24 days ago

The Problem with Processes: The Reprise – FiD post

This is a slightly rewritten version of the first public airing of the VPEC-T concept. That was over 10 years ago – it now it has a life of its own, it is, however, the foundation on which Lost In Translationwas written, and apparent in Found In Design. Please take a look and send me your comments. Thanks Nigel.

27 days ago

Should ‘GOODNESS” replace the word “GOVERNANCE”?

I believe we need rethink the Enterprise Architecture practice. I favour starting from a ‘Systems Thinking’ foundation, and therefore go back to John Boyd’s OODA loop:

and Dan Ward’s Simplicity Cycle.

Please take a look at this video to give the rest of this post a bit of context:

Should  ‘GOODNESS” replace the word “GOVERNANCE” in the new order of things?

As a starting point. I believe by standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants of those who originated and develop System Thinking, Cybernetics, Complexity Theory and Design Thinking will help us re-invent EA.  Personally, no longer call myself an Enterprise Architect – I prefer the title Change Designer – why? Because it simply describes what I do and I can explain it to C-Levels in just a few words entirely focused on business outcomes, stages in the journey and risks & IRACIS (IR: improved revenue, AC: avoid cost & IS: improve service).

Update 0603/17

Can we look to the Unicorns for inspiration? I recall a discussion I had with a few Silicon Valley types at OSCON London recently. I asked a very genuine question:

“How do the likes of Netflix, Paypal, Uber etc. approach Governance?”

The answer: “We don’t use that word, in Silicon Valley!”

This got me thinking; surely things must be driven towards some sort of order? And then, maybe my mental-model was wrong. Maybe if I put on my “Complex Adaptive” hat (ref. Cynefin), I will see that the architecture must evolve, in chunks of context specific outcomes, over time. And in this approach, is “Goodness” ( a la Dan Ward above) the key measure of alignment with outcome?; in a Complex system, the bad are attenuated, and the good amplified – this is how, useful (fit-for-purpose), solutions evolve. So, maybe, it’s not about driving things to a predetermined outcome; maybe instead, it’s about orchestrating and encouraging adoption of practice that delivers context-specific “goodness” (in Dan Ward’s sense of the word).

It strikes me that there appaers to be a close relationship between Dand Ward’s Complexity/Goodness model (describe in the video above) to this one:

Although ‘User Happiness” is only one context: a Value System. Another might be ‘The Regulator’. Is it true, however, that focusing on simplicity, and conext-specific “Goodness”, are we more likely to satisfy both?

Hence my question – Should “GOODNESS” replace “GOVERNANCE”? Or, indeed, is this what they already do in Silicon Valley? I’m sure there’s much more to undertsand – but I think its a good question for debate!

Please follow the tags #foundindesign #horsesunicorns on Twitter for more discussion on this and related topics.

1 month, 2 days ago

5Di – Our Operating Model

or how we aim to grow our trees together.


Up until recently, 5Di Ltd., was the commercial vehicle for my Change Design and Advisory services. This is changing as I write; 5Di will become a ‘Team’ within the next few weeks. I’m not sure how exactly all the pieces will fall into place, but I am eating my own dog food; experiment, include, listen to feedback, and evolve.

Before I explain the specifics, I’d ask that you watch a few of the videos here to see and hear where much of the inspiration for our operating model comes from:


Chuck Blakeman Crankset:

Katz Kiely: – BBC Radio 4 interview (audio only).

Dan Ward – all of his series are great, but if your short on time, just watch the fisrt and last for now:

The full set:

Back to 5Di, we have a ‘T’ shape service portfolio; The T-bar is the Change Design journey described in the Found In Design un-book and the T-column are techology services focused on Cloud-Native architectures and integration.

Our principles are:
  • Keep things simple as possible
  • Work on interesting projects
  • Deliver value for money
  • Share rewards
  • Be clear, concise and transparent.

We can deliver Value-for-Money.
All 5Di consultants have tons of real-world experience and many have worked for Big-Five or similar – so we know how much they charge for this type of service and,  the other tricks they pull which we will avoid (like land-and-expand etc.). As a rough estimate I’d say we will come in at less that 30% of large traditional consulting firms.

Because our fees are at least 40% cheaper for the same level of skill/expertise and we deliver value faster (fewer charged days) because we’re not motivated to drag-things-out with large teams. We have no ‘bench’ to sell.

5Di’s business model is simple:
  • We make sure all in the 5Di team get a good day-rate compared to them going to market individually ‘contracting’.
  • We make a reasonable mark-up on the fee, but then everybody gets a slice of 5Di’s year-end profits.
  • We are like-minds who *want* to work with each other (most of us have in the past).
  • We are all motivated to do a great job for the client – all our work is through referral.
  • As a team we attract other great talent through our collective personal network – I’m getting requests to join the 5Di family weekly.

All this will be explained (using our principles!) on the 5Di website soon. The current site is now horribly out-of-date, rather messy, and way too wordy – we promise a much better one!


1 month, 10 days ago

First Trial of the VPEC-T Navigation Map

This week’s update: We ran the 2nd two hour session last week and have the, 3rd, and last iteration scheduled for the coming week. Continuing to get positive feedback on the map. It does seem to help provoke richer discussion, and stimulate thoughts.  The client is feeling increasingly confident that we’ve capture the main aspects of the change programme ahead of them, and specifically, that we will find & explore all:

  • Material risks
  • Major Transition States – with objective / outcomes at each
  • Core principles for the transition
  • Programme work streams
  • Critical cross-project dependencies
  • Crucial trust relationships
  • End-state clarity.

    Next week will will move the focus towards the JOIN and SLICE cycles. I expect greater involvement with the PMO and the Business Analysts working on the detailed/costed Business Case, over the next two weeks, will move the focus to ARRANGE by the end of March. To quote Dan Ward: we will have then completed “Start before we start” (recommend watch his Simplicity Cycle videos).

    Keeping things simple, pragmatic & easy-to-understand has been key. The antithesis of a Big-Five approach, or a traditional bloated “methodology/framework” #EntArch style: Fast, simple, relevant, and at a fraction of the cost!


    On Thursday last, I ran a VPEC-T workshop using the new VPEC-T Navigation Map. The workshop lasted 4 hours, and the client now wants another two 4 hour sessions. The new map received positive feedback. According to one partcipant:

    “The map really helped us explore each area and triggered useful thoughts”.

    This is in the 2nd iteration of FIND, JOIN, SLICE. We will  complete 3 iterations of all Four Focus Areas  (including ARRANGE) within the next 2-3 weeks. This session was part of the design of a circa $4M change programme over next 18 months. We will be using many of the FiD toolset including (but not limited to) :
    The map:

    1 month, 14 days ago

    WTF is a Dyslexic Polymath?

    One Saturday last January, my wife and I were visiting my cousin Andy and his family for the weekend. He and I were in his kitchen; me bending his ear about my new ‘Found In Design’ un-book idea, while he cooked breakfast.

    Andy’s a smart cookie who works for Ricardo UK and someone I love to test ideas with. After ten minutes of me machine-gunning my thoughts at Andy, he rested the spatula in the frying pan, and turned to face me.

    “Look, Nige, you’re a great storyteller, and I like your ideas, you know I do use one of your thinking tools, but isn’t this stuff just common sense”?

    I paused for a moment mid-stream, at first not sure whether to be insulted, or pleased. I decided pleased – and with a smile retorted with a quote from Voltaire:

    “Why is common sense, not so common”?

    Andy glanced back down at the pan, and sighed.  He had a moment of reflection; his inner voice telling him that lives with that reality daily. I’d stated the obvious again! 

    He glanced over, and with a withered smile, replied:

    “Good, point…” and added,  “Would you like a sausage with your breakfast?”


    A few days later I was recounting the conversation with Andy to a friend. Once I’d finished, she paused for a moment, and then laughed loudly – looking me square in the eye:

    “I know exactly what he means.  It often seems to me that you end up stating the ‘bleeding obvious’, but when I think about it, it wasn’t actually obvious before you started babbling on”.

    She then added:

    “I think it’s the way your weird ‘dyslexic polymath’ brain works – you seem to see simple patterns that the rest of us don’t see. And when tell us a story that explains one of them, they just do seem like common sense”!

    “Oh, thanks”, I said  flatly,  feeling a bit insulted, and confused.

    I guess I’ve always been embarrassed about my dyslexia. This stems from unhelpful, “old-school”, teachers and, frankly, a fairly unsupportive father (who freely admits now he made a bit of a hash of parenting me). Mum, however, was different she helped me understand Shakespeare’s plays through Lambs Tales and encouraged me to write poetry, lyrics & music. She helped me tell my stories.

    So when my friend called-out my dyslexia, I felt very awkward at first. But then I realized, she had a point; the way my brain’s wired does help me see things a bit differently. And I suppose my fanaticism over SIMPLICITY and PATTERN seeking might be directly related to dyslexia. I think they might be the coping mechanism I’ve used to survive, and thrive, despite my lack of academic qualification. So maybe being a ‘Thicko” isn’t so bad after all; maybe weirdly-wired misfits can help by stating the “bleeding obvious”!


    Oh, and, by the way, once I’d looked up ‘polymath’ I decided I would buy my friend a pint next time I saw her.

    I’d love to hear stories from other dyslexics around the Wurld!

    1 month, 24 days ago

    The stories behind VPEC-T and other tools

    More stories about #vpect and other tools will be covered in #foundindesign in the coming weeks. I’ll be telling the story of how VPEC-T came about. It started bay in the 90’s when at DHL I worked with a team of around 30 people globally on something we called Business Service Specifications. I’ll explain how the “P-E-C” evolved from that, and then how that led Carl Bate and I to add the “V and T” lenses when working in Criminal Justice in 2006. By telling such stories, I hope to make the tools I use more useful to others. Some of these tools I helped create (like VPEC-T), but many of which I simply adopted, so no claim of invention, or “my IP”! Many smart people have adopted, created and refined some great thinking and designing tools – I’ll be explaining why & how I’ve used them, along with, a few of my own.
    Here’s a link to a recent post on LinkedIn that gives a feel for where I’m headed: VPEC-T: A Ten Minute How To Guide and here’s the new blog: The Found In Design Unbook.  

    Thanks to Nick Gall (@ironick) for prompting this post.

    Twiter hash: #foundindesign
    1 month, 28 days ago

    I Don’t Call Myself An Enterprise Architect

    … anymore.

    A few people have asked why I call myself a Change Designer rather than an Enterprise Architect. The reason is simple: the EA label misrepresents what I do.

    The popular understanding of  Enterprise Architect is:
    • attached to an I.T. view of the world – I’m not only focused on I.T.
    • often synonymous with large arcane frameworks like TOGAF – I dislike them
    • regarded as slow, top-down, big modelling upfront etc – I prefer Dan Ward’s F.I.R.E. approach.

    I use the title Change Designer because:
    • They are two simple words, that together, explain what I do – I Design Change (transformational or otherwise).
    • They don’t t limit me to only focus on I.T. – but, at the same time, they don’t exclude I.T.
    • Much of my thinking and toolset come from the world of “Design Thinking” (and Systems Thinking, Complexity Science etc.).

    I guess I’m lucky in the sense I’m unemployable now, partly due to age but mostly due to temperament! 🙂 I’m more choosy about the things I work on where and when. All this means I don’t need to splash “Enterprise Architecture” and TOGAF all over my CV to find the next gig – and if I did, I’d probably not meet the client’s expectations!

    Follow #foundindesign on Twitter to see what I’m up to these days.
    3 months ago

    Navigating VPEC-T

    Here’s the poster for a VPEC-T thinking framework master class focused on knotty problem solving & design innovation.The aim of this map is to provide a starter-for-ten checklist of things you might consider when doing a VPEC-T analysis/design – wh…

    8 months, 20 days ago

    BREXIT – A story of unintended consequences

    On Cameron’s performance

    “Referenda are the nuclear weapons of democracy. In parliamentary systems they are redundant. Seeking a simplistic binary yes/no answer to complex questions, they succumb to emotion and run amok. Their destructive aftermath lasts for generations”

    “In any referendum over separation, the “independence” side appeals to the patriotic heart. The thinking of the Leave side is magical. It plucks at a dimly remembered but glorified past (that was never as good as nostalgia makes it), and offers a future that is imaginary. The Brexiteers are the dog that caught the bus: they hadn’t thought what to do next. Coping with impending difficulties is for another day”.

    You needed to be candid that Britain would be at a disadvantage in a negotiation to leave the EU because the EU has the trump of being less dependent on the UK than vice-versa. You avoided saying so, perhaps because it could sound wimpy or “defeatist” about British stature and weight. You let the Leave side get away with claiming that the EU would negotiate as an equal partner with equal stakes as the UK because the volume of trade was roughly equal. The reality is that respective stakes are starkly unequal. On trade, the UK is dependent on the EU market for 45 percent of its exports. The EU is dependent on the UK for only 8 percent of EU exports. Foreign investment into the UK has stopped because of uncertainty that UK exports will still get to the EU market. The Confederation of British Industries therefore judged that Brexit will cost 4-5 percent of GDP. The Economist Intelligence Unit is even more harsh”.

    Please read the whole article here:

    8 months, 20 days ago

    VPEC-T My Favourite Quotes

    “VPEC-T is based on a profoundly radical philosophy of plurality. Instead of a single centralized value system (as found in top-down command-and-control organizations), we expect to find a range of different (overlapping, conflicting) value systems. Instead of a single coherent set of policies, we expect to find complex interaction between different kinds of policies (commercial, security, safety, corporate responsibility, and so on). Instead of a simple set of routine events, the post-modern organization is faced with a dynamic set of emerging events. Instead of a rigid set of database records, systems content is rich and evolving. And finally, the whole human activity system is underpinned by a complex set of trust relationships between people and organizations”.

    – Richard Veryard.

    “There is original and very useful thinking underneath the name [VPEC-T] that I think will change the way information systems are developed over time.”

    “And just one final point about that name.  It’s actually very useful.  “VPEC-T” turns out to be a compressed mental checklist that can quickly be played back in your mind in meetings, as you write up the findings of a study or as you discuss the information system ‘to be’”.

    – Roy Grub.

    “This is a genuinely different way of looking at information systems. Much of architecture and requirements analysis is focussed on the “how” rather than the “what”. This book redresses the balance and provides a novel way of understanding how people and organisations interact and what information systems need to do”.

    – Simon Tait.

    “A simple and elegant approach to allow people who happen to be buildng IT architectures, to talk meaningfully with the the business people who are paying for it. It’s a new way to (begin to) fix an old problem. An IT architecture that ignores people will be both complex and unworkeable. VPECT encourages people type discussions around trust and values in a way that architecture frameworks ignore. An excellent tool, whose application is underestimated by it’s authors in areas way outside of IT architectures”.

    – Peter Drivers.

    “I’ve used VPEC-T as an internal approach to driving questions and conversations as opposed to ‘throwing it on the table’ – my thoughts are that asking people to think hard about their business problems etc is enough to ask without the cognitive burden of a framework (no matter how simple!). But then being an employee as opposed to a consultant means that the discussions tend to be looser, shorter and less formal than it might be as an outside consultant”.

    Mike Burke.

    “Overall it was a great way of describing the business context we were operating in, and gave us a solid foundation to start requirements analysis and architecture from. Certainly we were better served by the output of this analysis than we would have been with a list of affected IT systems, or current state processes”.

    – Doug Newdick.

    “The most important part for me was the VT. It allowed for better conversations with clients and other stakeholders through refining my understanding of the context, relevance, responsiveness, timeliness and other business level ilities. This allowed distilling a better architecture once lensing through PEC which I see very much as technology level concerns.

    It’s a very useful thinking framework to focus on actual value. It is very effective at nurturing sustainable productivity and works very effectively when combined with data driven analysis”.

    Darach Ennis.

    “Trust is the cornerstone for all relationships and must be firmly established in order to ensure any exchange of dialogue. It is the most difficult element to obtain, yet it is the single most important element in the [VPEC-T] model. Trust is best established by keeping one’s word and completing the actions for which you have committed (‘doing what you say you will do’). Often, participants in a project will have a positive/negative trust reputation that must be understood as part of the communications process. Ways to establish and maintain credibility (trust) with other parties include transparency of purpose and full disclosure of goals and expectations (no ‘hidden’ agendas)”.

    – James Kuhn.

    Twitter tag: #vpect

    Please take a look at the work-in-progress VPEC-T Metro Map.