Tag Archives: organization

There is no “I” in IT: Oh wait yes there is.

The Dynamic Enterprise
I’m in the airport in Victoria on my way back from giving a talk sponsored by the Office of the CIO in the Government of British Columbia entitled “Enterprise-Scale Business Transformation with SOA and BPM”. Increasingly, I’m seeing efforts around large-scale Business Transformation involving the dynamic system of Business and IT.

In my talk, I asked the following question:
How do you achieve “Business Transformation” in a system that:

* Is exceedingly interdependent (or in the words of the CIO here, “tangled”)
* Responds unpredictably and dynamically to change
* Is complex enough that no single human is capable of understanding it all

In short, a system that exhibits dynamic complexity as well as high-order entropy. I have an elegant solution for this problem, but this blog entry is too short to contain it.

One Continuous Mistake
I’ve seen lately many methodologies that depend on “objective data” and measurement to align organization. Don’t get me wrong, measuring the business value of any activity is a way to align activity in a paradigm of continuous improvement. I’ve long been an admirer of Toyota Kaizen, whose principles of long-term employment, respect for the individual, empowerment and “Moving Forward” (continuous improvement) are based on a balanced and “lean” adaptation philosophy that evolves dynamically with the business environment. Not only has this facilitated the transformation of Toyota from a car maker to a hybrid car maker, but it powered their transformation from a maker of mechanical looms to a carmaker after World War II.

The granularity of the improvement cycle is a key success factor in using continuous improvement as a paradigm for business transformation. This is because a short cycle reduces the risk expose to certainties that “simply aren’t so”. @bmichelson @mtdonahue tweeted it very well by saying:

Walking on water and developing software from a specification are easy if both are frozen – Edward V Berard

What is of higher value in transformation of dynamic systems is not how you succeed, but how you fail. The ability to fail continuously and improve continuously is the secret to transformation. This requires the organization to firstly overcome fear of being “locked in” to static business processes and governance policies. Unlike the old infrastructure, the new infrastructure of Business Transformation is based on continuous improvement on short cycles and thus empowers active participation and collaboration in the shaping of optimal process. As Toyota knows, nobody knows more about process optimization than those who execute the process.

Mechanisms need to be in place for lowering the cost of failure. Short cycle times address this (borrowing from Agile), but also things like Cloud Computing’s Elastic payment model dramatically reduce the cost of failure. The era of huge IT failures should be replaced by the era of distributed intelligent transformation. Thousands of microscopic iterations of process improvement managed within a frame of trust and coordination.

An airplane is continuously off course, but also continuously reorients towards its best sense of where it’s going. As such it is capable of optimizing itself both locally (to avoid weather features and air traffic) and globally (to reduce fuel consumption and travel time). This dynamic interplay of local and global optimization is in the sweet spot for the transformational agenda.

There is no “I” in IT…oh wait yes there is.
I’ve had the great pleasure to read @davegray and his insightful post about a general theory of Information Relativity


The lovely insight here is the fundamental lack of separation between information and intention. I keep seeing transformation methodologies that depend of “objective information” to align organization, but this insight helps us to understand that information (the “difference that makes a difference”) is different from data and that the transformational power of information is inextricably intertwined with principles of presenter bias, observer bias and other key factors.

A nice commentary by toothpastefordinner.com

Nowhere is this more evident in the emergent behavior of “KPI Gaming” that manifests in organizations who have successfully implemented organizational alignment through continuous measurement of Key Performance Indicators, and have tied those KPIs to individual and organizational incentives, job descriptions and roles and organizational structure. I spoke with a CIO in Australia who bragged about how dramatically he improved project delivery time to get a fat quarterly bonus, but received a wink and a “no comment” when I pressed him on whether he rescoped any projects in order to get there. Obviously if you cut one project into 10 you can deliver projects “ten times faster”.

This connects with the idea that “direct observation” of reality is rare and almost always mediated through our past experience and the filter of social expectation, culture and near-instantaneous mental reinterpretation. Mediation is a fundamental pattern that underlies scale in organization, as it provides a way to enforce policies, culture, route information and detect patterns. Routing information means that the organization gains the ability to amplify inspiration and best practices, while policy enables organization to enforce best practice and define itself. Of course the “mediation” pattern in Service Oriented Architecture typically involves placing a piece of hardware and/or software in the path of message flow, but there are technical architectures that perform mediation functions embedded in the endpoints.

For humans, embedding organizational culture, policy, pattern detection and information routing in the endpoint means fostering a culture that understands deeply when to escalate issues, when to share information, where to share information and when to report, stop or perpetuate behaviors. This internalization of behavioral patterns, habits and culture allows organization to achieve what Peter Drucker refers to as the goal of organization: “To enable ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”

Lorraine Lawson wrote in her blog today:
“Honestly, I’d rather write about anything besides governance, particularly SOA governance.”


This post explores the concept of Federation, the balance of regional and central authority as the differentiation between Governance and Management. Ultimately this brings me to Daryl Plummer’s folk definition of Federation which is:

“What do I have to give up in order to be a part of something bigger”.

Linking that with Drucker’s “organization enables ordinary people to do extraordinary things”, one is led to the hope that scale does not equate to life-sapping and stultifying constraint and that the autonomy that one yields to belonging is amply compensated by the scale and longevity (legacy in the positive sense of the word) of Enterprise. Although both Dilbert and “The Office” suggest that the sacrifice is your life in exchange for 20 pieces of silver, we must envision a world where great problems can be addressed at great scale.

Cycle time for continuous improvement empowers the individual to make changes in their local environment and thus experience empowerment and ownership. It’s only the rigidity of policy and process that leads to the snuffing of the individual life-force in the Enterprise.

Or perhaps Mother Teresa is right and we cant do any great things, we can only do small things with great love.

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Enterprise Cloud: Why Size Matters

One of the biggest issues in speaking of technology trends is the natural impulse to apply a “one size fits all” approach.

People talk about technology the way they talk about the weather–it’s something that affects everyone the same way. Raining? That’s too bad about the ball game. Nice for your flower garden though.

Unfortunately, when it comes to technology, it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. At the risk of losing 90% of my readers in one go, I’m going to dust off one of the great evil words in the technology industry–Enterprise. As I’ve said before, the word “Enterprise” in the phrase “Enterprise Software” has come to mean software that sucks. In fact, if you Google “Enterprise Software” (with the quotes) the number two link is “Why Enterprise Software Sucks“.

So why dust off this word? I suppose I enjoy collecting antiques.

It’s after all a perfectly good word, and can be repurposed as a pot holder or maybe a tea cozy. What I’d like to have is a word that signifies the following:

An organization that has grown in size to the point where the old tricks don’t work anymore.

Funny Pictures

* Its organization has shattered into factions
* It’s technology has separated into silos
* Its market has fragmented into niches

The big challenge is how does one maintain the advantages of size and scale but still retain agility?

I think it’s possible:
Bull headstand

So how does fragmentation affect the use of cloud?

Well in terms of complex demand, cloud principles are very exciting.

swiss army

If your market is fragmented, you will be happy to offer a platform of reusable services that can be customized by channel partners or even by end users into thousands of possible use cases. Think iPhone App Store. So for complex demand, the cloud is a good thing.

The challenge for the Enterprise and cloud is the concept of “Complex Supply”. Since both the technology in the Enterprise is already siloed, adding cloud just adds another silo. Legacy Mainframe apps, Web Application Servers, Enterprise Applications, you name it, Cloud just adds yet another technology silo to maintain, integrate, secure and govern. Since large organizations are fragmented into smaller organizations, this problem is compounded when one organization creates a dependency on cloud services without a systematic enabling architecture.

Size matters. People try to apply architectural patterns and software solutions as if they were one-size-fits all.

ass is too small

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SOA 2009: gradual enlightenment

In an earlier blog post, I spoke of the style of technology leadership coming from Japan. In this post, I would like to explore how the philosophies of Japan including Zen Buddhism and Bushido can be understood as contrasting ways to adopt SOA in your organization. I’m not a religious person, but I have spent a number of hours in zen meditation at silicon valley’s Kannon Do Zen center, and feel that I have some familiarity with the traditions of my family.

The Samurai Approach to SOA
Of the principal Zen Buddhist groups in Japan, my family hails from the Sotoshū (曹洞宗, the Sōtō school). In all things, the Sōtō believe in what is called “gradual enlightenment”, which is in contrast to the Rinzai school which believes in “sudden enlightenment”.

The Rinzai believe that by concentrating on a kōan, a puzzle that escapes rational explanation (famous example, what is the sound of one hand clapping), there can be a transcendental moment from which the mind breaks from logic and achieves enlightenment.

In SOA, that kōan is “what is the business value of SOA?”

If this question were so easy to justify, then all beings would be enlightened, and all enterprises would achieve perfect architecture. The reality is that this kōan is very hard to penetrate. Is it agility? Reusability of components to build Business Processes? Dramatically lowered cost of IT operations? Each of these ideas is a kōan by itself!

Rinzai Zen has long been associated with the Samurai warriors. The philosopy of Ichi Geki Hissatsu (to kill with one stroke of the sword) is compatible with the idea of sudden enlightenment, the single blow of the katana during warfare or a blow from the kyôsaku during sitting meditation is enough to awake the warrior from the bonds of earthly torpitude.

This type of samurai SOA is the kind that predominated 2007-2008 and is seriously being questioned at the moment. Some call this “Big Bang” SOA and it requires a great deal of budget, very large SOA Competency Centers and a command-and control infrastructure only a Shōgun could love.

The Farmer’s Approach to SOA
The Sotoshū are not associated with Samurai at all, although there certainly were famous Samurai amongst the ranks of the Sōtō. They have been traditionally associated with humble farmers.

Farmers are patient. They cultivate. They are aware of the cyclical rising and setting of the sun, of the seasons. It’s appropriate to be mindful of the right season and to cultivate the right actions in the right seasons. Don’t try to plow the earth in the winter! Farmers have a great sensitivity to their environment and understand the interconnection of all beings in nature.

Think Globally, Act Locally
There’s a well-known saying from the environmental movement called “Think Globally, Act Locally”. This means thinking about the impact to the environment, but not trying to change the world all at once, but trying to change what you can–the local environment. Please recycle that soda can in your hand, that sort of thing.

And a terrific mandate from the perspective of Enterprise Architecture. Enterprise Architects by their nature think globally, and in 2008, many architects too their global thinking across the whole Enterprise. This was a natural effort, because achieving awareness of the “global” situation in IT, you become aware of the inefficiencies of siloed organization.

Tribes dont have to be business units. They can be accumulated around a single software vendor’s “platform”. They can be accumulated across geographic boundaries. They can be by employer if you have multiple companies working together such as with System Integrators. Tribes can be across ministries or departments.

One of the first things you notice is the inefficiency of tribalism and the “good for me, bad for you” practice that comes with it. This is one of the key themes in my book, SOA Adoption for Dummies, which will be launched in japanese language in the spring. This is a global idea, perhaps not the size of the whole planet, but at least the size of your whole enterprise.

Overcoming these natural human tendencies to form warring tribes is the zen of creating perfect organization. Organization that is in harmony with technology and in harmony with one another.

Perfect organization *can* be achieved through the stroke of the sword, through military might. However, 2009 is not the season for this. Budgets are cut, organizational will is lowered and people are in a “recession” mindset.

2009 is the season for “gradual awakening”–the realization that all parts of the enterprise contribute to the survival of the whole. A realization about the interconnectedness of things and our part in the whole of society. A realization that “Service” orientation does not just mean component orientation, but in fact the human desire to be of service is an integral part of the cybernetic system of the enterprise–and how tribalism gets in the way. The ability for your Enterprise as a whole to serve the outside world is no longer a matter of increasing margins, it is a matter of absolute survival.

Cultivate mindfulness of your karma
A way to sow mindfulness is to look closely at the costs of behavior. In economics, an Externality is defined as an impact on any party not directly involved in an economic decision. A classic example is how some manufacturing processes can cause pollution that puts a terrible cost onto your neighbors.

Study how tribal behavior in your organization puts pollution into other organizations within your enterprise. You can begin by measuring these costs and showing these measurements to the upper management.

In Buddhism, the concept that we are all interconnected and our actions have repercussions that come back to us is the law of Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म). Thus if we pollute our organizations with political infighting and me-first behaviors, we are sickening our own environment and lessening the ability of our Enterprise to provide service to the outside world. This will surely come back to haunt your peace of mind and possibly result in adverse consequences to your organization. Some organizations respond to this by becoming even more political and these siloed organizations fight each other even more fiercely. This type of vicious cycle can result in the “death spiral” of organization, and the eventual collapse of your company.

In order to manifest the change we need in 2009, we need to create virtuous cycles, not vicious cycles. Taking the spirit of Kaizen (改善, Japanese for “continuous improvement”, a business philosophy), we can first become aware of the externalities, the toxic pollution in our organization caused by tribal behavior. We can raise business awareness of these toxins by measuring them. By showing these measurements to decision makers, we can help restore harmony to our Enterprises. And this will improve the way in which our Enterprises can serve the outside world, thus truly achieving an enlightened form of service orientation.

My 2 cents (or 2 yen),

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