Saturday, June 06, 2009

Balancing Reliability-X and Validity-Y

Earlier this week a Tweet from@rotkapchen (Paula Thornton) introduced me to this video of the Canadian academic Roger Martin. He talks about 'designing in hostile territory' and the tension between 'Reliability' and 'Validity' in the context of the challenge designers face in working with business and vice-versa. He hints at the dangers of measuring the things that are easy to measure and challenges McKinsey's notion the that 'Gut feel' management is dead and that “management will go from art to science” because we can now use 'algorithmic decision-making techniques' to run businesses. He contrasts that with the a designer's recent article that quotes William Blake: “I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create”. (I thoroughly recommend watching his video when you have a spare 50 minutes or so).

His presentation, however, is not banging-the-designer's-drum, it is all about reducing the Business-Exec/Designer communication gap – the same subject of that Carl Bate and I tackle (between Business and IT) in 'Lost In Translation'. It reminded me of a various conversations with Carl about the challenges of being a right-brained, theory Y, innovator in a predominantly left-brained, theory X, reliability-focused corporate world. Roger Martin also reinforced for me a the importance of patterns, analogy and story-telling 'to generate quasi past data' for the X-ers around me. He also reminded me that the X-ers are 'guardians of reliability' which probably explains why the creative 'Y-ers' are best left in their labs to innovate rather than run-the-business.

All this got me thinking back to the thread of Tweets that had led up to Paula sending this link. Over recent weeks my fellow Twits and I (in particular, @Cybersal, @Chrisdpotts and @richardveryard) have been sharing views about Enterprise Architecture and the need for a broader set of lenses to fully understand the behaviour of organisations. And so this week when I saw a Tweet from complaining about the technical focus of many Enterprise Architects from Paula, it prompted me to reply “EA should be focused on business behaviour before tech drafting - good EAs provide organizational 'therapy'”. This in turn led to Paula sending me the link to Richard Martin's presentation.

So now I'm pondering the following:

  • A good Enterprise Architecture must be a balance of X(Reliability - Doing-things-Right) and Y (Validity – Doing-the-right-thing) or to put another way, Industrialization and Innovation.

  • We've spent to much time of methods that attempt to industrialise EA (to the point that I'm told TOGAF 9.0 runs to 800 pages)

  • We need to spend more time on developing pattern-based storytelling skills in Enterprise Architects for EA bring break-through changes and allow for innovation in TO-BE models.

  • Being X or Y minded is equally valid but both sides need to see the value of the other – I'm not always appreciative of my X colleagues as they 'herd' me towards on-time delivery and finished products, and I suspect they don't always see the value of my storytelling and idea-nurturing approaches.

  • Recession needs to bring forth more Y-minded thinking ( with some sensible X-controls) - because doing the wrong-thing-well (repeatedly) got us into this mess!

  • The world can't be fully explained or governed algorithmically (thank god!)– not while values and trust dominate the way organisations function.

Uploaded to Flickr by vaXzine (under Creative Commons license)

Thanks for thoughts about 'doing-the-right-thing' to @catuslee


John Polgreen said...

Thoughtful posting. I teach the Architecting the Enterprise TOGAF 9 cert course - the thing is truly a tome! I'm constantly working to counter what you call the 'industrialization' of EA. Unless it's common sense and can be presented in a form that business stakeholders can understand, EA won't accomplish anything.

Unknown said...

John, thanks for the comment and yes, 'common sense' often seems less *common* in EA. We had a similar discussion here earlier: