Thinking aboutA Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

February 2012



This journal holds a trace of my journey of discovery (at least the part that has nothing directly to do with work with clients). I write to think, to learn, to play with and connect ideas, find insights, track what I've read, and interact with it... So, a new characterization for my Trace emerges -- this is my own personal "maker" space, where what I am building through exploration, discovery and experimentation is myself, my point of view on architecture and being an architect. This is, then, a learning lab/playground of a curious mind... hence it is, well, messy!  Consider yourself warned! :-)

Until February entries mass, may I suggest you take a look at last February"s Trace? No? Well, if you only stopped by here for the pointers elsewhere, you'll find an excitingly extensive list of blogrolls on the right. Or you can look at the not-yet-completed Journal Map.


"Code Wins Arguments" and Other Culture Defining Aphorisms

Zuckerberg's The Hacker Way letter to shareholders is a must-read for architects as it is a wonderful articulation of leadership and culture-creation.

2/11/12: Nicholas Carr calling the Zuck on his reality distortion field: Saint Zuck, February 02, 2012

2/14/12 and 2/25/12: Everyone -- everyone! -- creates a reality distortion field around themselves -- not least of all Nicholas Carr. We all interpret, re-interpret, give and add meaning not just to our past but to what we encounter and what we create. Some of us are more successful than others at creating a reality distortion field that reshapes experience of many. It's a matter of degree. And of harm intended and harm done, intended or not. In the case of Zuckerberg, signs are Facebook wasn't born of entirely saintly intentions, to be sure. But whatever combination of hurt, impishness, meanness, yearning to be liked and for camaraderie, ambition to accumulate power or to contribute to our social evolution, etc., caused the Zuck to create and lead his master work, we -- the broader social we and collected each of us -- have benefited. Even if we don't use Facebook (actively), it has changed the world in observable and hidden ways. Now Facebook is used to project and distort reality through perception and impression. And it has facilitated real -- often really good -- actual change in the world. Life is complex, and living it is fraught with soaring greatness and folly and foible. We each create our own stories, our own internal justifications and rationalizations. Excluding the criminally evil and insane, we're each trying to do something meaningful. And justifying and excusing and tolerating our own lapses and faltering.



Trace Turns 6!Trace Turns Six!

This is the 6th anniversary of this Trace. It traces a chronological flow of thought and exploration, but a deep structure underlies my questing. I introduced my Journal Map structure as follows:

Leveraging the architecture discipline model that organizes the Resources for Software, System and Enterprise Architects site, I have organized topics in sections that relate to architects (who) architecting (how) architecture (what) in purposive (why), organizational (where) and evolutionary (when) context. The Architect section is organized by the Bredemeyer Architect Competency Framework, and the Architecting section is organized by the Visual Architecting Process.

Structures within structures, but with a cross-cutting narrative flow that dances among these domains of discourse and into worlds beyond, drawing lessons back to ours.

ps. Sigh. Birthdays and anniversaries are a chance to reflect on why we are grateful to someone or something. So. Another year. Another opportunity not taken. Maybe next year will be the year someone says something generous like "this is an amazing body of work -- delightful and yet so full of salient insight and guidance" or "this shifted my mental models and gave me new perspective, helping me be more effective, yet it's presented with such grace that I didn't feel like I was having to work to have all this wisdom transfused into me" or "it takes a bit of getting used to the format and style, but its addictively interesting and full of surprises" or "never was delight, wit and whimsy so well applied to shifting a field's self-image and the state of its art and practice" or ... well, you know, something like that. What's that? Dream on? Ok. Ok. You do know that what you find here is not entirely up to me, but how you choose to experience it. Ok. Drivel it is. Thanks a lot! ;-)

In the meantime, I'll keep trying to work my way towards writing that is worthy of -- and actually excites people to the point of expressing -- superlatives.

2/19/12: TMI? Well, read this: Resolving the Trust Paradox, John Hagel ;-)


CAP Theorem



The "more important" discussion continues...

Infrastructure Architecture


Well, I see that Peter Cripps and David Evans' Versatilist blog is up and running. The wording of the manifesto is well done. And it certainly will be a good day when our field is more inclusive.

Know Do Be [getting beyond "do be do be do be"]As the compass of the architect goes, if you haven't yet read our "What it Takes to be a Great Enterprise Architect" paper may I ask why ever not? It is pitched at enterprise architects but it has been highly valued by architects of all "flavors." Our Architect Role and Skills page is also useful. I need to update our architect competency model (shown right and larger here), but topics covered in the "Who" section of my Journal Map will give you a tiny (relatively) window on some of how my thinking has been evolving under your tutelage.

2/10/12: Peter Bakker has proposed a values-affirming manifesto for enterprise architects. The rebel's manifesto (via Nilofer) also speaks to me! ;-) Apparently it is manifesto season. Here's another.

2/15/12: One of the best ways to change your vantage point is to see from someone else's point of view. Oh right, you know that -- that's why you read here. :-)

2/22/12: Another PoV: Essential Skills and Characteristics of an IT Architect, Philip Hartman, Feb 22, 2012.

Philip's list of attributes is a wonderful conversation starter, so bear with me as I use it to opportunistically index some of my posts, creating a "conversation" thread of sorts. For example, I relate the "name well" point to discerning the essence or essential nature and software abstractions (and to observation, and...). "Lead through influence" brings to mind The Influence Factor and Architects Lead and Making Conversation and... well, goodness, many more! And don't even get me started on "draw pictures"... well, alright, see the Visual Thinking and Visual Design section on my Journal Map... Oh, before we leave this little traipse down memory lane, my Do Architects Need to Code? post might be worth reading.

2/25/12: Another frame: the architect orchestrates scenius and connects genius. ;-)

3/20/12: Here's a wonderful post:

And book:

3/21/12: And another (dealing with being a consulting enterprise architect, but with a useful list of skills):

and Nigel Green (building on Anna Mar):


Self-Authorship and Development

Developing development, Matthew Taylor, February 6, 2012

Matthew's post, and so many others, are highly valuable to anyone thinking earnestly about the properties of the 21st century citizen (and organization) worth aspiring to and developing. Matthew is challenging, thought-provoking, draws on a wide slate of deeply engaging influences, and...

Engagement styles differ. And dominance hierarchies are so 20th century. Oh they persist. And will. But anyone seriously looking at how to be in the 21st century, needs to be actively looking at what else, what lies beyond dominance? And those who have no respect for hierarchies are luminaries of sorts. Gentleness does not mean intellectually uninteresting.

The continuing (apace) augmentation of human capability through technology raises its share of ethical questions, adding another dimension to the (enlightened) "21st century person" consideration set:

2/15/12: Another great post from Matthew Taylor: Sort yourselves into two groups, February 14, 2012. Matthew writes for a public policy target audience, but engagement is very relevant to us for we need to work through influence and goodwill!



Scaffolding is just there to build more complex systemsSystem Primary, Scaffolding Secondary

"Agile" and SCRUM are clever brands that created strong tribal identity and even, at least in pockets, pop-cultism. Do we want that in EA, or do we want to take the view that tribalism is a great thing, humans need to identify with a social group, after all... but shouldn't we focus that passion on the work to be done, the enterprise to be led, rather than on the methodology/framework? You know, so that we don't put all our loyalties and following zealotry into the scaffolding rather than the meaning (or at least the "cathedral" that gives structural expression to it) we're building... Just a thought to chew on.

In case my metaphor doesn't convey terribly well.... we use scaffolding to build more ambitious, more complex buildings. Buildings that give physical expression to, and structured space to house, people and their relationships to each other and some greater purpose. Conceptual frameworks and methodologies give us conceptual and cognitive leverage. They enable, but they also constrain -- guide, but also channel our thinking and practice. So rather than making the methodology the religion du jour, make the work it enables the focus of our zeal and all the good that zeal or passion or shared commitment energizes and emboldens in us. Appeal to the methodology to do good work, sure. But we shouldn't confuse the focus of our work and loyalties.

The architect as leader needs to help the group find its compelling identity (its vision and values) and strategy (the compelling distinctive value only they -- uniquely, superbly though minimally they -- will deliver to enrich the ecosystem they play a role in making more hospitable and sustaining).

2/8/12: As EA and decisions go, I think this is of thought-provoking relevance:

We stand at the portal to a new way of being, and the people who are thinking seriously about how to be at a personal, organizational, national and global level are doing important -- mutually related -- work.

2/8/12: Stereotyped developers come in for their share of fairground mirror distortions. So I suppose the stereotyped architect has their turn coming:

Developers on complex projects with good architects appreciate their architects.

2/24/12: Our mental frames constrain and enable. Even the very words we use do:

"The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects the ways in which its speakers are able to conceptualize their world, i.e. their world view. Popularly known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is often defined as having two versions: (i) the strong version that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories and (ii) the weak version that linguistic categories and usage influence thought and certain kinds of non-linguistic behavior." -- linguistic relativity, wikipedia

Mental frames, conceptual models, mental models. This caught my eye when I stumbled upon it today: Mental Modeling For Content Work: An Introduction, Daniel Eizans. It's been a while since I read Howard Gardner, so I need a refresher.. And I need to revisit Steven Pinker's work on language and mind. (And I need to take a look at his Visual Cognition.) And Marvin Minsky. And George Lackoff. Phew... All because mental models enable and constrain. Oh yeah. And then there's Sleights of Mind and all that magic and NLP stuff. Yikes. Well. Almost midnight here. Time to let go of this day.



Brainstorming Does [Not] Work

Yet another point-counter-point duke-off on brainstorming:

The thing that all this discussion is missing is that participation builds buy-in. It gets skin -- and committed braincells -- in the game. Sure, it needs to be managed effectively to get diverse perspectives and to encourage vibrant encounters. We have to manage the cognitive biases we fall pray to -- confirmation bias among them. That happens when we work alone too. We each have our own filtered viewfinders. So. There are many flavors or derivatives of brainstorming ("6 hats", gamestorming and modelstorming among them) but the act of people working together, sharing ideas and bouncing off one another, as well as getting to hear diverse perspectives and feel other people's pain, concerns, frustrations, hopes and aspirations, is powerful. Yeah it takes more time. Yeah if managed badly some may mistake it for one of those meetings, when really it is a place for a meeting of the minds -- not all back-slappy and nice-nice (though some of that is vital too), but a shared thoughtspace where minds engage energetically and creatively.

Whenever you see an experiment that yields results that counter accepted wisdom, challenge both the experiment and the accepted wisdom. There's a good chance that there are important ways that both are flawed. Simple-minded experiments should bear no exception to this! Just because it is fun to gore the pig of yesterday's fad, doesn't mean there wasn't something there that was valuable -- both a need that had been sensed, and a solution that, while overhyped and misrepresented, had some merit.

Oh, by the way, when Nilofer gets her umbrage up, she's good!

Leaders challenge the status quo. Not out of ill-temper, but out of umbrage. Out of a sense that something is wrong in the world. But leaders lead. People. People who participate in positing a world as they want it to be and participate in building it -- iterating and refining and redefining how we want it to be in the process of building and experiencing and evolving it.

2/12/12: Susan Cain takes a well moderated (not extreme, either-or, but rather a yes, some of this and some of that kind of) position in this interview:

2/13/12: Scott Berkun comes out against Jonah Lehrer's much touted article: In defense of Brainstorming: against Lehrer’s New Yorker article, February 13, 2012

Last year there was another point-counterpoint session with brainstorming as the boxing bag.

2/4/12: Own Voice First Innovation: A Precursor to Group Brainstorming, Steve Nimmons, 3/4/2012 (via Kris Meukens)

From the tweet streamBrimming Pitcher, from the Stream

Change the world:


  • What Does an Innovator Look Like? Joseph F Coughlin, February 7, 2012
  • Clayton Christensen Why some people are more innovative ("Interesting"... I like Yo-Yo Ma's saying that to make a great musician takes 3 generations -- one to get out of poverty, one to get an education, and the third to become a musician. Being innovative clearly takes tinkering and trying, grit and persistence, and self-confidence. As well as the ability to discern a problem and the imagination to conceive approaches to try out. And some arena of expertise to apply, to connect in new ways...)



The connected cityMore Important Infrastructure --> Connected Companies

Stuart Boardman has reframed the discussion from ecosystem infrastructure to a virtual enterprise (of more or less interdependent enterprises) -- or the city as connected companies (I'm only using that term to draw on Dave Gray's work though we wouldn't exclude city government, etc.). Do stop by Stuart's blog (and Peter's for the lead-up context) -- it is an interesting discussion and well worth encouraging Stuart and collaborating in exploring the city-as-enterprise concept.

That abstraction slices and dices the space differently than my first notion, where I was seeing possibly, but not necessarily, geographically bounded ecosystems. For example, ecosystems thriving on (an intermesh of) value networks. So an example of what I had in mind is more along the lines of the ecosystem of cottage industry, with the interwoven ecosystems of shipping and producer-consumer matching/finding and financial transacting and craftsmanship training and apprenticeship and, and, and the various interpersonal and technological bases for all that, etc. One could look at fresh vegetables, and consider all the interwoven value flows that center on the production-to-consumption of vegetables (then you pull in industries from those centered around oil to transportation and inventory tracking and retail and, and, and your family). Of course any of these bases for "factoring" are valid and interesting. They're just different. In the case of the city, we're asking what causes that city to hang together, yes, but more what causes it to thrive. In the case of an industry, likewise.

And my particular excitement was around looking at technology that shapes an ecosystem, and causes it to emerge or reform and thrive. Why? Not because I am "IT-centric" but because technology is so often in the blind-spot of strategy setters in many industries -- technology at all, but especially infrastructructural technology because it is often taken for granted (in the warp, or not differentiating). The thing is, though, that technology changes, sometimes radically reshaping entire ecosystems. And organizations too tied to the assumptions of the previous ecosystem order, get washed out. Like Borders. Moreover, infrastructure enables, but dependencies become interwoven in the capability fabric of the organization and

"it is also very hard for the "users" of an infrastructure to change the infrastructure while at the same time infrastructural changes or problems can have huge implications for all users" -- Peter Bakker, comment on virtual enterprise

Though Kodak reminds us that it isn't just (but also) infrastructure changes that change ecosystems:

"The company has struggled to compete as mobile phone manufacturers have introduced increasingly sophisticated cameras on their own devices." -- Kodak exits digital camera market, Feb 9, 2012 (via Daniel Stroe)

Film cameras were disrupted by digital cameras (and related infrastructure, especially for photo/video sharing, that increased the attractiveness of digital still further). Then increasingly sophisticated cameras on smart phones took enough of the digital camera market to unseat that part of Kodak's business.

Related ideas that might serve useful:

Agility comes from responsiveness, responsiveness in good part from connections

2/14/12: More important infrastructure considerations:

2/15/12: The government creates infrastructure that buoys and boosts ecosystems, and there is good news here, for the UK, anyway.

2/24/12: Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Reasoning About a Highly Connected World By David Easley and Jon Kleinberg (via Peter Bakker)

3/20/12: Cities:

3/28/12: Cities have psychogeography -- who knew? I like it! Organizations too! I've worked with many great managers, and I feel like managers are getting a bad rap in our zeal to shed hierarchies and their command and control echelon-orientation. But I have also come into contact with some control freaks who Fort Knox-ified their teams, aggressively controlling information flows and access. They shape currents and eddies around them, some forced their way, others strongly repelled.

4/3/2012: The Future of Knowledge: Increasing Prosperity through Value Networks [kindle] Verna Allee



What the Red Queen told AliceExploring Agility in Evolutionary Ecology Terms

In business, agility is taken to mean not just being able to move quickly and flexibily but being responsively adaptive to change (or adaptively clarifying, resolving, redefining, ... redressing desired outcomes and adapting, redesigning, ..., altering the mechanisms to reach them) in an ambiguous and changing world. And more -- also seeking, discerning and taking advantage of opportunity. Agility is used in counterpoint to inertia and stasis, which is problematic in a changing world. That is, as the pace of change quickens, so too must the speed of adaptation. Further, as uncertainty increases, the demand for flexibility and responsiveness increases. Hence the term agility. The agile react adaptively to change. But the hyper-agile* sense not only what is immediate, but what shaping forces are emerging. And the hyper-agile anticipate, imagining and acting proactively. That is, they act to shape opportunity, they don't just react responsively to threat.

The resilient endure despite challenge and obstacle, coping with the organizational stress of surprises and shocks impacting the ecosystem. In a changing world, where stasis invites being washed out on the changing tide, agility is a way to achieve resilience. And yet. As new ecosystems emerge or are reshaped in the wake of a technological or social change that washed out an older ecological order, those that move into them seek to make them stable, creating relationships and the infrastructure that supports connections and flows (of value and information). If everything is changing all the time, there's no time to harvest the fruits of the ecosystem. Or something like that.

I think/sense that the agility-ecosystem-platform model stuff in the Fractal and Emergent paper is important to this discussion... No? To cut that longer story short, the position I articulate there is that as an ecosystem matures, the organizations thriving therein develop product (and/or service) platforms that allow them to target niches more and more finely (effectively) and efficiently (quickly and with lower incremental resource expenditure). That is, they are agile within the context of that ecosystem which is stable enough to allow adaptive refinement of offerings to deepen the market opportunity. But a different kind of agility is needed to move advantageously to participate in and reap the benefits of creating or reshaping an ecosystem that demolishes incumbents who were well adapted, and responsive, to the replaced ecosystem but unable to (perceive and ) make the change -- fast enough -- to adapt to the forces and opportunities shaping the new ecosystem. This treatment overlaps with and is informed by/benefits from Christensen's Innovator's Dilemma. [Nothing is unprecedented. But understanding is advanced through new connections. :-)] Apple, for example, is agile in both senses. It has disrupted ecosystems (even cannibalizing their own) with innovations that have remade industries in a new image -- Apple's, and then they nurture and advance the ecosystem with evolutionary adaptations of their own, and by creating a context in which other players prosper.

In short, agility is the ability to adapt responsively to change in opportunity and threat in a complex and uncertain world. That shifts the onus of definition onto adapt and responsively and complex and more. That is the way of definitions. They simply move attention around. So, we try to orient people more to what we mean, but if they want to misunderstand, there is always huge scope for it. (I incline to Feynman's position, expressed in the two Feynman quotes in this post.)

I realize that a variant on a product line (or a service for targeting a new market niche) has a lot less degrees of freedom than an entirely new product, and there is less uncertainty along many dimensions. But if we take differentiation seriously, even a variant is pushing some envelope of uncertainty. So agility amounts, for example, to lots of little cheap-to-fail experiments that allow path correction/adaptation/resetting. While resilience allows, among other things, for survival through multiple failures, not just in market assessment/responsiveness, but other blindsides like patent-trolls that raise costs unexpectedly. Agility may rely on resourcefulness and resilience on resources and sustain ability and stamina through the trials and setbacks and uncertainty that attends change.

Agility, in business terms, has to do with speeding evolution, bringing intentionality, imagination and anticipation, knowledge and experience, art and intuition, and rational engineering thinking and so forth to bear on creating "progress." (Agility and progress are relative sorts of terms -- meaning we can grok more or less agility without pedantically, narrowly and concisely, defining agility -- that depend much on perspective and making a case, a reasoned argument rather than a mathematical formula. As such they are subject to all our blinders and biases and whatnot. Like ease of use, we can pin down one arm of this shape-shifting creature and articulate and measure it. But ease-of-use is very much a "I'll know more when I encounter not it" sort of thing. Which is to say, as much as we try to define what we mean by it, we'll be challenged by the ways "not it" leaks out and comes up to bite us.)

Anyway, we don't mean simply "running fast" but more "switching direction" with nimble facility as the landscape shifts unexpectedly. But in business terms, though we're very interested in sensing and responding to threat quickly and in terms that let us continue to thrive, we're also -- or still more -- interested in discovering opportunity and even creating opportunity, inventing it out of history and possibility, or by connecting (across) experience and imagination. Agility has (at least) two components -- the sense and the respond component. That is, an organization (whether a team ... or a company or ...) is not agile if it fails to perceive threats or opportunities (others perceive) or if it fails to adapt. We also think of companies that invent, and then adaptively exploit, opportunity as agile too. That is, agility has an element that has to do with anticipating change and shaping the evolution of the market, noticing unformed, unvoiced needs and moving quickly to address them in ways that after the fact seem a natural, hence obvious, fit to a newly emerged need. In this way, agility, in organizational terms, has to do with adapting to a changing business landscape but also actively changing that landscape. Sensing how shaping forces are changing as new capabilities emerge and mature even in other markets; seeing new applications and identifying opportunities, challenges and needs emerging as trends and customer expectations shift.

Ok. Remember my ego is tattered enough by the criticism I assume from deathly silence (which I read as, at best, indifference), so "put some tenderness beneath your honesty" if you think I'm just plain (or caveatedly) wrong here. :-)


* I used "hyper-agile" as a placeholder term -- I need to phrase that notion better. I think the distinction is useful, even if the term I landed on rubs me wrong.



To don't listA Weak-Willed Creature!

I'm at once an extra-ordinarily weak and strong-willed creature! That is, I cannot overcome my will!! Not with my own will, anyway. Alternately put, words will gain expression through my fingers, and the more playful of them want a less orderly, less constrained venue to play out. So, this Trace is simply a monument to my weakness, and a testament to the wiliness of thought that will out! I have little idea why I share them, except that ideas like to mate, to conjoin and create hybrids of themselves, and also to work out, to find reaction that causes them to adapt and change and become more resilient to the thwomping forces of a judgemental world.

Or something like that. The trouble, though, comes from two fronts. i. I need to do more of the formal writing that will reach and so serve more people, hence ought to put this on a "say no" or "stop doing" list. and ii. it doesn't succeed on its own terms, meaning no-one would characterize it as anything remarkable.

2/27/12: that's a sketch I did back in 2009.


Cloud changes the landscapeFreck and Freckless (Evolutionary Ecology Cont.d)

Thinking more about agility, it occurred to me that freckless is a kind of agility deficit. So I looked up freckless. No definition. Freck is a term used in art, and it means to checker or to diversify. And there it was. The mind is an amazing tool!

To diversify. One of the forms of agility I have been talking about is diversification in the sense of variations on a theme (a product platform). Diversification both addresses and triggers diversity in the ecosystem, creating and serving, tending and building niches to plunder more thoroughly (in the worst cases) or to sustain and even enrich and make more fertile and hospitable to life (in the best cases, even if more in the way that mycelium does, turning the old into richer host bed for the new).

I have been talking about agility in terms of evolutionary ecology, but with the explicit recognition that companies, comprised after all of individuals, attempt to speed and alter and intervene and interject and intercede and (I'm looking for the right word here) shape evolutionary processes with intentional actions -- concerted, but also emergent from more and less choreographed, actions and intentions. Being bumped along by the unpredictable interactions of others, some from within, but also from "invasive species" from other ecosystems looking for new applications for their adaptable, mutable capability set.

Organizations create and participate in business ecologies. They build up the relationships that stabilize parts of the broader ecosystem, and create conditions for organizational forms to thrive there. They create products, they create the seeds of the next generation of harvest. They produce variants on their family tree, to target and develop niches.

This is one of the analogies I find helpful.

But I think to advance understanding we have to shift our perspective, and picking up and exploring what we learn from other analogies is highly useful. So I love and benefit much from Kris Meukens "Orders of Agility" exploration.

And then I try to resolve what I learn from looking through and across these different lenses.

But over the last day or two I have been thinking much more about software architecture and mechanism design, and... exciting work is taking shape there too.

Um... later...

I pointed to the Fractal and Emergent paper playfully so that I could start this discussion with that discussion (just the first several pages really) already shared. I didn't mean that it was awesome or anything. It might be (ha!), but I just meant that there was some prior conversation I wanted to leverage. I shouldn't be so playful, but I have to be! When I'm prototyping/mocking up my thinking, I have to play!

To draw out some of the points I've been trying to express... When one talks about businesses in the context of business ecosystems -- and organizations creating, building, sustaining and advancing these ecosystems -- one is talking in part about organizations competing and advancing through variation and diffusion (of their products or services, and all the organizational matter, including infrastructure, that takes these products through their lifecycles), and in part about creating networks of collaborative, symbiotic relationships, stabilizing and evolving the ecosystem to make it more generative, enabling the interrelated system, not just the organism, to thrive. And the flip side of adapting successfully (i.e., responsively) is failing to adapt successfully (i.e., the very existence of the organization is at risk). Resilience, for its part, is at least somewhat about surviving when the ecosystem itself changes fundamentally, and the organizational organism figures out how to adapt to the new ecosystem/competitive order.

Still later....

I read Dave Gray's "Most companies are not built for agility" with interest. I think it is worth noting, though, that companies that optimize around a product set may be optimizing for bounded agility. Yes, indeed, for efficiency in exploiting its current ecosystem, but also for bounded agility, meaning agility within a bounded context. Alternately put, meaning the ability to adapt what it does in response to evolutionary adaptations by others in the ecosystem, and the ability to create variations (on the theme of its current slate of offerings) that create and/or serve emerging niches within the ecosystem. (Like Nokia, and its product platforms that enabled rapid development, manufacturing and effective distribution of product variants targeted to global niches, being the dominant player in creating the global mobile phone phenomenon.) It firms up relationships internally (laying down the "tracks" of processes deep into the infrastructure), and within the extended value system -- with customers and the distribution channel and suppliers and others like the media (formal media and strong influencers in informal social nets). And these adaptations are responsive, but locally so. They are evolutionary adaptations to better fit an evolving ecosystem. So I'm saying "bounded agility" when I mean agility or adaptive responsiveness within the context of incremental innovations, and evolution rather than destruction and replacement of (significant systems within) an ecosystem.

But from time to time, "creative waves of destruction" reshape the ecosystem, fundamentally altering the competitive order. And that takes a very different kind of agility to initiate and/or to adapt to. That's when it can feel like you're on

"a business train that’s going a hundred miles an hour and you feel like it’s headed in the wrong direction" -- Dave Gray, Most companies are not built for agility

The business, in that case, has become too closely adapted to and integrated within an ecosystem that has been replaced or significantly restructured by some landscape reshaping change -- change in infrastructure that hosts new varieties of organizations producing new varieties of products or services; or a change in products brought about by new technology capabilities that may have be transferred from another domain or ecosystem, and transformed through new combinations or connections among capabilities. Etc. Again, consider Nokia. The smart phone phenomenon washed over a sizable chunk of the mobile phone market, restructuring that ecosystem, changing its shaping forces and putting new players on top.

Rooted in relationships -- creates stability, but also inertia in times of fluxVarious people have come at this slate of concerns from different angles. Clayton Christensen (The Innovator's Dilemma and The Innovator's Solution) most famously and influentially. I was taking those insights in the context of business ecosystems and the insight that by optimizing for an ecosystem -- including optimizing for local or bounded agility -- the organization can become vulnerable when the ecosystem is more fundamentally reshaped. Optimization -- as Christensen and Gray are both pointing out -- can produce rigidity in the face of the need for more fundamental change (or hyper-agility). Given that ecosystems are being reshaped more often, an organization needs to retain the ability to create a sustainable environment for itself but also to develop the ability to sense opportunities to create radical advances and to sense when others have made advances that are reshaping the fundamental success and threat factors in the ecosystem which have to be responded to or face failure and even obliteration. And it was this insight that I was using to motivate the need for a fractal and emergent approach that allows for intentionality in applying and coordinating resources and responsiveness. And allows for different parts of the business to be working with different agility models adapting to and reshaping their contexts.

So Amazon, for example, has a business around dead-tree books, but also has a business that will destroy and reshape the whole dead-tree market. In one view, it has created variations of the species book. In another view, it has led in the creation of a new beast that will replace the book. (Remember the baby and the "magazine as broken iPad" video? Dead trees are unresponsive to a generation that expects not just visual by dynamic interactive pop and sizzle.) First, it put too many local dead-tree format sellers out of business. Then it partnered with survivors who could reshape their offering to serve long tail needs (used, rare and out-of-print books). Then it set about putting its own dead tree business out of business. And eating into publishers' business to boot.

And perhaps agility is too overloaded -- to the point of being a trigger to everyone who has a strong idea of what it means... The concept I'm trying to work with is adaptive responsiveness -- not simply to cues and threats but also to opportunity. To the hint of opportunity that comes of sensing a problem worth solving/addressing, a frustration that, removed, or and aspiration if enabled, would make life more the way enough want it to be. And a continuing adaptiveness -- a continuing sensing and responding. Reshaping not just the product concept, but the world around it, to better fit, better ability to thrive and create the conditions for continued thriving.

So among the concepts that fit here in this exploration are: flexibility, sensing, responding, adapting, experimenting, changing, ...

Experimenting, and allowing that responsiveness and emergence mean that unintended effects -- where something in the ecosystem adapts in unintended, surprising ways -- can produce disruptive, discontinuous change. So agility necessitates this dance between intentional and extemporaneous action.

2/13/12: Ugh. More!

Again, I need to reread Fractal and Emergent myself, because I think what I did in those early sections was very succinctly lay out a number of the key elements and dynamics at play here. And my zealous interest at the moment is because I have an opportunity to improve on what I did there, with this chapter that I need to ship already! :-)

pluses and minusesHere are some key ideas (in the Fractal and Emergent paper and in this re-turning of the turf)... though I can't resist expanding on them, as I restate them!:

  • within an emerging or invaded ecosystem, those that move in, set about creating networks of collaborative, symbiotic relationships, stabilizing and evolving the ecosystem to make it more generative, enabling the interrelated system, not just the organism, to thrive -- but in the process, these incumbents become mutually adapted to and highly dependent on one another (tightly coupled) and this, while providing stability, also creates threat for it obscures forces massing to rend the ecosystem, or its established order, a thing of the past. And even if the threat is perceived, the relationship structures are so embedded as to be immutable. Why the Raspberry Pi was designed in the UK and built in China, Nick Heath, February 10, 2012 (via Daniel Stroe) is a great example of the power of ecosystems to lock relationships in place. There is still adaptation and variation, but scoped within the ecosystem so ultimately bounded, and ultimately vulnerable to a change that replaces the ecosystem or at least much of its extant order (and all the "tracks" -- relationships and connections and flows, and the infrastructure supporting and hosting them -- it laid down to advance that order).
  • product (and service) platforms are an agility mechanism, enabling rapid, efficient (lower resource consumption) and effective (responsive to need and opportunity) product (or service) variation within a range of possibility. But, as Christensen points out, and for the reasons he articulates, these can also blinker and bind the organization when disruptive change threatens the ecosystem. Relationship platforms (like Facebook) likewise foster rapid "speciation" or new application generation along with deepening relationship investments and sunk costs of a peculiarly inertial sort -- creating deep interdependencies. The perceptual problem inherent in sunk costs (the forlorn notion that where cost was spent, residual value ought to be leveraged -- though at greater cost for no/inadequate return and no future prospects) is worse for the fact that so many are in the same boat, creating the illusion of "too big to fail."
  • disruptive change requires a different kind of agility to make happen, or to respond to once it is happening. It was hard for Google to see how social was going to disrupt its search/advertizing business, but as soon as it was clear that it was (word-of-mouth and Serendipity being what they are, Facebook drew off not just advertizing dollars but search impetus), Google moved quickly to create a counter-threat to Facebook. [(2017) Narrator: But not quickly enough. Too late, in the network effects/relationship density game.]

As for the relationship between engineered evolution and biological evolution, I think there are parallels and differences. And engineering is, after all, man playing “god” in that “designed hand” sense. I don’t mean any disrespect to God or Evolution when I say that. Only that man has to build himself to rather mythical proportions to have the gumption and grit to take on his ambitious projects – consider a Facebook for goodness sake! A college kid? Creating a company that pulses and thrives as vibrant as a life-form? Well, of course, what the Zuck did was create something others saw an (alternative) use for and they, as much as the Zuck, shaped it into a more egalitarian social loom than the boy-toy he envisaged. Systems shape and are shaped by their encounters with the world. Reading drafts of Fractal and Emergent, Dana brought in the game of Life, and Peter likewise mentioned it in conjunction with this ranging discussion (mostly between the various voices in my mind, but most usefully prompted on by Peter's observations).

2/13/12: Wrangling complexity: the service-oriented company, by Dave Gray, is an engaging read. It is fun to see the concepts from our field extended to organizations and defined with a fresh eye and without our complexifying baggage. I like the title -- wrangling complexity! This from (the dreaded-through-frequent-self-reference) Fractal and EmergentWrangling the hairball

"Complexity is a key driver of architecture. That is to
say, as complexity increases, so does the need for architecture.
It is not that we want complexity to go away,
for value comes hand in hand with complexity. Instead,
we want to harness complexity and, as it were, to tame
it so that it serves rather than obfuscates and subverts
the value we are creating."

Wrangle has a much more Wild West feel to it! I like it!

This is timely:

So, are organizations becoming more "domesticated"?

2/15/12: Graham (@exmosis) on BBC's "How to Grow a Planet": "It's a story of opportunity and of symbiotic relationships - in other words, of how co-dependence can lead to vitality and huge, thriving ecosystems."

2/15/12: A page from my "storyboarding" for the The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent paper is here: The Key.

2/18/12: Here are some of my reflections on what The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent is about, written once it was heft over the publishing wall.

2/23/12: I drew archman as a cowboy (riding an arch-horse -- you know, a conceptual abstraction of a horse) wrangling the giant hairball. :-) The hairball is a reference to Orbiting the Giant Hairball (via Peter Bakker) as well as Foote and Yoder's Big Ball of Mud.

2/23/12: Charting the Course of Socioeconomic Evolution, Greg Rader, February 7, 2012

2/24/12: Ecosystem voodoo, the coder's revenge:

Ecosystem voodoo, the coder's revenge

Grin. Yep. Ecosystem is hype-word du jour. But Agile was hyped and there's tremendous value there too. Bear up. Ecosystem and evolutionary ecology of organizations and such will make it through the over-hype-and-crash curve too. ;-)

2/24/12: Big companies have a lot going for them. Companies with a strong identity have "pull" -- they attract great people, and loyal customers, and investors. They can manipulate (in the best and worst senses) the "system" (the ecosystem, the political system, etc.) to their advantage; we will hopefully see a rise in social consciousness of corporations since consumer activism has a more effective way to organize thanks to social nets.

Related and coming just in time for this conversation:

2/27/12: Adding (most excellently) to the discussion:

2/28/12: We at last watched The Red Balloon the other night; it is a magical example of what can be accomplished without words. The cloud image has a hint of residue from that. I can't come close to expressing as much without words, of course, but I am often surprised by how much a few lines and can convey despite my poverty of skill. Well, if one takes a generous stance towards my sketchy drawing, that is. :-) And the image holds within it the possibility that archman can fly off to new open spaces of competition on his balloon ride of clouds (a la Red Balloon where the boy is flying away from the bullies), or archman can balloon-chute in to the existing ecosystem and start-up in low-start-up cost way thanks to the cloud. See, all kinds of neat insights carried in one little image. :-)



Strategy Model

Value to other stakeholders, not just customers and shareholdersVisual Strategy Model

It was this recognition that underlies the structure of our business strategy model, causing it to depart more from the Kaplan and Norton strategy map that was its inspiration and root. The formal place to access our strategy model is the EA as Strategic Differentiator paper. The model is referenced in Fractal and Emergent, but not explicated there, so the earlier paper is the formal go-to place for that coverage. Anyway, the value propositions that support and elaborate and reify the identity are from the perspective of various stakeholders, not just the shareholders/owners and customers, but also employees and others in the value network. The diagram right is a simple schematic -- value themes may interrelate, but as with all design, finding a natural clustering factors.

We use this map in conjunction with the business model canvas, which focuses more on an operational model while this map focuses on differentiating value (to customers critically, but also to those who vest their talent and energy and serious chunks of their precious lives), and how it is created and for whom, in service of the core mission, values and vision of the enterprise (its identity).

Why do we bother? Architects need to be able talk strategically (at their level of strategic scope, which may be product strategy, or enterprise strategy, or something in between) with business stakeholders, and to translate business strategy into technical strategy. This strategy model is mappable onto whatever strategy formulation your business team is using, so that is good. Importantly, it introduces and covers the essence of strategy. So it creates a way of focusing and sifting for what is crucial/strategically significant. This informs the architect, and positions her to be more useful to the strategy setters. The format also translates very naturally as we transition into architecting capabilities.

2/21/12: Culture Vs. Strategy Is A False Choice -- indeed! In our view, identity is part of strategy (the bedrock part that provides context) and culture is intimately associated, if not identified, with identity. Strong culture creates cohesion and aligns a more emergent (through empowerment/engagement) strategy.

Also related:


"That we tend to be largely unaware of our internal multiplicity and valuable incoherence is largely due to an additional feature of our brain organization, the existence of a distinct “conscious” module, that has evolved to try and create “stories” that make coherent sense of the various special purpose modules that underlie much of our behavior (Dalke and Grobstein, 2007; Grobstein, 2005a,b, 2007, in press; Haidt, 2003). This additional module, the story teller, operates to improve coordination and cooperation among the various unconscious modules, but also, at least as importantly, to conceive possible ways of behaving that would not develop from any of those modules on their own, or even from the interaction among them without a dedicated effort to conceive a coherent way to make sense of their independent activities."

-- The Brain as a Learner/Inquirer/Creator, Paul Grobstein, 11/14/2007 (via Peter Bakker)

2/27/12: This approach is very synergistic/overlaps with ours: PEST, VPEC-T, Scenario Planning and Pattern Based Strategy, Steve Nimmons, 09/01/2012


Big Data: Sensors and Sense-making

"Big data" is the new black. But aside from the meaty technical challenges in sucking in and dealing with big data, these are topics that light my engines:

When a Leader Decides

In What it Takes to be Great, we used the story of the US Constitution and the role of James Madison. Even in Europe, the story has been highly valued for the points it draws out about the role and characteristics of the architect. Anyway, you might possibly be interested in a modern day leadership story that is related to the Constitution via the 14th Amendment -- Cory Booker, in articulating his stance on the 14th Amendment and gay marriage, distinguishes between circumstances when a decision should be put to community vote and when a leader needs to uphold a higher level founding principle: Cory Booker Nails Marriage Equality In 5 Minutes, January 31, 2012.

Even if we take a very democratic, consensus-oriented (everyone is an architect) approach to system design, there are decisions that the architect knows will impact system outcomes and the architect has to step in and make these decisions if parochial vested interests or popularist urges of the day threaten these more fundamental, writ in the charter or constitution, kinds of values and desired outcomes. The team may revolt and appeal to management to unseat the architect, but the architect as great leader needs to defend and herald the larger cause and mission of the project.

Cory Booker is commandingly articulate, yet imbues his case with believable emotional intensity. It is wonderful to have great leaders in our past to point to and learn from, but it is also thrilling to have a great leader in our midst! We are such a critical bunch, we modern people, and too many of us are just plain bad at appreciating greatness in the people we encounter. Perhaps we need to be able to appreciate the greatness in ourselves so we can be generous in appreciating the greatness in others!

The Big Switch

We have been shifting route jobs to computing, moving "blue collar" jobs into automation, and we have been making knowledge workers more efficient. But as fast as we can, we're moving our knowledge -- all of the accumulated documented knowledge -- into compute. Watson, Siri, and Google (read between the lines of the knowledge graph story), are all making forays into artificial intelligence with access to vast knowledge bases and the ability to answer informally expressed questions. This doesn't just extend and enable, this will take jobs just as surely as robots in factories have and are taking jobs. It struck me that what Google is doing is seeking to replace the expert accessed through a search query with its own AI expert's answer, which will cut experts out of the loop on many queries. Sure, this enables the person doing the search to get more useful answers more quickly. But there is a cost in terms of moving ever more away from human provision to compute serving. We'll advance what we know and can do. That is exciting. And yet if we look at our blue collar neighbors whose jobs moved to silicon and steel, and see the wave coming at us, there's some cause for pause, no?

All of these mechanisms will make artificial intelligence more and more powerful. These are such exciting times when so much is in reach, but at the same time I do wonder what sort of a world we are building. And it can be a wonderful world -- if we can get over our pettiness and create a great world where "meritocracy" means all humans merit a safe start with access to all the mind and body enrichment society can muster.



Happy Valentine's Day!Happy Valentine's Day!

Ze dogTo my brilliant, awesome, amazing (and supremely tolerant and generous-kind) husband -- I love you! :-)

And to the wonderful architects who privilege me with friendship and patient tutelage, I am so grateful and happy for your presence in my life.

Between my amazing family and my work, I have such a vibrant and fulfilling life and I take so much joy from, and my spirit bows in such amazement to, each of you.

Oh yeah, and to my unconditional, uncritical fan -- ze family dog -- you're the best!

Yep, a little sticking snow with no wind last night, made this morning magical!

And if you think I'm being a bit too sappy, this post is for you. ;-)

2/25/12: Oh dear:

Why not?

Really? Rats! It's back to the drawing board on my self-esteem then. ;-)

Learning from the Master Designer

Grady Booch's on architecture column titled "The Architecture of Small Things" is exquisite! The points it makes are important, the vehicle he uses to convey them beautiful and apt. I highly recommend it for the lessons it teaches directly, and indirectly -- lessons about art, as much as architecture.

This TED talk (via Marinus van Aswegen) on visualizing the cell is amazing:

I pointed to another visualization of the mechanisms of the cell here: Mechanistic and Organic



Architect Jokes: A Humor Roundup

EA Jokes anyone?

Alex points here.

Over time, I've gathered up some jokes/odd bits of humor that I relate to architects and how we are viewed. Here are some of them:

What is the difference between a technical specialist and an architect?

“A technical specialist spends their entire life learning more and more about less and less, until eventually they know everything about nothing.”

“While an architect spends their entire life learning less and less about more and more, until eventually they know nothing about everything.”

adapted from Charlie Alfred's blog post

From Thomas Jay Peckish II:

"Software professionals are presumed by many executives to possess paranormal skills, such as reading their minds, and predicting the future." --Thomas Jay Peckish II, November 19, 2009.

The art of drawing people in -- figurative becomes literalYou've never heard of Thomas Jay Peckish II? Well, how about Brian Foote? Yep, The Big Ball of Mud guy. Need we say more?

From Sir Ken Robinson:

I like Sir Ken Robinson's "drawring" joke at minute 3:41 (and used it in the Picture It presentation) and relate it to architecture—you know, while you're sketching your architecture live, you can tell the joke and follow it up with "but no-one knows what the system will look like" and "they will in a minute."

Also, if you've watched Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, you know his delta on "if a tree falls in the forest and no-one hears it, did it make a sound?" Well, in case you need reminding, it is "If a man speaks his mind and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?" Ok, so here's my delta: "If an architect speaks his mind and no developer hears him, is he still wrong?" As I've told you, that talk is just ripe for parlaying into software terms!

Quotes about humor and leadership:

'Keep your sense of humor. As General Joe Stillwell said, “The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."' - Donald Rumsfeld

Liven up a meeting with funny signs:

Allen Klein is author of The Healing Power of Humor. His favorite funny sign: "Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it."

19 Ways to Enhance Your Sense of Humor, Reader's Digest, 12/1/08

Here's a collection of links. And more here (nobody seemed to want arcfun, so I dropped it.)

Here's some that use modeling and visualization for fun:

I liked this one so much, I have my son singing (too much of) it on the "leave a message" message on my cell phone: I'm against it, Groucho Marx

And this (via Dana Bredemeyer) is one of my favorites: "George Carlin Talks about Stuff". (You know, this George Carlin.)

Oh, and I have a collection of pointed photos [I suppose it says something about me that I think they're funny ;-)]... like this:


And these (also taken in South Africa): giraffe (nah nah) and elephant (but But BUT):

Nah nah but But BUT

And here we have Abe Lincoln tickling my daughter... (that post is germane).

Ok. But is humor architecturally significant? You bet! Here's a snippet from David Peat in Gentle Action:

"... jokes are often based on upsetting our assumptions about the way the world, or society behaves. In other words, they alert us to rules, and to exceptions to rules... "

So these are pertinent:

I break all laws (By Sara B.)Which makes this important:

And humor can be an overture to play, and play is important:

Don't let anyone tell you that girls don't have a sense of humor! Hmpf. I mean, Sara drew the cartoon shown on the right just for me.

A word of caution, though... I have also observed that:

... humor, when turned on someone else, is the instrument of humiliation. Further to that point, used that way, humor is a dominance assertive ploy. If we want to live within a more flat, less dominance hierarchical world (despite our ancient encoding) we need to become more sensitive to the behaviors that convey dominance.

Playing with stereotypes and other mechanisms of humor can keep our egos in check [the recognition in "Ok. I tease myself. I have to. It undermines the soapbox I stand on, so that it doesn't grow too high. :-)"], but also serve as a cue to collaboration, rather than a dominance cue:

  • my "entry" (not really) in the "software super-villains contest"...

Aside: Me draw? Well, it's like this....

So, if I'm going to be the butt of humor, I want it to be a friendly "but". ;-)

2/19/12: From Stuart Boardman: 'Literal translation "What's the difference between an enterprise architect and a trolley bus? When the bus loses the thread, it stops." The Dutch use the same word for thread and wire, so it works perfectly in the original.'


From Humor, to What We Learn From Comics

These, by way of Peter Bakker:

I have pointed you to a Christoph Niemann image before, but it makes such an important point for architects that I wouldn't want you to have missed it:

  • this image from Christoph Niemann -- a metaphorical visualization of how the views interrelate not in a mechanistically interlocked sense but in a more organic or narrative way

For anyone who starts to take the power of visualization seriously, Scott McCloud's books are inspiring and empowering (in the capability creation sense):

As empowerment goes, Randall Monroe and xkcd so well demonstrates that it isn't in the ability to draw (though Randall can, quite well) but in the insight conveyed, so we can go ahead and give ourselves permission to just do it!

A while ago, I pulled together a set of links on sketching and maps that you mught* find valuable. Add to that list, this video of Dan Roam on solving problems with pictures (via Henrik Søgaard).

* giggle! I'm liking much, but by no means everything, about Dreamweaver, and I do miss Microsoft's spell-checker (the way it works and the words it knows)! But mught is just such a neat serendipity of a mistype! A real mutt -- or mught -- of a word.

2/21/12: A small window on Jim Henson's visual thinking process: Time Piece, August 11, 2011

The Missing Links

The Bas van Gils recommended reading list is missing some important reading! Yep. The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent, 2010 and EA as Strategic Differentiator. What? They're short as books go, and free. ;-) Just thought I'd mention them. ... Again. ;-) The two people who read here are groaning. Sorry! But it might gradually dawn on this field that generously pointing people to my work isn't going to do anything but increase their own credibility. You see, their readers will either think they look good because I look bad, or think they look good, because I make everyone look better (remember the end of Dan Ariely's talk? Yeah, like that.) Archman, of course, always dreamed of leading the guardians of the word "ni"

Technology Crusaders

Putting those two in conjunction is an appreciation of awesomeness! :-) Oh, I think arrogance is a problem, but that isn't the point. The point is "technology activism" is a good thing! Finding some way that things are wrong, or causing ill, in the world, and setting out to put them to rights is a good thing!

I have made the point that leaders discern a need and Bret Victor pitches it in terms of a "wrong." I believe that finding a wrong we are inspired to address is a well-spring of passion and forming the principle(s) that orient and point towards the righting of that wrong is important. And I think that it is ok to frame it in terms of a need, that being more general than a "wrong" and it makes allowance for leading towards the creation of something compelling for the good it introduces rather than the wrong it rights. But regardless, the leader sees the big thing worth doing, that others weren't seeing, or weren't able to mass organizational will in concert behind addressing.

Since I seem to be doing a retrospective roundup of sorts today, here are some of my posts on leadership:

Well, Bret Victor brings to life a vision of programming where we see what we're doing with immediacy. We're by no means there but it is a compelling vision to work towards. In the meantime, this struck me (inTwitter-chronology, ie read up)::

Prograaming as creative writing

Programming is indeed creative writing, but a special kind, where we don't just transmit our ideas to our readers. Instead, we make stuff work with our creative writing -- we make the inanimate animated, with action and sensing and responding, giving it a way to acquire and act on knowledge, to make recommendations, to inform and enable people. Powerful stuff!

Jan Booch (Grady's wife and collaborator on Computing) described the hands in the Computing logo as follows:

'One of the things we were hoping for (and that I must not have communicated clearly) is that we would still like the hands to evoke the piece by Michelangelo. We like the feel of our present logo of who is creating whom? Are we "god" to computers because we created them or have they become "god" to us? We are looking for something that conveys that complex relationship between humanity and computing - the co-evolution between the two.'

What a Wonderful World

This BBC trailer -- the images and David Attenborough reading What a Wonderful World -- is thought-arresting lovely! Well, only for a moment, because then the words just tumble!



"The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky

Are also on the faces of people passing by

I see friends shaking hands

Saying, "How do you do?"

They're really saying, I...I love you

I hear babies cry and I watch them grow,

They'll learn much more

Than we'll know

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world (w)oohoorld"

-- Israel Kamakawiwo Ole' - Somewhere Over The Rainbow


When I think of that song, it brings so powerfully into my mind the memory of a 12 year old girl singing and signing that song for her deaf father at a school variety show a year ago. That innocent sweet voice stands in such wonderful contrast to David Attenborough's reading. The image of her signing in such fitting company with the animals beheld in moments of equal splendor and harmony. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

What a wonderful world. And what a gift we have, that we get to experience it in wonder.Being swept into The Scream

But more, it is a gift to take the time, to see the marvel and to bring it to other people. David Attenborough has such a remarkable gift!

Now, when Michael Feathers tweets "Wow" and a link, you know it's either really great, or really scary. This time, I'm sorry, but it's downright scary: The Dangerous “Research Works Act”.

We will reach a world where gross subversion* of public trust will be the undoing of those who betray the public in matters that affect the many or the powerless.

Let's make this social world, this world of people, as wonderful as it can be!


* Is gross subversion too strong?

'For 2010, Elsevier reported a 36 percent profit on revenues of $3.2 billion. “It’s a secure, viable business, which is a good thing,” Mr. Clark said.' -- Mathematicians Organize Boycott of a Publisher , Thomas Lin, February 13, 2012

Interesting times.




Making Connections (and Relationship Platforms)

From Martin Howitt's blog I came upon Carl Haggerty's blog, and was struck by the contrast between The Future of EA is no EA (May 2010) and Reorganising the Reorganisation of the Organisation (January 2011). :-) So, remind me to write a post on The Future of EA. Yes, it's about relationships.

Anyway, Martin is thinking about (local) government as a platform business -- that is, an infrastructure business? Alternately put, the enabler, or substrate and conduits, of relationships (flows of value, information, etc.) in an ecosystem.

Alright then, Martin, meet Stuart and Peter. Gentlemen, meet Martin. [Oh -- I'm introducing the posts (linked on the names) to each other. Just because the people might follow each other, doesn't mean their posts "met." Anyway, I have this internal joke (among the voices in my head) that our posts are avatar-like projections of ourselves, that go off into the interworld and make new connections.]


Business, Enterprise and Architecture

Kris Meukens has embarked on a discursive exploration of the "enterprise continuum," picking up threads from Tom Graves on the one hand, and from David Snowden on the other. It will be interesting, and, knowing Kris' writing, I fully expect useful, to see where Kris goes with all this.

2/23/12: More on the topic of what and why EA:




We saw Pina on Saturday night and it is superb! It's nominated for best documentary but really it should have been nominated for best picture and best foreign picture too! Dana exclaimed "What a eulogy!" and I was heartened to hear that filming on the movie had been planned before Pina was diagnosed with cancer -- she died within 5 days of diagnosis, and 2 days before filming was due to begin. I think great work should be celebrated during a person's life. A wonderful technique is used in the movie for the interviews. Dancers communicate thought and emotion without spoken word, and in the interviews they are silent, simply looking at and away from the camera you, so the effect of hearing their words but not seeing them speak them is that you are hearing their thoughts. It creates a feeling of immediacy and intimacy -- being in the presence of thought, expressed and raw-real yet intensely, finely wrought. The movie is as exquisite a piece of art as any I have ever seen in film. Dana thought so too, so it's not just a Q<= thing but an art and life thing.

And my, did they live in and with their art! The technique is strong, of course! But superb -- even superlative -- technique only gains access to the field of art. Art is more, and Pina used each dancer's individual art in her movement-canvases -- a visual poetry that is at once primally evocative and a powerful essence in which to find meaning. The choreographer and the dancers.

2/25/12: We listened to Wim Wenders (director of Pina) being interviewed, and he said

"I was at rehearsals with her and her dancers. And I thought, do they ever get anything done? Because they laughed all the time."

On, Wim Wenders is quoted as saying:

[on the subject of his Oscar-nominated documentary] "Pina was a perfectionist in a different way. She wanted each dancer to be completely himself or herself. She didn't want them to play any parts. That was an amazing process to see. To see them do it, not fake it."

[on employing 3-D to film the choreography of Pina Bausch] "The body is such an important thing in [her] work, and it is fiction on the regular screen. In 3-D, the body has volume. The body is an instrument to discover and conquer space. Everybody thinks that depth is the great thing about 3-D. But in my book, volume is the great thing."

Pina teaches, by her example, that it is possible to create the context in which people are their fullest selves, and work with deep awareness of, and in harmonious synergy with, others to create something that is truly special.




"Great business collaboration is fuelled by people who mix their commercial savvy with emotional intelligence and an interest in what others think." -- Andrew Armour, The Innovation Partnership Paradox, February 17th, 2012 (via Nilofer Merchant)

Richard Veryard's slideset titled "Architecting a Multi-Sided Business" is thought-provoking and well done. As is Dave Gray's presentation on the Connected Company (starts about 10 minutes in). These pieces usefully complement the Fractal and Emergent and agility/ecosystems stuff.


Co-evolution can happen like early childhood playing -- side-by-side but not integrally. Or it can happen with rich interaction which makes the ecosystem more enabling and resource-full. Or there can be competition, which consumes and attempts to obliterate.

Cooperation as a conscious choice or as the creation of evolutionary advantage...

Image source: The Penguin and the Leviathan: Towards Cooperative Human Systems Design, Yochai Benkler (via John Hagel)

Should we -- we system thinking types -- be among those who lead in this evolutionary orientation to co-operation instead of competition -- to replace mean, aggressive turfism with a collaborative orientation that grows the community ecology?

Does 21st century enlightenment mean striving less for dominion, including the carving out of intellectual turf, and more for working collaboratively to advance our understanding and ability to address the issues that face us in providing wholesome (and sustainable) physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual lives for all the world's people?

Evolution of archman... into -- Siri? (Well, isn't the pinacle of evolution as we currently conceive it the singularity?)Other exciting related work:

Clusters, according to Porter, are:

"critical masses in one place of linked industries and institutions--from suppliers to universities to government agencies--that enjoy unusual competitive success in a particular field"

"regional clusters – groups of closely related and complementary industries operating within a particular region"

"Clusters are a particularly important way through which location-based complementarities are realized."

Clusters... or industry hubs:

Also on ecosystems:

  • Twitter Drops The Ecosystem Hammer: Don't Try To Compete With Us On Clients, Focus On Data And Verticals, Mg Siegler, March 11th, 2011

These study areas in biological ecosystems are interesting:

  1. material and energy fluxes and transformations within and among ecosystems,
  2. the relationships between structure, including complexity, and functioning of ecosystems,
  3. ecosystem dynamics and trajectories of ecosystem development through time, and
  4. linkages among ecosystems at different spatial and temporal scales. Checklist driven development

Co-evolution -- and co-creation and co-consumption (or sharing):


Indeed yes, I have lists for that:

Of course, there are "to do" lists where we check off what we planned to do, to focus and make and show progress against goals. And there are checklists that are function as "did we do" lists ("did we forget or miss something?" checks). Checklists of the second sort are collected wisdom helping us avoid common past oversights and gotchas. When we conflate the two, and make the checklist the To Do list, we're "looking for the keys under the light" (referring to a point in the first bullet in the list above). (Reference architectures can be treated as "checklists" of an organized sort, and again are problematic if treated as the end rather than as an aid.)

Reading Kevlin Henney's powerful Remembrance of Things Past short story, I was again struck by the importance of observation -- to the storyteller, the shaper of experience, the meaning maker and to the diagnostician, the problem discoverer-solver, the tracker-guide, the interpreter of signs and signals, the sense-maker. Observation. Why goodness me, yes, I do have a post for that. (Who'da thunk?! ;-) (There's a warning about Agassiz at the end of this post. And another mention in this -- "the pencil is the best eye.")

Tech Fix

Tie me to the mast of my intentions"Google is an exceptionally disciplined company, from a software-engineering perspective. They take things like unit testing, design documents and code reviews more seriously than any other company I've even heard about. They work hard to keep their house in order at all times, and there are strict rules and guidelines in place that prevent engineers and teams from doing things their own way. The result: the whole code base looks the same, so switching teams and sharing code are both far easier than they are at other places."

-- Steve Yegge, Good Agile, Bad Agile, September 17, 2004 (via Michael Feathers)

My Mast

Information these days is like the Sirens Odysseus had to defend himself from with an external device, demanding he be bound to the mast of his intentions so he'd not be pulled off course by the temptations...

Oh my... bind me to the mast of my intentions!

Ok. I'm going to go closet myself with my muse now.



_You_ are not so smart; I(')mperfectEye Matters

I Matters (Cognitive Biases):

Also trending in the technology landscape:

And in the socio-technical landscape:



Ecosystem Infastructure: The Case of Cities

Digging around on ecosystems and Porter's clusters yesterday, I came across a case study on Newark and this morning two things percolated through the other stuff I was doing to strike me: i. That's Cory Booker's city (see also) ii. It's a great case study on city infrastructure and competitive advantage.

Michael Porter focuses on cities and regional clusters. As important as these are, I think there is another "clustering" that is not regional but rather technology-relationship platform based, like the Twitter or Facebook ecosystems. And there are hybrids, like the intersection of Minecraft ecosystem and the Youtube ecosystem, with phenomenon like The Yogscast that thrive at that intersection.

Archman in HollandDana in The Netherlands

Dana Bredemeyer will be teaching our Software Architecture Workshop in Einhoven on March 27-30, so please tell anyone who might possibly be interested (in the qualified sense of you know they would appreciate the heads-up, and conversely, would be disappointed if you hadn't told them when you could have)!

Remember, this is the workshop about which people say "was fun and rocked." This isn't just a class. It is a trajectory changer that architects point back to years after as the one thing, if there ever could be any one thing, that made all the difference.

This is a great opporunity to work with Dana. He's awesome (I know, I'm biased, but other people think so too) and a wonderful architect and coach. And yes, he still codes. Russell Ackoff has come to be valued as one of the founding fathers of the field of systems thinking. But think upon this -- when Dana was an undergrad in computer science at IU, he went off in the summer to study under Russ Ackoff. That was in the 70's. By the 80's, Dana was a software architect in the Operating Systems Lab at HP -- with that title, so you know the designation has been around at least that long.

The workshop is not specific to embedded software and IT/enterprise and application software architects will find it valuable too. Even if you'd followed my Trace for 6 years, you'd still get value from the workshop because it puts things together experientially. Besides, I don't cover Visual Architecting in an organized way in this Trace, partly because it is oriented to tracing some of what I'm exploring and encountering.

As awesome men in our field go, Gerrit Muller and his wife will be visiting us here in Indiana in March. We're so excited -- and I can get Gerrit to autograph my copy of his book. (There's still a reason to have dead-tree books.)


Yes, we draw on the walls...



Indifference personified in a personless shoe that tramples the rose of an idea...  the rose of the idea being part rose and part CFL bulb/the greener light-bulb of an ideaGood Ideas

On Peter Bakker's recommendation, I started listening to Shane Farritor's lecture on Orbiting the Giant Hairball and Blue Ocean Strategy, and quickly moved to minute 3 or so in the talk -- the part where Shane is reading about McGregor telling people their ideas are good. I love that! Ideas are delicate and so embattled in organizations that even the survivors will go through a huge pounding before they make it through all those (re)formative processes. It doesn't take laudable courage and resourcefulness to kill a delicate-tentative idea; rather the opposite! Give the idea a bit of encouragement to allow it to be grown and, with the tests and challenges that will come its way, improved. Time will tell if it is viable and resilient; you don't have to be executioner of infant ideas. Sure, we have a surfeit of ideas, things we might do if we just had the resources. Sure, there has to be a culling and a pruning, to provide resources to ideas we decide to put concert behind. So there has to be a time for the tough "no." Nonetheless, if we want to create an innovation rich environment, we have to let more ideas be probed and tested and developed some. They may end up being morphed and blended into some other even better idea. They may end up taking the host that the idea seeded itself into outside the company to form a start-up. Or they may be the next big landscape reshaping thing and it could come from your team. Big ideas, well, tend to start out sounding pretty wacky when they first get out of a mind and begin their chain web of reactions in the world.

Don't come in a c-word over everythingAnyway, the 'be special by being the one who says "yes"' resonates with me, not because I think anyone should be inauthentic and lie! No, because I think architects especially need to be positive, to look for the positive, to see and express the positive. In part, because architects are ultimately responsible for system outcomes and system integrity, including structural integrity but also cohesion and simplicity and understandability and consistency and so forth. That means the architect has to discern risk and challenge and erosion of structure and so forth. This could easily become a job of constant "seagulling"* ideas and contributions. Finding the opportunities in challenges is part of the gift. Giving people a chance to grow through their ideas -- to develop their ability to see what could be better, to see what is wrong (in the world and in the system) and how that presents opportunities for a contribution of value -- is a good part of how architects build their team and extended network of contributors to and champions of the system.

* seagulling is a reference to Nick Malik's "don't come in and c-word over everything" point.

See also: The Art of Change: To Question. And Jonathan Ive's Tribute to Steve Jobs.

2/25/12: Ah, innovation tournaments! Grow lots of ideas sufficiently to joust with each! Besides:

"As a classic study of industrial innovation showed, it can take as many as 3,000 raw ideas to result in one successful new product."

-- Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Enriching the Ecosystem, HBR, March 2012

This (tweeted by Niklas Schlimm) says it so well:

(Pulling my rusty German out from where it lies buried in my mind, that goes something like this:) Everyone says: That won't work. Until someone comes along who doesn't know that, and does it!

Translating too literally doesn't work (as well), so I took some license with the phrasing and the tense. Just so you know. Translation is like that, isn't it? Grokking the intent, and translating the gist rather than the literal. We talk about the architect being a translator, and this observation applies. :-)


Programming language is a language

Well, I confess... At elementary school our kids learned Spanish. But at the middle school our son now goes to, they don't teach a second language. It isn't even available as an elective. When he chose to go there, I told him that he has to learn other languages but programming languages count. :-) I think that knowing how to talk -- really talk, commandingly yet with a finely tuned aesthetic sensibility -- to computers will be as much a needed social and career survival skill as human languages. ;-) Although, as humans get relegated to smaller and smaller gaps between more and more automation and AI moves into system-of-system integration-and-command center roles that humans have typically played (autopilot, autodrivers, auto-business-intelligence...) who knows what humans will need to be (uniquely) good at? Dreaming? Oddly -- our error-proneness and cognitive biases are creating jobs for computers, but our quirky human uniqueness in the context of mastery of craft could be our redeeming grace...

Right. We do need to spend a year in Europe and in Asia. :-)

Oh, oh. Last night Ryan told us:

"There is a problem with pursuing your dream -- you never reach it because it keeps moving further out. So what you need to do is run quickly after it and when you get close, jump at it and catch it by its tail and tie it up with it so it can't get away!"

Middle school. And he already understands and values Agile. ;-)

2/24/12: Still, we shouldn't get too comfortable... hark ye: 'in what robots are ominously calling "Phase 1"' (grin)

Messing with Dichotomy Thinking

I stand... in betweenI have been really enjoying Greg Rader's blog posts. The man is smart! Consider this:

"In summary, all strict dichotomies are false. ...In reality both arguments have merit...but sadly, false dialectics are better for attracting pageviews."

-- Gregory Rader, The Quest to be Remarkable

Smart, I tell you!

Of course... I think so because I said this:

"Extreme positions are valid in extreme cases. And only then." moi, 4/12/08

I went on to say:

(If you don't know me, the last part is irony. Satire in a nutshell, my dear Watson. Satire.) ...

I live in the software world, so that is the world I know. I don't know if other people are so predominantly like this, but we sure do like binary logic!

Black and white, either-or options. And checklists!

How do I remember that I came to the same conclusion 4 (gulp) years ago? Well, I only have to remember something distinctive in how I phrased what I wrote. So the trick is to write things down, to think in fun terms, and have Google at your back. The extended brain. It all works rather nicely.

Oh, I was opportunistically using a quote to play with that "wholes" and "poles" (or "polarities") dichotomy. Which? The world is filled with two kinds of people, those who see things in polar terms, and those who see the whole; those who see black and white, and those who see the shades of gray in between. And me. I see colors too. ;-) Just kidding. Actually, there's only one kind of person -- those who think they are right. ;-)

"That said, there is indeed a common trait in the typical way creative thinkers approach challenges: They can comfortably hold opposing thoughts in their heads and get to work.

[...] Successful creative thinkers see opposites and apparently contradicting goals not just as a potential for dissonance, but as an opportunity for dynamic harmony."

-- Fabio Sergio, quoted by Valerie Molton in Why Science Fails us, the Truth on Innovation, and Forward-Thinking Design

But. I digress. I did enjoy reading around in Greg's blog -- it is thought provoking and engagingly wirtten. I can't remember how I got there -- sorry, should have written it down.

Woven on the Loom of Sorrow

Tomorrow! If you're in the Bay Area you will really want to go to the Computer History Museum (in Mountain View) to see the "genial genius" Grady Booch present Woven on the Loom of Sorrow, the first in his series of Computing: The Human Experience lectures. GO! I tell you! This will be great! This is a watershed talk since it will be recorded and screened on KQED, and is a chance to see how Grady comes across to the "general public" while still speaking eloquently to us geeks. If you've enjoyed his podcasts, you'll have high expectations. And if you haven't, why haven't you listened to them? ;-)


Ever been here?

Almost! Or... groundhog day?



Remedial Fun

Archman decided to play today. Not sure why really...

Well, hope you enjoyed the little touches of whimsy.

Hm yes, as whimsy goes, this post will refer you to two of my heroes. Three are mentioned, but for a post that links to Christoph Niemann, try this one -- and here's the full set from the New York City Marathon. How to please Elise is... a great example of visualization. Anyway, you can see that I'll be needing to get Children's Picturebooks. Oh, that reminds me, The Wheel on the School was illustrated by Maurice Sendak. It's all connected really. (The Wheel? You know... that's the story I used in that "the art of the start" paper mentioned in this one <and a few [;-)] other places>.)




He's talking to me -- by which I mean, _I_ hear him :-)

He's right! It isn't "classy" <for me> to pass on a positive mention by way of thanks.

My internal critics were just looking for someone else to say that, to corroborate their point... :-)

internal critics playing whack-a-mole

ps: XKCD has trained you to mouse over, right? Um, hopefully I haven't untrained you. ;-)


Innovation Recipes?

Hopefully the latter is more like having a little Emeril's spice mix on stand-by to season your innovation thinking? Uh... Back to the triad of Humility, Grace, and... Magic. ;-)

Magic. Serious work. Play. Improvisation. Sensing. Some zest. A good -- spicy -- mix of diversity, heuristics and context-creating, analogy- and experience-leveraging practices. An invitation to serendipity. Not an innovation recipe. But an open exploration and disciplined but fluidly pulsing movement toward creating value.


Grasping at a Bright Future

"Living materials raise the possibility that buildings can make a positive impact on their local surroundings by performing remedial functions, that the construction of architecture could actually heal a stressed environment, for example, by removing toxins or fixing greenhouse gases. These new technologies could be on building exteriors, which present a managed interface with the environment." -- Rachel Armstrong, A Trip To The Living City Of The Future

Like forests! Nature does have a lot to teach us, and at last we seem to be interested in learning!


Inclusively Speaking

I always thought that the thing to do would be to have women use the male pronoun and men use the female pronoun in such situations, but at least "they" is sanctioned by the Oxford Dictionary :-) (via Greg Wilson, who does set an example of being more inclusive.) Of course, my approach would have brought about a natural rebalancing, with more male examples being used in nursing, and more female examples being used in computer science. ;-) (Though be careful not to cast the other gender in the #failcases or at least be very careful to do so in the distinct minority of your failcase examples.)


A Mighty High Horse!

The Book of Jobs is another perspective; valuable for that reason, but also to be taken in the light of being a human response in reaction to other extremes of position and presentation of Steve Jobs. As for the bit about Jobs delay in getting treatment, the lack of compassion is just chilling. How many of us have had that prostrate check or breast exam we should have had on schedule, and how many of us delay? Why? Because in the day to day, possibly finding out something highly disturbing and disruptive is easy to put off until tomorrow. And our attention isn't as in demand as Steve Jobs' was. I don't know if Steve Jobs was distracting himself and avoiding the hard questions he needed to answer, but I can at least imagine my way to understanding that the whole matter of cancer can be mind-freezing hard to deal with!

Aw, aren't my analogies cute? ;-)

Analogy Round-Up


A few more:

Here's my take on analogies (along with a link to Nick Malik's take on the EA as civil engineering analogy). And my riff taking the building architecture analogy as a launching point. As hybrids and melds go, I would also want to draw on, for example, the architect as storyteller (Peter Bakker; also relates to Doug's point about kaumatua and mine about American Indian tribal leaders). And choreographer (like Pina Bausch, who provided context and incorporated the dancers self-expression and emergent design) or director (like Wim Wenders, who shapes the story). But of course that gets us back to the "competency model" and we have architect as strategist and illusionist (wink). But these are only touchpoints and indicators of fields to draw on, to enrich our own role-self-concept and conception of the field. Right. Analogies are not identities. And analogies are useful in blends and transforms, more than simply straight up. And different analogies help us make different points or draw on different insights, serving different contexts.

Hm, are analogies models or like models? Tim O'Reilly, pointing to Science and Sanity said "language is a map." And a map is a model ;-)

At least the latter, for they are at best approximate, and always, in a strict pedantic sense, wrong, and more or less useful.

"A theory has only the alternative of being right or wrong. A model has a third possibility: it may be right, but irrelevant." -- Manfred Eigen, (1927 -), The Physicist's Conception of Nature, 1973.

Oh, as architect analogies go, here's a fun one (video). ;-) Here's my rendition of a variant on the herding theme:

Archman herding cats -- wiifm style (with a compelling shared vision)Archman herding bats: like herding cats, but in 3d.

What's that? Why, herding cats, and bats, of course. Charlie Alfred shared this great line from a friend of his at Anderson Consulting:

"architecting a product family is like herding bats; you know, like herding cats but in 3-D."

I think it works for enterprise architects too. :-)

(Back when I intrepidly -- or indiscreetly -- put my herding cats sketch on my site, someone put it in a collection saying that I'm a bad artist, but I get herding cats. So. I know that. Still. My image is being used for a good cause. So, bad artist notwithstanding, at least the way I see things is useful to someone...)

2/27/12. Thrilled that Alex found some of my words worth quoting and also that he liked the Manfred Eigen quote I used above. :-)


Tim O'Reilly On Books

I love that: “searches the possible for its possibleness” - from An Ordinary Evening in New Haven by Wallace Stevens




I skimmed Tom Graves new book, Enterprise as Story (2012), and I'm looking forward to stealing more time to read it! :-)


Visual ArchitectingVisual



This is really appealing! Entropy at its loveliest. :-)



get your hands dirty--on paper (and in code, but by modeling on paper whenever that is good enough, or at least at first)I just want to point to Stuart Boardman's follow-up post on his ecosystem exploration/case study: While You Were Sleeping - A New York Story, February 27, 2012. The post gives a synopsis of the business models for the various transportation service providers in the Metropolis ecosystem. I'm looking forward to where this goes; I'd do more with rich pictures in the initial model hacking. But I like to begin with freedom of expression, as you can tell. :-)

Aside on evolution: It is striking when the litany of those who have succumbed to, and are under threat of, "Darwinian evolution" is listed: promo vid for The End of Business as Usual.

2/28/12: Just as analogies help us see the concept or mechanism we're trying to define or design more clearly, so too do definitions or characterizations. Jack Martin Leith's definition of business ecosystem is useful -- very!, but it also pushes me to characterize how I see ecosystems (small delta on Jack's version, but helpful at least to me). Specifically, I would change:

  • A business ecosystem is the network of organisations that affect, and are affected by, an organisation’s actions.


  • A business ecosystem is a network of organisations that affect each other, possibly indirectly.

Ecosystems like the "etsy ecosystem" or the "Facebook ecosystem" started with an organization creating a relationship platform that attracts entities into relationships (information and value flows), but we wouldn't want to suggest that the concept of, and how we identify, business ecosystems is too closely identified with an (or a focal) organization's value chain network. Some ecosystems arise geographically, like Silicon Valley, and manufacturing in Asia. Porter calls these clusters, but it's an overlapping idea (especially if we let clusters be "virtual" or distributed, not just geographical). My sense is that it is sets of interwoven networks, of different kinds of agencies working their interests, interacting in competitive and synergistic ways, having ripple effects that can affect resource availability and sustainability for others in the ecosystem directly or indirectly, etc., that make ecosystems a useful concept beyond "the extended enterprise" or an enterprise-centered value network concept... A biological ecosystem has a spatial element, but the relationships in a business ecosystem aren't necessarily physical. Something must hold the ecosystem together though, and this may be geographical, or a relationship platform for a social ecosystem (like Facebook and all the businesses that are hosted on the value that relationship density creates), or it might be the value flows that dominate an industry that create the relationship density around which an ecosystem becomes visibly cohesive. An ecosystem might be centered on an organization's value network, for organizations that act as "keystones" (like Facebook or Wal-Mart) that shape and foster an ecosystem (as characterized in Iansiti and Levien, 2004). We want the concept to include this last, but not to be defined by it (alone). That is, I believe we want the concept of ecosystem to be capable of covering these various scenarios, and to be able to zoom in on different structuring forces. For example, in the biological case, we want to be able to view pond ecosystems and forest ecosystems that include ponds, etc.

Of course, James Moore's (pioneering) characterization of business ecosystem is important:

“An economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals—the organisms of the business world. The economic community produces goods and services of value to customers, who are themselves members of the ecosystem. The member organisms also include suppliers, lead producers, competitors, and other stakeholders. Over time, they coevolve their capabilities and roles, and tend to align themselves with the directions set by one or more central companies. Those companies holding leadership roles may change over time, but the function of ecosystem leader is valued by the community because it enables members to move toward shared visions to align their investments, and to find mutually supportive roles.” -- James F. Moore, The Death of Competition: Leadership & Strategy in the Age of Business Ecosystems. 1996.

This leverages the definition of (biological) ecosystem:

"A (biological) community of interacting organisms and their (physical) environment."

"Complex of living organisms, their physical environment, and all their interrelationships in a particular unit of space." -- Encyclopedia Britannica

Business ecosystems are not necessarily co-located even within a geographic region, but factors that drive and support the inter-relationships are what create cohesion within an identifiable ecosystem. The definition -- in terms of a complex or community of entities, their (inter)relationships, their environment and their relationship to it -- sounds familiar, huh? Not suprising though. Enterprises are systems-of-systems, and business ecosystems are systems-of-enterprises and other systems. Of course, these systems are more fluid, more organic and "messy" and porous and ... and adapting (holding in creative tension the desire to create stability and the desire to advance)... than mechanical systems. Those fall nearer the bottom of the hierarchy of our business ecology and we build them to gain greater control and predictability over some aspect of activity.

So. Please point me to definitions and characterizations of ecosystems that you like -- or simply know of, without having necessarily formed a (love/hate) relationship with them. :-)

Yes, I've noted Jack's reference to:

Why am I interested? Well, the paper Jack pointed us to, along with my formal (both Getting Past ‘But’ and Fractal and Emergent refer to ecosystems and change, and ecosystems and strategic advantage) and informal work (such as this post on strategy), indicate that ecosystems are not just part of the context that an enterprise is passive within. And to be sensibly active, the enterprise architect has to have the ecosystem more in their field of view. For us, it falls in the Context band of the Visual Architecting map. The savvy strategist is thinking in terms of interventions in the ecosystem, and the architect is thinking in terms of the structures and relationships and mechanisms that determine thriving and threat. The architect that brings understanding of the structural forces in the ecosystem to the strategy conversation has the opportunity to be a valued partner at the strategy table -- or, if not that then at least a valued behind-the-scenes briefer for those who do have a seat at the strategy table. (Architects with a technical background have thier own baggage to overcome, but organizations also have perceptual boxes they place technologists in and the box often has "lo EQ" stamped on it.)




"When employing men, or draught animals, better use is achieved when the source of motive power works alone: as soon as one couples two or several such sources to the same load, the work performed by each of them, at the same level of fatigue, decreases as a result of the lack of simultaneity of their efforts …" -- Max Ringelmann (translation)

"Specifically, Ringelmann had his students, individually and in groups, pull on a rope. He noticed that the effort exerted by a group was less than the sum of the efforts exerted by the students acting individually" -- wikipedia

Architecture is about creating the context in which synergy and concert and cohesion can be achieved. Teams can self-organize to achieve an emergent architecture that delivers value/fit to purpose, and has structural integrity and system properties that don't undo its viability. Can, though there are forces that pull teams off course. What we are paying attention to, shapes what we perceive and pay attention to, and in the day-to-day of getting things done, we need someone with experience and system-thinking perspicacity who is asking "what, at this extraordinary moment is the most important thing to be thinking about/working on/deciding now -- and what can be deferred?" Someone who is thinking about how we achieve more the emergent properties we want, rather than simply hoping that "best effort" engineering will yield the properties we need for the system to deliver the user experience at scale and across geographies -- not create entanglement that makes the system ever more unyielding. Decisions of strategic and systemic importance benefit from informed input, but also from perspective and experience. ... So why not value the architect who has the technical experience to help address significant technical and system design challenges, as well as the strategic-social skills to facilitate the team in creating an aligning vision and approach to achieving it, and building and sustaining the sponsorship and resource commitments so that the team has what it needs to be successful? A good leader enables and facilitates the team, and yes, sometimes the architect will make decisions but this is to get ground under the feet and move things along, not to undermine and undercut the team! Goodwill and the assumption of positive intent goes a long way! We don't need to equate leadership with dominance behaviors or command and control! I don't like the term "servant leadership" so much, but I like what it is getting at.


I also write at:

- Bredemeyer Resources for  Architects

- Trace In the Sand Blog

- Follow ruthmalan on Twitter



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I also write at:

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- Strategy, Architecture and Agility: The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent, 2010 

- Innovation and Agile Architecting: Getting Past ‘But’: Finding Opportunity and Making It Happen, 2008


Feedback: I welcome input, discussion and feedback on any of the topics in this Trace in The Sand Journal, my blog, and the Resources for Architects website, or, for that matter, anything relevant to architects, architecting and architecture! I can be reached at

Restrictions on Use: If you wish to quote or paraphrase original work on this page, please properly acknowledge the source, with appropriate reference to this web page. If you wish to republish any of Ruth Malan's or Bredemeyer Consulting's work, in any medium, you must get written permission from the lead author. Also, any commercial use must be authorized in writing by Ruth Malan or Bredemeyer Consulting. Thank you.


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- Introducing Archman

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a deer in the headlights sort of look is just perfect next to an expression of openness to feedback ;-)

Copyright © 2012 by Ruth Malan
Page Created:February 1, 2012
Last Modified: October 19, 2017