Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture and Systems Thinking


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Notes by Richard Veryard for the EAST meeting in London on June 14th 2013

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  • Systems Thinking is required both for good architect and for good engineer. And it is required anyone who wants a well to do something more complicated than leg of a stool. It is absolutely a 'common tool'. Unfortunately, in the area of manmade systems creation many are of the opinion that the 'systems thinking' and 'systems approach' are the synonyms for 'systems engineering'... or systems thinking begin to consider as unique feature only of the activities that the ISO calls Systems Engineering, and on the Russian inaccurately translated as 'ГОСТ Р ... Системная инженерия' instead of right words 'Инженерия систем'.
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  • Steve will talk about bringing together the reductionist paradigm of 'functional' architecture with the systemic paradigm of systems thinking, illustrating this with the modelling work he has been doing at BTJohn will talk about his experience in a large government organizationRichard will explore some practical dilemmas of systems thinking, and how to escape the dangers of analysis-paralysis.Patrick and Lucy will report on preliminary developments in the SCiO EAST working group, and explore a practical approach for combining EA and ST concepts and tools.
  • Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture and Systems Thinking

    1. 1. RICHARD VERYARDEAST Perspectives June 2013Perspectives onEnterprise Architectureand Systems Thinking
    2. 2. Agenda9:30 Welcome, introduction, objectivesand groundrules10:00 Common elements of EA andST – modelling Beyond Function (Steve Brewis) Followed by discussion and coffeebreak11:30 Complementary elements ofEA and ST EA is broken - how ST can help(John Holland) Beyond systems (Richard Veryard) Followed by discussion and lunch14:00 Practical Collaboration An opportunity to share realproblems from real organizations. Towards an EAST methodology(Patrick Hoverstadt and Lucy Loh) Followed by discussion and tea-break16:15 Further discussion, wrap-upand next steps Facilitated by Sally Bean andJiriLudvik.And afterwards in the bar opposite#EASTmeeting
    3. 3. Shared Frustrations We can clearly see some majorproblems with the structure andbehaviour of large enterprisesand public sector ecosystems. We can also see why currentinitiatives are likely to fail. But the people in charge ofthese systems don’t appreciatethe valuable contribution wecould make. We are often unable toget access to working at“the right level”. We are forced to workon fragments of theproblem rather thanthe whole.who is WE?
    4. 4. Audience1. Those who are blithely ignorant of the uncertainties.2. Those who recognize the uncertainties but haven’t thetime to do anything about them; they’ve got to get on withthe job.3. Those who are attempting to shed light on the designprocess and on methods for realistically handlingthese uncertainties.Source J.P. Eberhardwho is WE?
    5. 5. Many Schools and Factions(with provocative labels) Modernist, Engineering(Martin, Zachman, TOGAF) Classical, NeoClassical(Alexander) Baroque, Complexity, Hybrid (Gartner) Post-Modern (VPEC-T) Systems Dynamics(Forrester, Meadows) Soft Systems Methodology(Checkland) Quality and Process(Deming, Seddon) Cybernetics (Beer) Organic (Bateson, Maturana) Ethical (Vickers, Churchman)… and many moreEA ST“But that’s not what I callsystems thinking!”“But that’s not what enterprisearchitects really do!”who is WE?
    6. 6. Four hypotheses(perhaps not mutually exclusive)That systems thinking provides sometheoretical underpinning for enterprisearchitecture and/or systems architecture.That systems thinking and enterprisearchitecture are essentially doing thesame things(modelling, abstraction, joined-upthinking, big picture, enterprise-as-system, etc etc)That systems thinking is somehowcomplementary to enterprisearchitecture, and that there is some kindof synergy available from putting togetherconcepts, techniques and practices fromthe two disciplines.That systems thinking and enterprisearchitecture are rivals for ouraffections, and their respective championsare trying to show that one is moreconceptually coherent, more broadlybased, more solidly grounded, and evenperhaps more useful, than the other.
    7. 7. Three Questions What do EA and SThave in common? What can EA and STlearn from each other? What opportunities arethere for practicalcollaboration betweenEA and ST?Where EA and ST may beany of the following. A body of knowledge A community of practitioners A tool or instrument forachieving some defined goals. A professional service A discourse (way of talking)
    8. 8. Debate Groundrules To prefer concreteexamples to sweepinggeneralizations. To combine groundedpractical experience withtheoretical reflection. To avoid disputesbetween rival schoolsand frameworks. To recognize that thereare many competingdefinitions andinterpretations. To tolerateambiguity, uncertaintyand difference. To learn from othersrather than imposingone’s own viewpoint.
    9. 9. Are EA and ST the same thing? We have a concept of “system”. We consider the whole enterprise “as asystem”. We consider human activity systems aswell as mechanical systems (such assoftware). We are good at abstraction andgeneralization. We are good at “big picture”, joined-upthinking. BUTA human iconmakes a system intoa human system!
    10. 10. What does “enterprise-as-a-system” mean? Enterprise as an openor closed system? Enterprise as a humanactivity orsociotechnical system? Enterprise as adynamic, complexadaptive or viablesystem?What is an enterprise?Are humans inside oroutside the system?Which notion ofdynamic?Which notion ofcomplexity?
    11. 11. Different Notions of System? “System” is part of theproblem space. We try to understand thestructure and behaviourof complex systems. We then intervene toimprove their structureand behaviour. “System” is part of thesolution space. We explore why theexisting solutions aren’tperforming (AS-IS). We create blueprints forimproved solutions (TO-BE)ST (sometimes) EA (sometimes)
    12. 12. Different Notions of System Thinking? Systems thinking gives usa model of what is goingon … … from the viewpoint ofa neutral and all-seeingobserver. Systems thinking helps usto make sense of what isgoing on … … from the viewpoint ofan engaged participant.First Order Cybernetics Second Order CyberneticsAnd what about third-order cybernetics? What things should we belooking at? (“Ontology”) How we can know about thesethings? (“Epistemology”)
    13. 13. Why New Systems Don’t Work(Possibly) Passive adoption(resistance) Poorimplementation System asdesigned systemin use Poor choice oftechnology(technologyfetish)Errors of Execution Errors of Planning Changingrequirements Local global Short-termlonger-term User customer
    14. 14. Why Old Systems Don’t Work(Possibly) Complexity Attempts to eliminatecomplexity Cybernetic Entropy management controlsbecoming less effectiveover time Changing requirements Hidden agenda POSIWID (Stafford Beer) Enterprise Ferality “an autocatalyticphenomenon that is self-perpetuating” (Steve Brewis)
    15. 15. Different Stance?(tongue in cheek) Urgent action is necessary to avoidimminent danger ("The ImminentDanger") All reforms work together and reinforceeach other, rather than being competing("The Synergy Illusion") History Is on Our Side. Purposive action to improve somefeature of the political, social, oreconomic order may only serve toexacerbate the condition one wishes toremedy. ("perversity thesis"). Attempts at social transformation areoften unavailing, that they will simplyfail to "make a dent." ("futility thesis") The cost of the proposed change orreform is often too high, especially if itendangers some previous, preciousaccomplishment. ("jeopardy thesis")EA as progressive, visionary? ST as realist, reactionary?Based on: Albert Hirschman
    16. 16. Different Religion?(tongue in cheek)What is necessary is to call things by theirright names. A superior man considers itnecessary that the names he uses may bespoken appropriately, and also that what hespeaks may be carried out appropriately.What the superior man requires, is that inhis words there may be nothing incorrect.A name can be named, (but) this is not the(constant) naming.EA follows ConfuciusST follows LaoziIf names be notcorrect, language isnot in accordance withthe truth of things.If language be not inaccordance with thetruth of things, affairscannot be carried onto success.When affairs cannotbe carried on tosuccess, proprietiesand harmony will notflourish.When proprieties andharmony do notflourish, punishmentswill not be properlyawarded.When punishmentsare not properlyawarded, the peopledo not know how tomove hand or foot.
    17. 17. Different Discussion?(tongue in cheek) The verbal play of opposites that graduallybuilds up to a synthesis. Competition between ideas - one ideaestablishes primacy over the others. Fetish of assertion (Bernard Williams) The goal of a dialectic process is to mergepoint and counterpoint (thesis and antithesis)into a compromise or other state ofagreement via conflict and tension (synthesis). Mutual exchange for its own sake. An idea does not merelyanswer, correct, silence, or extend an earlieridea, but informs and is continually informedby the earlier idea. That world of talk that makes an open socialspace, where discussion can take anunforeseen direction. Information-sharing is an exercise indefinition and precision, whereascommunication is as much about what is leftunsaid as said; communication mines therealm of suggestion and connotation.(Richard Sennett)Dialectic? Dialogic?Based on: Mikhail Bakhtin
    18. 18. Which Practice? An individual or team customizes aframework for a specific project ororganization. The project or organization deviates fromthe official framework in various ways. Adding and subtracting activities Simpler or more complicated pathways Links to other frameworks Use of available tools A project may be retrospectively massagedto comply with an official framework. The participants may be more or lessaware of any deviations and theirconsequences.Official• What thebook saysEmergent• What thecommunitydoesEspoused• What theteam thinksit is doingIn-Use• What theteamactuallydoesTo what extent can the framework takethe credit for successful outcomes?
    19. 19. Five Anxieties1. Hierarchical Nature ofComplexity Escalation Infinite Regression (The Warning of theDoorknob)2. Inclusiveness ofmethodology3. Optimization Tackling small problems4. Futility of Individuality Interdisciplinary, Hybrid5. Publish or Perish Do your own thing Use your own acronymSource J.P. Eberhard
    20. 20. Warning of the doorknob - escalationDesign a doorknobIs a doorknob thebest way ofopening andclosing a door?Is a door the bestway of controllingaccess to youroffice?Do you really needa traditional officewith four walls?…Is capitalistdemocracy the bestway to organize oureconomy?Source J.P. Eberhard
    21. 21. Warning of the doorknob - regressionDesign adoorknobStudy the shapeof a man’s handTechnologies forfitting metalobjects to hands.MetallurgyAtomic physics SubatomicphysicsSource J.P. Eberhard
    22. 22. Collaboration Ability of large teamsto address large andcomplex problems EA ST EA + ST Multiple viewpointsand perspectives Different peopleworking on differentscales One scale isn’tautomatically betterthan any other scale Interoperabilitybetween differentscales and viewpointsCompare and contrast how EAs workin teams with how STs work in teams?
    23. 23. Are we as good as we think we are? “We are better thananyone else atabstraction andgeneralization.” “We are better thananyone else at bigpicture, joined-upthinking.” Abstraction ungroundedmetaspeculation? Big picture thinking infinite escalation.
    24. 24. From “Best Practice” to “Next Practice” Mainstream practiceshave high consensusbut little systematicevidence. Emerging practiceshave lowconsensus, thereforeneed a strongerevidence base.Source: Dave Snowden 2013
    25. 25. How can we improve practice?
    26. 26. 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 andPlanning (MIT Press, 1970) pp 364-365 Albert Hirschman, The Rhetoric of Reaction (1991) Richard Sennett, Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics ofCooperation (2012) Geoffrey Vickers, Human Systems are Different (1983)
    27. 27. Richard VeryardeBooks•••