9 years, 1 month ago

Enterprise POSIWID

#bizarch #entarch #POSIWID As anyone knows who has attempted serious business and organizational transformation, an enterprise can be as stubborn as a teenager. Complex systems have strong feedback loops that maintain and restore the status quo against the most forceful and ingenious interventions.

One way of thinking about this challenge is to identify two distinct sets of purposes. On the one hand, there are the official intentions and plans of the leadership, which define what the purpose of the enterprise is supposed to be. We may call this the nominal purpose of the enterprise. Many enterprise architecture frameworks regard the nominal purposes as paramout, and are dedicated to realizing them. But on the other hand, the observed behaviour of the enterprise can best be explained in terms of an entirely different set of purposes, which repeatedly frustrate the official intentions and plans of the leadership. (See for example my post [Why New Systems Don’t Work].) These are sometimes called defacto purpose; alternatively we can call it POSIWID, which stands for Stafford Beer’s maxim that the Purpose Of a System Is What It Does. Large organizations and ecosystems are subject to inertia, and expensive initiatives often fall disappointingly short of expectations – this is the POSIWID effect at work. And of course there may be multiple conflicting defacto purposes [POSIWID should be plural].

POSIWID may also mean that there are covert purposes at work. Sometimes a corporate bureaucracy appears to be designed to make life difficult for employees and customers, as Tom Graves observes in relation to United’s complaint resolution system [February 2010]; even if such a design is not consciously planned, it may be sustained by the short-term benefits it confers (such as cost-saving or corporate convenience).

Within enterprise architecture itself, we can perhaps distinguish between nominal purpose and defacto. Never mind what EA ought to be doing, if many enterprise architects are merely playing Framework Bingo, then many people will assume that to be the de facto purpose of EA [July 2008].
When TOGAF 9 introduced (but failed to explain) the term “Holistic Enterprise Change”, I suggested it might mean something like this. When you make changes to the business as well as changes to the systems, you may get more than you bargained for. Conversely, when you make changes to the technical systems without making changes to the human systems, you may get less than you bargained for [February 2009].

By the way, Patrick Hoverstadt may well touch on some of these issues in his talk to the BCS Enterprise Architecture group in London next Thursday.

Tom Graves, Economics as enterprise architecture (March 2010)