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Checklists for transformation


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Session for IASA ITARC Conference on digital-transformation, London, 26 May 2017:

By definition a transformation will always be complex, often to extremes. So how can we, as architects, address all of that complexity, and still stay somewhat sane?

One long-proven answer is the humble checklist – a list of essential items that people tend to forget when the going gets tough. This session introduces a seven-point transformation-checklist for architects: purpose and story; scope and scale; governance; constraints; structure-flaws; test at the extremes; resistance to change.

This checklist can be used within almost any type of architecture-guided transformation. We’ll explore its practical application, usage and implications in a variety of real-world architecture contexts. But beware: you may be surprised at what a simple checklist can show you…

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Checklists for transformation

  1. 1. Checklists for transformation Tom Graves, Tetradian Consulting IASA ITARC, London, May 2017
  2. 2. Hi. (Yeah, there’s a lot of hair gone down the plughole since I looked like this...) I’m Tom.
  3. 3. Sales- pitch! Published today!
  4. 4. That’s enough promo-stuff… ...let’s get on with the show!
  5. 5. This is about architecture... ...which, by definition, means it’s also about design...
  6. 6. desired ends realised ends architecture (WHY / WHO) design (HOW / WITH-WHAT)
  7. 7. “Architecture represents the significant design decisions that shape a system... – Grady Booch ...where ‘significant’ is measured by cost of change.”
  8. 8. And it’s about transformation... ...though note that change and transformation are not the same...
  9. 9. ...change... CC-BY-SA david-hilgart via Flickr
  10. 10. ...transformation... CC-BY-ND gregpm via Flickr
  11. 11. Architecture + transformation = big-picture stuff that’s very expensive to fix if we get it wrong!
  12. 12. “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble... (mis)attributed to Mark Twain’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
  13. 13. Complexity is the greatest challenge that we face... (especially at larger scope and scale)
  14. 14. B17: “too complicated to fly...” Public domain: USAF via Wikimedia
  15. 15. So how do we deal with complexity?
  16. 16. One proven answer... ...the humble checklist.
  17. 17. B17: “saved by the checklist...” Public domain: USAF via Wikimedia Public domain: USAF via Wikimedia
  18. 18. – step-by-step work-instruction Three types of checklist: – normal-checklist – emergency-checklist
  19. 19. Work-instructions only make sense when everything is certain; checklists address increasing uncertainty Work-instructions and checklists
  20. 20. Work-instruction... Step-by-step, sequential instructions to do a known, predictable task
  21. 21. Work-instruction: B29 crew-manual Public domain: USAF via
  22. 22. Normal-checklist... Sets of tests (not always sequential) to prevent unpredictable outcomes
  23. 23. routine… © Orange County Flight Center via
  24. 24. Emergency-checklist... Sets of actions and tests to try during unpredictable events
  25. 25. emergency… © Orange County Flight Center via
  26. 26. Key items that people may forget in panic… © Orange County Flight Center via FLY THE AIRPLANE
  27. 27. Each emergency-checklist focusses on things that people forget when faced with the Not-known
  28. 28. Transformation too is full of Not-known... ...might some kind of checklist also be useful here?
  29. 29. A seven-point checklist for transformation ‘things that people tend to forget in the midst of transformation’
  30. 30. A transformation checklist* 1. Story and purpose 2. Scope and stakeholders 3. Context, scale and scaling 4. Full-cycle governance 5. Structural flaws in the context 6. Non-negotiable constraints 7. Resistance to change *themes to check, to ensure they’ve been properly assessed and included
  31. 31. NOTE: It’s ‘a checklist’, not ‘the checklist’... ...adapt and amend it to whatever you need for your own context!
  32. 32. #1: Story and purpose
  33. 33. #1: Do we have clarity about what the aims are for this, and how we describe those aims? (use vision/values-mapping etc for this – example: TED, ‘ideas worth spreading’) What’s the story here?
  34. 34. Concern: the focus of interest to everyone in the shared-enterprise “Ideas worth spreading” CC-BY UK DFID via Flickr
  35. 35. “Ideas worth spreading” Action: what is being done to or with or about the concern CC-BY US Army Africa via Flickr
  36. 36. “Ideas worth spreading” Qualifier: the emotive driver for action on the concern CC-BY HDTPCAR via Flickr
  37. 37. “All our problems arise out of doing the wrong thing righter. – Russell Ackoff The more efficient you are at doing the wrong thing, the wronger you become.”
  38. 38. #2: Scope and stakeholders
  39. 39. #2: Do we have clarity on scope and stakeholders? (typically use holomap to explore at least three layers outward from nominal context)
  40. 40. “An organisation is bounded by rules, roles and responsibilities; an enterprise is bounded by vision, values and commitments.” “An organisation is bounded by rules, roles and responsibilities; an enterprise is bounded by vision, values and commitments.” Tom Graves, Mapping the Enterprise, Tetradian, 2010 Organisation and enterprise Organisation aligns with structure, enterprise with story. We need a balance of both for the architecture to work.
  41. 41. If the organisation says it ‘is’ the enterprise, there’s no shared-story - and often, no story at all. What’s the scope?
  42. 42. The minimum real enterprise is the supply-chain - a story of shared interactions and transactions. What’s the scope?
  43. 43. The organisation and enterprise of the supply-chain take place within a broader organisation of the market. What’s the scope?
  44. 44. The market itself exists within a context of ‘intangible’ interactions with the broader shared-enterprise story. What’s the scope?
  45. 45. The story is not solely at the whole-of-business level - we can generalise it to any type or level of context What’s the scope?
  46. 46. Services and their stakeholders
  47. 47. Every service has its own myriad of stakeholders Who are the stakeholders?
  48. 48. A stakeholder is anyone who can wield a sharp-pointed stake in our direction… CC-BY-NC-SA evilpeacock via Flickr Who are the stakeholders? (Hint: there are a lot more of them than we might at first think…)
  49. 49. How we relate with our stakeholders will determine which way they’ll point those sharp-pointed stakes...
  50. 50. #3: Context, scale and scaling
  51. 51. #3: Do we have clarity on the applicable scale(s), and how we manage increasing and/or decreasing scale? (test at extremes of very-small and very-large – for example, Agile methods may be great for prototypes, but poor for large-scale)
  52. 52. (example:Weinberg’s strawberry-shortcake)
  53. 53. As we increase the scale, all manner of hidden factors pop up out of the woodwork... ...prototype-scale is easy, getting things to work well at large-scale is hard!
  54. 54. #4: Full-cycle governance
  55. 55. #4: Do we have clarity about how we will guide not just initial change, but the entire life-cycle? (include commissioning / decommissioning, development and maintenance of required skillsets, and more)
  56. 56. How would you plan to decommission one of these? HMS Torbay: CC-BY Reading Tom via Flickr
  57. 57. “There are 19 nuclear-powered submarines stored in ports awaiting their end, but a lack of money, disposal sites and radiation experts has caused lengthy delays. “MOD chiefs told MPs an underground dump site was required to store the nuclear material, which is expected to be a site in Cheshire, but it will not be finished for another 23 years.” seven-decommissioned-Royal-Navy-nuclear-submarines-Rosyth-dockyards.html
  58. 58. How would you plan to decommission 1,000 of these? Free-use: University of Tartu, ESTCUBE Team via Wikimedia
  59. 59. “As of 2014, there were about 2,000 commercial and government satellites orbiting the earth. It is estimated that there are 600,000 pieces of space junk ranging from 1 cm to 10 cm, and on average one satellite is destroyed each year. “Slight atmospheric drag, lunar perturbation, and solar wind drag can gradually bring debris down to lower altitudes where fragments finally reenter, but this process can take millennia at very high altitudes.
  60. 60. If we can’t decommission it... ...maybe we shouldn’t build it?
  61. 61. #5: Structural flaws in current context
  62. 62. #5: Do we have clarity on inherent structural-flaws in the context that will need to be resolved for ongoing viability? (Conway’s Law: take care not to replicate existing structural-flaws in future designs...)
  63. 63. Millennium Bridge – lateral resonance CC-BY-SA Alison M Wheeler via Wikimedia
  64. 64. Millennium Bridge – lateral resonance CC-BY-SA KlickingKarl via Wikimedia
  65. 65. Structural flaws may sometimes become visible only through interaction with other systems...
  66. 66. #6: Non-negotiable constraints
  67. 67. #6: Do we have clarity on all constraints that may apply within the context? (this applies especially to non-negotiable constraints, such as those from physics or limits to scaling)
  68. 68. Tacoma Narrows – continual wind Copyright: fair use via Wikimedia
  69. 69. “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” Richard P Feyman
  70. 70. #7: Resistance to change
  71. 71. #7: Do we have clarity on any resistance to required change, underlying drivers to that resistance, and how to resolve those factors? (include vested-interests in maintaining dysfunctionalities in any current system)
  72. 72. Graphic from Peter Senge et al, The Dance of Change (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 1999) We need to work with The Dance of Change
  73. 73. Fear of change is all too real… CC-BY Editor B via Flickr
  74. 74. ...and likewise vested-interests... Public domain via WikimediaJoseph Keppler, ‘The Bosses of the Senate’, Puck, 1889
  75. 75. If we fail to identify and resolve resistance... ...our would-be change would be going nowhere...
  76. 76. Example 1: Global web-services
  77. 77. Checklist item #6: Non-negotiable constraints (speed of light as non-negotiable constraint)
  78. 78. Rear-Admiral Grace Hopper Public domain: US Navy via Wikimedia
  79. 79. 1 light-nanosecond = ~30cm…
  80. 80. Transmission-time, one-way, New York - Sydney... Via dedicated-landline: ~60msec Via geostationary-satellite link: ~400msec
  81. 81. The moral of this story? The speed of light is a non-negotiable constraint... ...number of round-trips may be more important than bit-rate
  82. 82. Example 2: Sustainable global-economics (possession-based vs responsibility-based)
  83. 83. Checklist item #1: Story and purpose (How do we best manage our global home, for everyone?)
  84. 84. The literal meaning of ‘economics’ is ‘the management of the household’ (managing the money is the easy bit…) CC-BY-NC-ND ukagriculture via Flickr
  85. 85. Checklist item #2: Scope and stakeholders (scope is everywhere, everywhen; stakeholders are everyone)
  86. 86. CC-BY AllBrazilian via Wikimedia Stakeholders: everyone (that’s a lot of sharp-pointed stakes…)
  87. 87. Checklist item #3: Context, scale and scaling (context is ‘the everything’; scale is global, for indefinite time)
  88. 88. Global, everything, throughout all time (not just what we can grab in the now…) CC-BY h-studio via Flickr
  89. 89. Checklist item #4: Full-cycle governance (governance of everything, everyone, everywhere, everywhen)
  90. 90. All resources, all re-use, all lifecycles (sustainability, appropriacy, for all time…) CC-BY-SA umnak via Flickr
  91. 91. Checklist item #5: Structural-flaws in context (we’ll explore these together as a set...) Checklist item #6: Non-negotiable constraints Checklist item #7: Resistance to change
  92. 92. Our current global economics is a ‘possession-economy’... other words, a two-year-old’s view of resource-management...
  93. 93. WAAAHH!!! MINE!!!
  94. 94. Possession-economies – particularly money-based ones – turn out to be riddled with inherent structural-flaws
  95. 95. Lifecycle: resource-needs Consider the typical resource-needs throughout the various stages of a stereotypic life-sequence.
  96. 96. Lifecycle: resource-availability Now map the typical resource-availability as ‘ability to earn’ in a money-based possession-economy.
  97. 97. Lifecycle: a perfect mismatch The two graphs together show a perfect mismatch – the worst possible economic system we could devise
  98. 98. In a possession-economy, resources naturally gravitate towards wherever they are least needed
  99. 99. ‘trickle-down’... In our upside- down economic world… CC-BY-ND jodcol via Flickr
  100. 100. ‘trickle-down’... In our upside- down economic world… actually ‘flood-up’. CC-BY wagnertc via Flickr
  101. 101. A possession-economy demands a huge infrastructure to counteract that ‘gravity’, time-shifting the resources to when they’re needed... banks, insurances, mortgages, savings, loans, pensions, taxes, welfare, aid etc... (yet we could replace every one of these with the one phrase “What do you need”...)
  102. 102. Banks, loans, deposits… …needed only in a possession-economy
  103. 103. Mortgages, savings, trust-funds… …needed only in a possession-economy
  104. 104. Money-lenders, money-changers… …needed only in a possession-economy
  105. 105. Taxes, benefits, insurances… …needed only in a possession-economy
  106. 106. For a possession-economy to seem to work it depends on a myth of infinite growth (or, to be more honest about it, it’s a pyramid-game or ‘Ponzi-scheme’...)
  107. 107. ...but we can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet Public domain: NASA via Flickr ...that’s a non-negotiable constraint
  108. 108. …back in the 1980s, there was a fudge called ‘deregulation’… CC-BY-SA DocChewbacca via Flickr the money-system can now continue its growth towards infinity
  109. 109. …but that means it now assigns infinite ‘rights’ to finite resources CC-BY Tjeerd via Flickr ...which, in possession-economics, still go to where they’re least needed
  110. 110. (oops...)
  111. 111. In short, there is no way to make a possession-economy to be sustainable... ...our only option for survival is a radical transformation to a responsibility-economy
  112. 112. Facing the real problem The ultimate basis of all economics is interlocking mutual responsibilities. mutual responsibility
  113. 113. Facing the real problem Possession is a literally childish overlay – a dysfunctional distortion overlaid on what works. mutual responsibility personal possession
  114. 114. Facing the real problem Yet everything else we know as ‘economics’ is another overlay built on top of that myth of possession. mutual responsibility personal possession property-rights etc barter currency debt-based finance financial-derivatives
  115. 115. Facing the real problem Which means, for example, that ‘alternative currencies’ or ‘go back to barter’ will solve nothing... mutual responsibility personal possession property-rights etc barter currency debt-based finance financial-derivatives Futzing around in these areas will make no significant difference, because…
  116. 116. mutual responsibility personal possession property-rights etc barter currency debt-based finance financial-derivatives Futzing around in these areas will make no significant difference, because… …the real source of our economics problems is way down there… Facing the real problem ...because that’s not where the real problems are.
  117. 117. Facing the real problem For sustainability, the only way out is to start again, and rebuild everything from mutual-responsibilities. mutual responsibility personal possession property-rights etc barter currency debt-based finance financial-derivatives Futzing around in these areas will make no significant difference, because… …the real source of our economics problems is way down there… …so the only viable choice is to start again from here.
  118. 118. So how would you tackle that transformation? How would you address those constraints and flaws? What checklists would you need?
  119. 119. How would you resolve the resistance to that urgent transformation...? (because if we don’t manage to resolve that resistance, we’re dead...)
  120. 120. To summarise: (even though we might prefer not to know some of those all-too-essential facts...) Checklists help us to find essential facts that we might not otherwise know
  121. 121. Checklists help us to find the right question In an uncertain world, finding the right questions is often more urgent and important than finding ‘the right answer’
  122. 122. A transformation checklist 1. Story and purpose 2. Scope and stakeholders 3. Context, scale and scaling 4. Full-cycle governance 5. Structural flaws in the context 6. Non-negotiable constraints 7. Resistance to change
  123. 123. Thank you!
  124. 124. Contact: Tom Graves Company: Tetradian Consulting Email: Twitter: @tetradian ( ) Weblog: Slidedecks: Publications: and Books: • The enterprise as story: the role of narrative in enterprise- architecture (2012) • Mapping the enterprise: modelling the enterprise as services with the Enterprise Canvas (2010) • Everyday enterprise-architecture: sensemaking, strategy, structures and solutions (2010) • Doing enterprise-architecture: process and practice in the real enterprise (2009) Further information: