The building of electric utilities started in the Military era and continues well into the Engineering era.
The dominating paradigm for engineers and designers is Reductionism where “the whole is equal to the sum of its parts”. You can take something apart, work on a component, and put it back together again. Reductionism has been a highly successful methodology for over 400 years. However, in the last 40 years we have discovered its limits and usefulness. Monica Anderson explains how the sciences have expanded beyond Reductionism to include Holism. Her entire presentation can be seen at: http://vimeo.com/8937949.
As an example of thinking in the wrong paradigm, the “voice of the customer” is typically handled by the Customer Services or Public Relations department in an utility. Very rarely do silo’d Engineering departments engage customers to obtain feedback and hear their concerns. While utilities acknowledge the customer voice, many do not understand how resistive and disruptive customer behaviour can be and how they can impact other agents in the CAS.
What was a simple process in past eras to upgrade meters can now create a customer revolt and force some utilities to reluctantly offer an opt-out program to retain old analog meters. It’s a different game, a different world. Now we must go beyond Reductionism and introduce a new paradigm based on Complexity & Cognition.
A sense-making model that helps us to understand a Complex Adaptive System is the Cynefin Framework. This model combines the “ordered side” of Reductionism with the “unordered side” of Complexity and Chaos. It encompasses cause & effect relationships that can vary from obvious to no way to determine.