Timelines are very useful for several reasons
All systems are dynamic, and static network diagrams have one big drawback: they do not describe the dynamics of the system properly. Therefore, timelines are needed as a central part of GIGA-mapping.
Timelines are also very useful for short workshops where there will be unstructured conversations. They have been used extensively by Andreas Wettre, a leadership consultant who is a long-term collaborator in SOD. He uses this approach with the leaders of companies and organizations who are immersed in change processes. In such processes, the misalignment of perceptions of their shared organization is often a problem that hinders good communication.
Timelines provide a natural sorting device that allows for conversations to jump in a very flexible way back and forth along the timeline. It makes it possible to have open-ended, unstructured and emergency meetings that still are focussed and that generate a better overall shared understanding.
Timelines are not only good for describing processes, but also for designing and projecting possible futures. They also can serve as a seamless bridge to building scenarios and narratives (storytelling). These stages are needed for systems-oriented design to develop new interventions and innovations and to imagine how they might work. This is also crucial for preparing the system for extreme scenarios to test the system’s resilience and to hopefully avoid counterintuitive and unwanted effects from the system change. In systems theory, the behaviour of the counterintuitive system is a well-known problem. As designers, we need to avoid solving problems just to create new ones.
In the following, we will present some timelines and scenarios. There is a blurred distinction between timelines that are descriptive, timelines that are generative and future-oriented and scenarios in general.
Complex timeline showing the situation of caregivers
(Heringstad and Sælensminde 2014)
A swimlane diagram is good for sorting processes over time. (Marius Stenersen USN 2022)
Map describing typical the everyday life of today’s elderly people
Project timeline derived from Gantt diagram
The timeline shows research projects at the institute of design AHO. The map is both descriptive – looking back – and prescriptive – looking forward –for planning purposes.