The rich picture is a technique used to provide a visual overview of an entire business situation. Unlike other modelling techniques such as process mapping, rich pictures are not restricted to specific notation and usually show a more human characteristic of the business situation, often reflecting elements such as the culture and political issues that may be causing problems with the current situation.
Interactions and problems specific to the business can be uncovered using rich pictures which may not otherwise be uncovered using other analysis methods. It is particularly useful for documenting the human characteristics of the business, including the organisation’s culture, which may include people’s viewpoints or opinions and the flow between. Rich pictures are a good starting point in a project to put as much information down on paper in a way that makes sense to you. It can then be added to as the project progresses and can be referred back to, to ensure that you have considered everything within a project.
A rich picture is an attempt to assemble everything that might be relevant to a complex situation. You should somehow represent every observation that occurs to you or that you gleaned from your initial survey. As previously mentioned, there is no specific notation so you are able to draw any symbols or notations that are useful to depict the business situation.
Fall back on words only where ideas fail in sketching. The idea of rich pictures is that your drawing encapsulates your meaning.
You should not seek to impose any style or structure on your picture. Place the elements on your sheet wherever your instinct prompts. At a later stage you may find that the placement itself has a message for you.
If you don’t know where to begin, then the following sequence may help to get you started:
Avoid thinking in systems terms. That is, using ideas like: “Well, the situation is made up of a marketing system and a production system and a quality control system”. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the word ‘system’ implies organised interconnections and it may be precisely the absence of such organised interconnectedness that lies at the heart of the matter. Therefore, by assuming its existence (by the use of the word ‘system’) you may be missing the point. Note, however, that this does not mean that there won’t be some sort of link or connection between your graphics, as mentioned above. The second reason is that doing so will channel you down a particular line of thought, namely searching for ways of making these systems more efficient.
Make sure that your picture includes not only the factual data about the situation, but also the subjective information.
Look at the social roles and interactions within the situation, and look at the kinds of behaviour expected from people in those roles. If you see any conflicts, indicate them.
Finally, include yourself in the picture. Make sure that your roles and relationships in the situation are clear. Remember that you are not an objective observer, but someone with a set of values, beliefs and norms that colour your perceptions.
Rich pictures should be drawn out in collaboration with stakeholders and background materials. These are handy when compared to business activity models to see where a certain stakeholder’s perspective contradicts the goings-on of the actual business system.
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