Background

This section provides some of the underlying concepts that inform my understanding of enterprises so far.  In other sections there are references to more details of academic subjects that bear on the study of enterprise as well as industry sector considerations.

The heart of the site is in the Enterprisography section.

Enterprise and Environment

This section title provides the answer to the question "What do the two 'Es' stand for in your logo?"

 

This logo conveys the sprit of the study of enterprisology.  It focuses on one enterprise (indicated by the black "E").  it also recognizes that understanding of any enterprise is dependent on understanding how it is situated in its environment (indicated by the white "E").  This environment is largely constituted of other enterprise entities, as indicated by other ovals, directly or indirectly related to the enterprise in focus.  All of these ovals are rendered with dotted lines, to suggest that enterprises are open systems, admitting all kinds of inputs and outputs, including, but not limited to, the defining outcomes or effects that constitute the reason for being of the entity itself.

A Systems-Oriented Approach

The idea of systems is fundamental to all the thinking here about enterprisology.  Elsewhere I discuss the pure idea of system as the most fundamental concept in my personal ontology.  This viewpoint penetrates all the thinking about enterprises -- it is accepted as a truism that enterprises are systems, and that it is therefore appropriate to use systems thinking and paradigms in any attempt to understand and analyze them.

While there are many interesting and useful views of the enterprise, it is important to always keep a systems oriented viewpoint in mind at all times.  For instance, while taking a data modeling approach it is important to remember where the data come from and where they may be used in the accomplishment of enterprise initiatives.

General Systems Theory and Practice

This is an area to put some general systems thinking and key links.

Living Systems Model

Coming soon

Viable Systems Model

Coming soon

Complex Adaptive System

Coming soon

Autopoiesis

Coming soon

Social Systems with Dogs

This is rather lighthearted set of examples that uses dogs and humans to talk about social systems

System of the Pack

Maybe it's just me, but it used to be rare to hear any references to the concept of dog pack.  Then, on one of the cable channels (National Geographic) we started to hear about the work of Cesar Millan, AKA "the Dog Whisperer".  In his amazing work, he takes the point of view of dogs, and makes the case that whenever there is a problem dog, the real problem is with the humans that the dog relates to.  In the course of this, he uses the idea of the pack a lot.

A pack (of wolves, of dogs) is a natural system, as is the school (of fish), flock (of birds), pod (of whales), etc.

The pack has definitely come into common use, to describe, among other things, a human household that includes dogs as members.

Walk in the Park System

I want to describe a socio-technological system of which I am a part.  I discerned that when I accompany my two dogs to the park down the street the three of us constitute a specialized walk-in-the-park system.  Our interactions make this a social system, and some equipment adds the technological dimension.  In this case the equipment includes the two leashes, which in this case are 20 foot retractable ribbon leashes. Of course, these would not work without collars, which automatically include tags, which we hope are irrelevant to walking in the park.  The other equipment is the poop bag, of which it is necessary to carry 3 or 4.

As part of the background, I should mention that this park is very close, so we walk from the house.  Systems that involve longer distance travel - even to take a walk in a more distant park would involve the car, additional behaviors, etc.  This nearby park is under some rules that are salient to this little system.  It is a park that requires dogs to be on leashes, and for humans to clean up after the dogs.

So what we see here is that the walk-in-the-park system interfaces with some larger social systems as part of our environment.  Once of these systems is the municipal infrastructure-maintenance system (whatever they call it).  We have a particular structural coupling with that, not only because they provide the park itself, but also because they have dispensers for poop bags, and trash receptacles.  The other system that stands out is the system of municipal-ordinances.  This is where expected behaviors are codified, such as whether a leash is required in a particular place.

We can start to see that this little system has components that might be common to diverse situations, and other aspects that make this system unique. One might wish to think of this as a process, but I prefer to think of it as a subsystem of the overall family system.  Being a system within the supersystem of the family, we can bring all the systems viewpoints to bear on it.  Like the coupling idea with the municipal systems, mentioned above.  Or like processes within it.  Here I think of things like preparing-to-go-out and putting-on-the-leashes as processes which are enacted within this system.  But then, for some reason, some observer might want to look at something like putting-on-the-leashes as a (sub)system, and who could argue? In this case, I'm the observer, as well as participant, so my system boundaries need to be accepted, and appropriately questioned and explained.

Importantly, the walk in the park is fun.  The boys are generally friendly (one of them always is, as we'll discuss elsewhere), and there are lots of interactions with people, dogs, trees, lakeshore wilds, mud, people's yards, cars, etc.  So here we can talk about another aspect of the full system view, which is the motivation. 

We can also mention an institutuional view (within the system, where we've also mentioned some coupled institution in municipal ordinances).  There are institutions this system shares, like verbal interaction, walking protocol, etc., and there are unique ones to the walk in this particular park. In general there is an institution of hierarchy. In this little pack it is generally acknowledged that the human can direct the overall trajectory, but we do all we can to not have that be too obvious.  In this park as o other fun walks, we let the dogs dictate the particulars, like speed, when to stop, what to smell, etc. We have very particular institutions for the walk, like what have we negotiated to do when we see Missy and her family. On the other hand, what to do when we see another human/dog system for the first time is a shared institution. 

Now, by the way, I think that there is a whole different subsystem that rezzes for the walk in this same park when my wife takes the boys out.  I know for sure it's a different system when we both take out both boys, and a lot of room for improving the institutional structure of that system.

There are other subsystems that share institutions and processes with this walk-in-the-park system. There is going-outside-in-the-wee-hours-to-pee, which does require leashes, and there is patrolling-the-yard-at-first-light, which does not.

Let's mention here that this is a temporal subsystem that springs into existence at particular times of the day.  The subsystem forms, exercises all its behaviors and dissolves within less than an hour's time.  This is an important aspect of many such subsystems, where others are rather timeless (such as the family itself, which doesn't come in and out of existence).  This is a general point about systems, which can be observed, for instance in the lovely and amazing slime mold ... but that's another story.

going-outside-in-the-wee-hours-to-pee

This system occurs during the middle of the night (Oh Dark Thirty as some would have it).  The boys like to go out, but we (my wife and I) don't think it's safe to just turn them loose.  They have gotten into scuffles with both possums and raccoons.  The latter can inflict damage to the little guys, and have done so in the past, so we want to prevent that.  So this system involves leashes in simple loops, to keep us together, and literally is a burst out the door, some quick bladder emptying, and back in.  Not too much investigation, not peeing to mark anything, just a comfort stop on the long journey to morning, when we'll all be ready for the dawn patrol.

patrolling-the-yard-at-first-light

This little system is different than the system of going for a walk in the park.  It is one of the simplest I have with the dogs, because it requires no equipment, and has no special protocol for me.  It assembles itself before sun-up and waits with growing impatience for first light.  The only action required from me is to open a door into the background, and the dogs take care of the rest.  They do have their own protocol, which mostly involves a purposeful circulation through the entire yard, smelling everywhere for evidence of nocturnal activity.  After thoroughly covering the periphery, with special attention to the grape arbor, and the bases of certain trees, it dissolves into individual exploration, and eventually a return inside.

Systems Thinking Etiquette

I think it's worth thinking about the etiquette of discourse for discussions of systems.

In particular, it just occurs to me that it is generally inappropriate to denigrate another person's designation of a system.  This would be the situation when one person denies the existence of a system proposed by another.  The other person is the observer, who is the sole arbiter of the system they observe.  An appropriate response is to determine from the observer what their purpose is for observing the system, as well as the nature of the observation.  On this basis a person can make informed comments and suggestions, as well as propose another system that they think is worth to observe. These individuals can agree to collaborate or not on system observation, based on overlap of purpose and approach. 

Systems Thinking Implications

The systemic pattern or framework is a thinking style.  It causes one to think about a pattern of corresponding questions.  These questions include:

  • What is the name of system in focus?
  • What is its environment?
  • Are we interested in how it's composed?
  • Why are we interested in this system at all?
  • What is the basic nature of the system (living, inert, intellegent, designed, etc.)

This leads to a slower, maybe healthier, lifepace.  These questions take time to answer.  This may be useful in some enterprise situations, and not in others.  

Coevolution and Structural Coupling

This is an important section, which left here at the moment as a placeholder.  Aside from the tools and techniques elaborated under the heading of enterprisography this section will deal with the interaction between the domain(s) of enterprise and the domain(s) of IT.  This is a complex issue, that deserves extendd treatment.

Strategy and Intentionality

Various techniques and tools for capturing and analyzing the intentionality of enterprises will be covered over time in the enterprisography section

The section here is less about the models and data and more about the state of intentionality, and our viewpoint on that.

The focus of our position is the prescription of the Sense and Respond approach, which says that in turbulent times it is appropriate to think of strategy as structure, and to create a governance structure that fosters adaptibility to changing customer desires and demands.

We will also examine other approaches, as background for the tools and techniques discussions. 

 

Sense and Respond

Scattered around this site pointers to Steve Haeckel's web site for Sense & Respond. I am partial to this work because it makes a lot of sense and it is grounded in systems thinking.  Here is my take on S&R, and why it is important.

Steve Haeckel spent his career in IBM.  He spent most of that time in positions that got him involved in strategies and long-term initiatives.  He observed that as the pace of business picked up, the five- and ten-year plans became less and less relevant.  Conditions were changing too quickly, so that there became a need for more flexible intent, which could more closely match the outcomes and effects of the enterprise with the current situation.

S&R is juxtaposed to a make and sell approach.  The make and sell approach relies on prediction of what customers will want, and it hopes to be predictive about those wants.  "Customers will want more of what they have already bought."  "Customers will want what we want them to want because they are captive to our offerings."  When those kinds of statements are not true, the make and sell approach is a killer, and not in a good way.

A nice summary is provided by this picture:

 

GIE - Globally Integrated Enterprise

The Globally Integrated Enterprise (GIE) is a concept proposed by Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM.  This is the idea of global from the start, or global to the bone.  Instead of a corporate presence that appears in multiple countries, the GIE approach is to recognize capabilities wherever they are strong, and integrate them into the overall corporate strategy and operations.

The basic idea is covered by this Wikipedia article.  Note the reference to the Foreign Affairs article, where Palmisano makes his case.  Note also that this is only free to subscribers.  As I recall this was pretty freely available within IBM.

SOE - Service-Oriented Enterprise

Every now and then a movement arises in the IT community that promotes a software paradigm that is touted as a model for business as well. The current incarnation of that thought process is the Service-Oriented Enterprise concept, which is based on the Service-Oriented Architecture approach to developing large-scale software solutions.

Here is an explanation of this concept, from one of its proponents. 

Business Model Generation

The book by the name Business Model Generation is a very recent and welcome entry to the literature on business strategy and planning.

The book itself is an interesting and appealing artifact.  It has the look and feel of a craft book, with elegant paper, innovative design elements, and apparently hand-bound signatures.  It has almost 500 practitioner contributors, and is oozing practicality to go along with the feeling of being a labor of love.

The basic content is structured around a consistent framework (metamodel) for business models, which includes sections for customer segments, key partners, value propositions, revenue streams, cost factors, resources, activities, segment relations and chananels.  This is combined with anotherframework that calls out some of the currently hot busness models, such as the long tail, freemium, etc.  These two frameworks are then used together to analyze a significant number of actual businesses, such as Google, Apple, etc.  This is still further refined by a number of techniques, such as design perspective, storytelling, prototyping, visualization, SWOT and others, and intersected with discussions of managing multiple business models and evolving business models over time.

Some small criticism include the following:

  • Despite its elegance, the fine print in many parts of the book make it a little less elegant than it otherwise could have been.
  • The focus on segment rather than customer takes a lot of the social aspect off the table.  It feels intimate on the design side, but strangely arms-length with respect to the needs, desires, and other feelings at the personal level.
  • There is short shrift given to the overall business situation, environment or marketplace.  There is no strong consideration of competitors.  It is an antidote to things like Porter's 5 forces, which are all negative. 

Don't plan to use this by itself -- I never would.  But it's a good foundation or addition to any business plnning effort.  I wish I'd had it when planning a startup recently.

 

Slywotzky's Patterns

Adrian Slywotzky has made a significant contribution to the subject of business models through his writings and consulting.  The simple way to to summarize this work is with the phrase "profit pattern".  This is a good way to think about business models.  In this case we are using "business model" in the sense of "the key structures, relationships, and processes we use to make profit", or "how we make money around here".

This theme is examined in powerful patterns with examples of firms that have exhibited and succeeded with these patterns.  The one I always think of first is the exchange pattern, where e.g. Charles Schwab makes moeny on transactions, no matter which direction markets are moving.

It would be interesting to Slywotzky's insight together with the more Gen Y sensibilities of Business Model Generation.  Slywotxky wrote commentary that was included in Steve Hackel's Adaptive Enterprise.  The key thing here is that the profit patterns, possibly refined by other techniques can play well together with Haeckel's Sense and Respond style of management structure, which should assure that today's profit patterns are adaptive to the perceived desires of customers.

Uppermost Ontology

Elsewhere I address ontologies as analytic and implementation devices.

In this separate section I provide a personal and philosophical ontology that underlies and informs all the rest of my work.

Elsewhere I talk about systems in much more detail.  The fact is, the concept of system is the foundation of my personal view of the world.  I see systems wherever I look.  And when I think about systems, I always try to remember that systems are always and intrinsically both thing and behavior.  Other ontologies make a big point of separating the concept of thing from the concept of behavior, but my ontological viewpoint says that a system is always both thing and behavior simultaneously.

If everything is system, then that doesn't say much that is useful, because it does not differentiate anything from anything else.  But, given that systems always have the complexity of thing and behavior aspects, this leads to an infinite variety of systems, where everything that needs to be said can be said about the characteristics and distinctions that rise through the interaction of those thing-behavior complexes.

Everything said about a system is said by an observer.  So for my ontology, the omnipresence of an observer is crucial.  And the other key concept at this uppermost level, to me, is purpose.  At this high level it is important to distinguish between purpose as applied to the system being observed, and purpose as applied to the observer. 

The purpose of the system is always a judgment call, but it has to do with the functions the system performs in relation to other systems.  Many systems can be distinguished by the observer that do not appear to have that kind of purpose. 

The other kind of purpose is always present, however.  This is the purpose that the observer brings to the observation of the system.  Why is the observer focusing on this system, when by definition, there is an infinite set of other potential systems that could be observed instead?  That is the purpose, moment by moment, that causes the observer to call out a system from the ambient world, and focus attention on it.

 

Architectonics

The word architecture is used in many ways by many different people.  Here we explore the range of ways this term can be used and is used with respect to understanding of enterprises.  We use the funny word "architectonics" to denote this type of study of architectures themselves.  This is similar to the way some folks like to think of "methodology" as the study of methods, while others see that term as a synonym for "method".

A broad view of architecture

Architecture is:  “Construction or structure generally; both abstract and concrete.” *

  • Can be applied to virtually any complex subject
    • “architecture of the human mind”
    • “architecture of politics”
    • “architecture of belief”
    • “cognitive architecture of humor”
  • Can applied as guidance for building something
  • Can be applied to better understanding something
  • Can be intrinsic to or representation of something

* Oxford English Dictionary

Classic Architecture

Let's call this "classic architecture", because that sounds more elegant and graceful than some alternatives like "architecture of buildings".  Technically that is exactly what we're talking about here.  The architecture of Vetruvius, and Wright and Pei.

Here are some sources of classic architecture discussion:

 

Here are some sources of discussions of enterprise, IT, and business architecture discussed in comparison to classic architecture:

Business Architecture

Whatever you think of architecture, lay that template on the subject of business.

At a minimum architecture of business means structure.  So, what is the structure of business?  Not an easy question.

Business is obviously not buildings alone.