Monday, December 23, 2013

Digital Shift: From a Mechanical to Sociological System

Modern organization has the transcendent business purpose and an innovation DNA.

From a philosophical perspective, all things serve a purpose. We may not understand the purpose, but all things serve one. Modern organization has a transcendent business purpose. Humans demand to be served, so they create mechanistic and sociological systems to serve them. 

Enterprises demand to be served, so they create positions of employment and mechanistic systems to serve them. These systems have a purpose for which they act to fill the purpose. The digital paradigm that is emerging is the sociological organization, which is alive, holistic, vibrant, energetic, responsive, fluid, innovative and resilient.

Mechanistic System vs. Social System: Ackoff differentiates between 'serving' a purpose and 'demanding to be served.' Mechanistic systems serve a purpose. They do not demand to be served. In this respect, the difference between the purposeless systems (Mechanistic) and the purposeful (Sociological) become clearBased on the definitions of mechanical and social as provided by Skip and as defined by Ackoff:

  • Mechanistic System: Where the whole has no purposes of its own and the parts have no purposes of their own. Example: car engine, where neither the parts nor the whole can autonomously decide to have different ends or different means. 
  • Social System: Where the whole has purposes of its own as well as the parts. Example: business enterprise, where the organization has purposes of its own and the people working there maintain purposes of their own.  
The enterprise consists of an amalgam of socio-systems, techno-systems, bio-systems, and Econo-systems. From an architectural perspective, the only factor this introduces into design concepts is the question of what implications it has when the animistic aspects of your design behave differently because 'their' purpose is not being served. The designer must not only consider the purpose of the enterprise; the considerations of the purposes of the employees must also be met because the enterprise cannot fulfill its purpose without the employees. And unhappy employees will leave or not fill the purpose they are serving in the enterprise. You have to deal with the architecture of both hard and soft "systems."

Flexibility is a principle which guides design. It theoretically guided the original design and should continue to guide the evolution of the system. Flexibility would be important in many systems, but there are some systems for which flexibility is a much less important attribute than, for example, reliability. The challenge is that most enterprise architecture frameworks are very mechanistic in nature and do not know how to address "business and people system dynamics. Flexibility should be embodied in the three 'right-hand aspects' differently. As an often forgotten fact is that organizations consist of three types of intersecting and interacting systems: Social, Technical, and Cultural.

An enterprise is NEVER going to be architected and designed like a building: The approach to architect and design social systems necessarily MUST be different to architecting and designing mechanical systems, first and foremost because of the capacity of senior managers to override decisions made by an EA, whether or not they grant authority to make decisions. And there’s full knowledge of the distinction between implementation, design and architecture decisions. The models that EAs jointly build are visual representations of:
a) business operating models
b) business capability models
c) business process models
d) business information models
e) business system models 

You have to look holistically at the problem domain in order to architect and design a sociological organization: Guide conversations based on the artifacts being produced. Good architecture is one that guides the total enterprise ecosystem to either generate wealth for shareholders or generate prosperity of constituencies. Designing an organization, that is a socio-technical system, is the order of magnitude more difficult than designing a "data-driven mechanistic system"; and a "data-driven mechanistic system" is but one of many technical systems. The social and cultural systems also need to be architected and designed. This is most challenging when, due to marketplace exigencies, radical culture and social structure changes are required.


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