Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Business behaviour before technology

Prompted by Carl Bate's post and Andy Mulholland's post on the Capgemini CTO blog, I felt compelled to add my two-pennies-worth. Recently, I've been working on the seemingly endless challenge of describing why the VPEC-T framework helps both business and IT. To me, the points Carl and Andy make about Business and IT being fused into 'Business Technology' driven by the Web, are reasonable observations but dance around the edge of what really matters - that being behaviour. My hypothesis is that the behaviour of organisations, communities and individuals is what's really behind the 'Web' effect. And it's the examination of behaviour (including and in the context of unfolding events) that helps us understand how to make better us of information technology. Moreover, when we focus on behaviour we can look at both 'top-down', directed aspects and the bottom-up emergent aspects. So isn't a Business Architecture a simple expression of behaviour of a particular network of value (Value Network)?

Here's my attempt at explaining how VPEC-T helps uncover the behaviour of an organisation.
As always, comments and builds most welcome.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Thinking Adaptive and Adoptive over Fish & Chips

My home village has two problems: a local bye-law prevents us form having a Fish & Chip Takeaway and, like so many other country pubs, one of the villages most important watering holes,The Cricketers is struggling to keep its business going on wet-trade alone.

Around eight weeks ago, The Cricks was taken- over by new licensee's; Andy, Colin and Debbie. Since arriving, the new management have been keen to share their ideas for revamping the pub with 'The Regulars' and very attentive to their needs and suggestions. It was their adoption of one such suggestion a couple of days ago that prompted this post.

A few of the regulars were having a moan about the lack of a Fish Chip Shop in the village, when someone suggested the pub should do take-away fish and chips. The new landlords had already decided they were going to focus more on food and said they wanted to avoid going too far down the 'Gastro-pub' route (i.e. wobbly towers of fiddled-around-with food the jus of-something-pretentious dribbled all over it), so the idea of old-fashioned fish and chip suppers wrapped in newspaper seemed to be a good fit. So a word was had with Andy and sure enough, six fish and chip suppers were sold on the first night the new kitchen opened and many more since.

Then it struck me, my new landlords were demonstrating a number of the qualities described in Dave Snowden's Havard Business Review article - 'A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making' (HBR November 2007). They were showing a willingness to experiment and the were thinking 'Complex Adaptive System' (without knowing they were!). They had come up with a set of 'light-constraints' for the new vision of the Cricks; they would focus on food but they'd keep the pub atmosphere and help the locals to adopt the new version of their pub. They listened carefully to the regulars comments, even when made in jest, and acted to try to keep the locals happy and give them a sense that 'their' pub was still theirs. In other words, they were doing 'weak-signal' detection and amplifying signals that worked within their 'light-constraints'; they were allowing the agents of the system (regular customers) affect the system operation. Andy, Colin and Debbie, also recognise that a bit of experimentation makes sense – the 'safe-fail' ( as opposed to fail-safe) trial of fish and chip take-ways seems to be a winner in just a few days. Is it reasonable to suppose that a dose of similar agility, adaptiveness, and adoption could be injected into the veins of corporate and public sector behemoths?

Visit Dave Snowden's site for podcasts that describe Complex Adaptive Systems and sense-making techniques (sorry for the indirect link via Google - got a 406 Error if I tried linking directly to www.cognitive-edge.com).

P.S. A good discussion thread based on this post is taking place at:


(cut and paste the above if clicking doesn't work)