What can Enterprise Architecture learn from Systems Thinking?


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My presentation to the Open Group London conference, October 2013

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  • http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/kandinsky-swinging-t02344
  • http://www.fertomniavirtus.com/vassily-kandinsky/
  • http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/kandinsky-swinging-t02344http://www.fertomniavirtus.com/vassily-kandinsky/
  • http://pubs.opengroup.org/architecture/togaf9-doc/arch/chap32.html
  • What can Enterprise Architecture learn from Systems Thinking?

    1. 1. What can Enterprise Architecture learn from Systems Thinking? Richard Veryard Open Group Conference London October 2013
    2. 2. Preamble 1 4 Who Am I?
    3. 3. Preamble 2 Describing both EA and ST as practices A body of knowledge A community of practitioners A discourse (way of talking) Practice A professional service 5 A tool or instrument for achieving some defined goals.
    4. 4. Preamble 3 On the Unreliability of Labels • Labels like EA and ST are almost impossible to pin down. People waste much effort squabbling about definitions. Extreme precision doesn’t always make any sense. • In this talk, I shall refer to “Enterprise Architecture” and “Systems Thinking” as if these were reasonably well-defined (but possibly overlapping) regions of practice. • There are many different schools of EA and ST, and the internet is awash with squabbles between rival schools. (Especially on Linked-In). • There is also a significant gap between what people think practitioners OUGHT to be doing and what practitioners ACTUALLY DO. • So please take my use of the labels “Enterprise Architecture” and “Systems Thinking” with caution. 7
    5. 5. Schools of EA • Modernist, Engineering (James Martin, John Zachman, TOGAF) • Classical, NeoClassical (Christopher Alexander) • Baroque, Complexity, H ybrid (Nick Gall) • Post-Modern (VPEC-T) • Pragmatic (CapabilityLed Planning) 8
    6. 6. Schools of Systems Thinking • Systems Dynamics (Forrester, Meadows) • Soft Systems Methodology (Checkland) • Quality and Process (Deming, Seddon) • Cybernetics (Beer) • Organic (Bateson, Maturana) • Ethical (Vickers, Churchman) with apologies to Kandinsky 9
    7. 7. Is that it? “But that’s not what I call systems thinking!” “But that’s not what enterprise architects really do!” 10
    8. 8. Three Questions • What do EA and ST have in common? – Common Goals? – Common Ground? – Shared Frustrations? • What can EA and ST learn from each other? – Stance – Style • What opportunities are there for practical collaboration between EA and ST? 12
    9. 9. Shared Frustrations who is WE? • We can clearly see some major problems with the structure and behaviour of large enterprises and public sector ecosystems. • We can also see why current initiatives are likely to fail. • But the people in charge of these systems don’t appreciate the valuable contribution we could make. 13 • We are often unable to get access to working at “the right level”. • We are forced to work on fragments of the problem rather than the whole.
    10. 10. Common Self-Belief • “We are better than anyone else at abstraction and generalization.” • “We are better than anyone else at big picture, joined-up thinking.” 14 • Abstraction  ungrounded metaspeculation? • Big picture thinking  infinite escalation.
    11. 11. Common Ground Similarities Enterprise architecture and systems thinking share some important characteristics. • Overlapping range of concepts and techniques for tackling difficult business problems. • Practitioners face similar challenges when working with large and complex business organizations and ecosystems, • Similar difficulties and frustrations in trying to engage stakeholders in joined-up “big picture” thinking. 15 Differences There are also some significant differences, which create a real opportunity for collaboration and exchange. • Different techniques • Different perspective • Different strengths
    12. 12. Are EA and ST the same thing? • We have a concept of “system”. • We consider the whole enterprise “as a system”. • We consider human activity systems as well as mechanical systems (such as software). • We are good at abstraction and generalization. • We are good at “big picture”, joined-up thinking. BUT 16 A human icon makes a system into a human system!
    13. 13. What does “enterprise-as-a-system” mean? • Enterprise as an open or closed system? • Enterprise as a human activity or sociotechnical system? • Enterprise as a dynamic, complex adaptive or viable system? 17 What is an enterprise? Are humans inside or outside the system? Which notion of dynamic? Which notion of complexity?
    14. 14. Different Notions of System? ST (sometimes) EA (sometimes) • “System” is part of the problem • “System” is part of the solution space. space. • We try to understand the • We explore why the existing structure and behaviour of solutions aren’t performing complex systems. (AS-IS). • We then intervene to improve • We create blueprints for their structure and behaviour. improved solutions (TO-BE) Both EA and ST practitioners should be alert to the possibility that different people may use words in different ways. 18
    15. 15. Different Notions of System Thinking? And what about third-order cybernetics? First Order Cybernetics • Systems thinking gives us a model of what is going on … • … from the viewpoint of a neutral and all-seeing observer.  19 What things should we be looking at? (“Ontology”) Second Order Cybernetics • Systems thinking helps us to make sense of what is going on … • … from the viewpoint of an engaged participant.  How we can know about these things? (“Epistemology”)
    16. 16. One EA School – Capability-Led Planning 21
    17. 17. Asset-Specificity Delegating a capability always introduces an additional capability – namely governance. outsourced services noncore procurement of … shared services procurement of green coffee beans core …green coffee beans assetspecific services Decomposing a capability into smaller capabilities always introduces an additional capability – namely that of coordinating multiple capabilities to produce coherent outcomes. 22
    18. 18. Simple Capability Dependency (Weak) Actual Supply Procurement Logistics Agreed Supply 23 What is the nature of this dependency? Tight/loose coupling? Procurement Negotiation Required Supply
    19. 19. Three Levels of Capability Capability Type of Risk Type of Error (Root-Cause Analysis) Pricing Typical Service Type Execution Capability Operation / Transaction Performance Risk A component service will not work as specified Error of Execution The failure of a planned action to be completed as specified Input-Based Factory Service Coordination & Control Capability First-Order Learning Composition Risk The component services will not work together as a whole as intended Error of Planning The use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim OutputBased Information Mapping Service Strategic Capability 24 Scope SecondOrder Learning Implementation Risk The proposition will not work in its context-of-use Error of Intention The supplier adopting an aim that is unwanted by the user ValueBased Business Management Service
    20. 20. Issues Algebra • Composition • Decomposition Scope • Escalation • Regression Whole / Part Relationship • Holism • Reductionism 25
    21. 21. Warning of the doorknob - escalation Design a doorknob Is a door the best way of controlling access to your office? 27 Do you really need a traditional office with four walls? … Source J.P. Eberhard Is a doorknob the best way of opening and closing a door? Is capitalist democracy the best way to organize our economy?
    22. 22. Warning of the doorknob - regression Design a doorknob Technologies for fitting metal objects to hands. 28 Metallurgy Atomic physics Source J.P. Eberhard Study the shape of a man’s hand Subatomic physics
    23. 23. Different Stance? (tongue in cheek) Based on: Albert Hirschman ST as realist, reactionary? EA as progressive, visionary? • Purposive action to improve some feature of the political, social, or economic order may only serve to exacerbate the condition one wishes to remedy. ("perversity thesis"). • Attempts at social transformation are often unavailing, that they will simply fail to "make a dent." ("futility thesis") • The cost of the proposed change or reform is often too high, especially if it endangers some previous, precious accomplishment. ("jeopardy thesis") • Urgent action is necessary to avoid imminent danger ("The Imminent Danger") • All reforms work together and reinforce each other, rather than being competing ("The Synergy Illusion") • History Is on Our Side. 29
    24. 24. Why New Systems Don’t Work (Possibly) Errors of Execution • Passive adoption (resistance) • Poor implementation 30 Errors of Planning • System as designed system in use • Poor choice of technology (technology fetish) Errors of Intention • Changing requirements • Local global • Short-term longer-term • User customer
    25. 25. Why Old Systems Don’t Work (Possibly) • Complexity • Changing requirements • Attempts to eliminate complexity • Hidden agenda • Cybernetic Entropy • Enterprise Ferality – management controls becoming less effective over time 31 – POSIWID (Stafford Beer) – “an autocatalytic phenomenon that is selfperpetuating” (Steve Brewis)
    26. 26. Collaboration • Ability of large teams to • Different people address large and working on different complex problems scales – EA – ST – EA + ST – One scale isn’t automatically better than any other scale • Multiple viewpoints and • Interoperability between different perspectives scales and viewpoints – ISO 42010 – Lenscraft 32 Compare and contrast how EAs work in teams with how STs work in teams?
    27. 27. References • C. West Churchman, The Systems Approach and its Enemies (1979) • J.P. Eberhard, “We Ought to Know the Difference” in Gary T. Moore (ed) Emerging Methods in Environmental Design and Planning (MIT Press, 1970) pp 364-365 • John Gøtze and Anders Jensen-Waud (eds), Beyond Alignment: Applying Systems Thinking in Architecting Enterprises (College Publications 2013) • Albert Hirschman, The Rhetoric of Reaction (1991) • Richard Sennett, Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation (2012) • Richard Veryard, Towards Next Practice Enterprise Architecture (LeanPub 2013) • Geoffrey Vickers, Human Systems are Different (1983) 33
    28. 28. Contacts www.replyltd.co.uk. r.veryard@replyltd.co.uk http://twitter.com/richardveryard 34