem frame is frequently developed in a collaborative, social-type setting.
What is a Boundary?
Systems engineers use systems boundaries to distinguish between a system and its surrounding environment. A system is a collection of interrelated parts that produce an outcome that the parts cannot produce by themselves.
Geospatial (physical) boundaries are a distinction that marks the difference between a system and its physical environment.
Operational boundaries are a distinction that marks the difference between a system and its operating environment.
Example: Industrial Plant
The fence line is usually assumed to be the geospatial boundary for an industrial plant. The operating boundary for an industrial plant could be larger and include aspects of its supply chain or industrial processes that occur at other facilities prior to receipt by the main plant.
Example: Purchasing System
The geospatial boundary could be the accounting office where the purchases are ordered or the physical complex where the orders are made and received. The operational boundary could include offsite computer systems, cloud storage of data, and the supply chain.
Example: Entertainment Events
The geospatial boundary could include a stage or an athletic field but could include the arena and its parking. The operating system could include the airports, hotels, and supporting operations for the entertainer or team.
Developing System Boundaries
System boundaries are in the eye of the beholder, which is something shared with establishing frames for strategic communications. Establishing boundaries and frames is also best done as a team and documented for future reference.
Applying It with FINESSE
Establishing geospatial and operational boundaries is a viable technique for problem framing and strategic communication framing. It is sometimes tricky for the general audience because systems and boundaries are not common concepts. Most technical professionals understand the concept. For me, establishing boundaries is a natural way to frame. After all, physical systems, information systems, and communication systems all share the common denominator of being systems.
The F in FINESSE stands for Frame.
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