Monthly archives: March, 2015

The Requirements Gap

Interpretation of Needs

The Tao of “New”

“New” changes. Newness doesn’t.

Back in April of 2007, Optimize Magazine ran an article by M.S. Krishnan titled Moving Beyond Alignment. Its summary: strategic business innovation requires a flexible infrastructure so that the company can utilize the business models needed to achieve goals. Thus IT governance and architecture must enable the enterprise to “synchronize with changes in the business environment”.

Meanwhile, scheduled for late 2010, the book from strategic technology architects Greg Suddreth and Whynde Melaragno called The Path to Real Business Transformation discusses “dynamic synchronization… a rigorous, business-case-driven collaboration between the business-process owners and their IT counterparts.” For this, the framework of problem-solving is what they call business architecture.

“Innovation” always has an aura that suggests the big moment of arrival of the new. But getting to utilize the new is the only way that value is derived from innovation, and utilization requires integration into, and synchronization of,  the operational scheme of things. This emphasis on synchronization firmly declares that the problem of follow-through on business strategy is fundamentally about coordinating the moving parts.

Anyone who has tried to manually shift gears in a moving vehicle knows that synchronization has two operator-controlled aspects: time spent in the gear, and timing of gear changes. In a competitive context, where time and timing are pre-planned and managed for variances and circumstantial adjustments, this plan is even seen as a strategy itself. The performance level of the plan’s execution, especially in complex or volatile environments, is then most often seen as “agility”. Achieving agility is, for that reason, a common business objective related to scoring business goals.

Suddreth and Melaragno further state that “business architecture” is developed through a process that defines and institutes long-term change within a framework of strategy (for example of goals, related positions and directions), planning (for example, of resources), and execution (for example, of services). They go on to point out that multiple business areas must be complementary in the context of solving a defined business problem.

To assure proper pursuit of that agreement, it becomes necessary to appreciate the difference between innovative business uses of IT versus business use of innovative IT.

  • In the former case, the emphasis is on the business-level understanding of how moving parts might be aligned in a new way.
  • In the latter, the point is to introduce moving parts that have a different set of characteristics and interactions than those typically tried before.

From the point of view of these authors, the former issue is a concern of business architecture; and the latter issue is a concern of IT architecture, in which (among other things) the business architecture is  “physicalized” according to Suddreth and Melaragno.

Given those points above, it would seem that the challenge is to prioritize business innovation, then leverage business architecture to identify and incorporate IT innovation that can be scheduled within IT architecture for a reasonable chance of sustained synchronization.


The Next Normal

The next normal arrives when a new system replaces the old system in both its role and its opportunity as the preferred one to use.

A “system” occurs when a set of interacting items routinely take on a certain group behavior:  each of a critical number of elements acts, both consistently and persistently, primarily through their interactions with each other.

The routine behavior (i.e. the form) of the system occurs when the system is in a state of dynamic equilibrium, not just static configuration.

When a routine behavior consistently takes the place of a predecessor, the newer routine becomes the next “normal”.

In the next normal, new interacting patterns among the system’s internal elements are both more sustainable and more preferable than are preceding patterns.

The next normal occurs when two things happen.

One: an alternative system’s effectiveness becomes statistically predominant over an older system’s effectiveness. The difference may occur by force (causality) or by choice (attraction), leading to its potential predominance.  Impacts are the outcomes of interactions. Impacts are identified by types, not by levels. They can be forces, states, or objects. Effectiveness is the influence of the impacts.

Two: an alternative system becomes a candidate for “normal” because the compatibilities of its internal elements are more likely to persist than the incumbent system’s. They become persistent on a case-by-case basis, eventually reaching a critical mass of collective presence. The origins of the persistence may also be either authoritative or opportunistic.

Influence, however, may be circumstantial; and presence may be episodic. In both cases there must be a reason why the older system is vulnerable enough to be replaced.

An organization such as a company, a market, or an entire community can be a system… A system’s supportability is particularly sensitive to priorities. Priorities typically relate to competition, cooperation, or cohesion — the level of interaction on which changes originate. As support factors, those interactions correspond approximately to advantage, competency, and protection — the measured variables representing the priorities in the system.

Changes underlying the priorities have upstream influence.  Within a system, one’s own actions and the actions of other parties have consequences that either reinforce or undermine the priorities.

The Next Normal -Vulnerability Factors


Variations in inhibitions and encouragement alter support of the priorities; priorities support the compatibilities of system elements. Therefore, variations of the underlying factors potentially changes the equilibrium and the further predominance of the system. That change will invite a renovation of the system or deference to another (successor) system.

The most likely instigator of change is demand. The pressure of demand comes from how it amplifies some priorities at the expense of others. Then:

  • If demand alters the behavior of an organization, it may affect the equilibrium of related systems.
  • If a system becomes unstable, alternative interactions can find success and instigate rearrangement of elements within and around the originals, to favor new preferences in demand.
  • Consistent support of new interactions can mature into making the alternatives the next normal.

The Evolution of Insight, in Hindsight

The most amazing part of the legacy of IT innovation in 2007 to 2015 is the number of different ways that individuals had to initiate action. The vast expansion of options had an unprecedented reliance on underlying support mechanisms that were heterogeneous, spontaneous, or ungoverned in their availability and presence.

In particular, conventional controls on interaction such as policies (permission) or configurations (structures) faced conditions so diverse or even ephemeral that achieving operational predictability was possible only on fundamentally new terms.

Today and going forward, the new normal environment of operations for users is even more heterogeneous and “open”. Managing production in that environment requires insight into what the environment already wants to support and do systemically, which can then be exploited under management.

The driving metaphors for that environment’s state of affairs are “organic” and “Darwinian”. Native elements coincide, combine, and compete.

As an overall ecosystem, the complex set of relations in this new state pose a big challenge to discovering the regularity of its dynamics — the probabilities showing  a “natural” set of priorities, and the most common attributes of “natural” constructions. Without that information, imposing practical preferences and mitigating risks is far more difficult.

This throws us into a scientific mode of achieving a practical familiarity. The ability to “look into the system” and recognize its behavior is the insight that matters.

In general, we first maintain continuous observations from which events, transactions and outcomes are revealed.

Then we aggressively analyze those observations, to identify any significantly persistent correlations.

Finally, the most useful logical modeling of those correlations will characterize and reveal co-operative agents and brokers in the system.

The Evolution of Insight


Creativity Under the Microscope

When we go to the underlying “template” of nearly all discussions about “creativity”, our main interests, are always the same:

– How do you recognize it?
– Where does it come from?
– How do you use it?
– Who cares?
– What is it worth?

We know what the word “create” means: it means “to make”. Competitively, we want creativity to refer to making things in a way that they were not made before — a strategically useful requirement. We want to know if those new “formulas” are inspired (implicitly discovered) or engineered (explicitly discovered), and we want to know if we can cause the discovery on demand.

But the terms of discussions about creativity are often too ambiguous to be shared effectively across different parties. The ambiguity inhibits both confidence and progress in taking creativity under management.

A glossary of characteristic distinctions would help to sort out the discussions so that the answers provided would be understood the same way by all of the participants.

Most of the mythology about creativity is actually about where it comes from — namely, the nature of “inspiration“. Creativity is seen most commonly as “originality of awareness”, usually characterized in one of two ways:

– insightful (sees within)
– imaginative (foresees)

But artists, teachers and coaches know that creativity can be both taught and learned as a behavior that generates insight and imagination. The behavior has any or all of the following characteristics:

– playful (arranging for pleasure)
– experimental (arranging for discovery)
– inventive (arranging for newness)

– constructive (static effectiveness)
– productive (dynamic effectiveness)

– distinctive (different per specification)
– unusual (different per context)
– original (different per known precedent)

Overall, the glossary allows us to “map” these behaviors as  different types of “vision” (seeing), “build” (arranging),  “impact” (effectiveness) and “value” (difference).

It’s fair to ask about how the behaviors become competencies.

The answer is that the behaviors can be pursued intentionally and need not be only spontaneous or “inherent”. In particular, we see training as the work done in any behavior to separate the 80% of unnecessary effort from the 20% of effort worth amplifying. The other key effort required is planning. By looking at what each different behavior is actually about, it can be taken and prioritized as a potential source of change to a current state reality.



De-Myth-ifying Business Creativity

Because it is now accepted that innovation is a competitive imperative, Business Creativity is a subject with strong legs. It gets to play in thinking about resources, competencies, strategies, and environments — nearly all of the Big Management games.

But the real topic of the “business” discussion about creativity is usually this: “How Do I get Great New Ideas When I Need Them?”

The myth of management is “Do what worked before, and it will work again.” In that light, the ways to get ideas fall into only a few categories:

(a.) Find them;

(b.) Steal them;

(c.) Make them.

A more specific catalog of  “How To” efforts (find, steal, make) is necessary, but insufficient. Someone will invariably point at something and ask the question, “How do I know that is going to work?”

In reality, the answer is, “Well, you don’t.” And the reason why is that creativity is inherently unpredictable.

Almost any competent artist can tell us that “creativity” consists of (a.) labor, (b.) imagination, and (c.) inspiration, even though those three things don’t always occur in the same order or at the same time or degree. So creativity is also about being overtly opportunistic about all three.

This clarifies thinking a lot. Things that get in the way of laboring, imagining, and getting inspired are pretty much a lock to inhibit creativity. 

Said differently, “creativity” is not an event. It’s a condition that is fostered by a culture. A culture of low inhibition is simply more likely to host creativity.

Sometimes, the “condition” is one person’s free-associating mentality in the shower; sometimes it is a large operational unit ‘s new perspective – a groupwide view, acquired from research or hearsay, of a near future that it might know how to make…

Summarizing: “Business Creativity” is not about causing creativity. Instead; managing “business” creativity is fundamentally about managing how the business’s own ideas of risk are applied to an un-inhibiting culture.


The Accidental versus the Intentional: Creativity as Discovery

In most of the global business writing today about innovation,  “Creativity”  gives “Agility” a neck-and-neck run for the money.

Almost no one tries to explain innovation without reference to creativity. But the definition of “creativity” — something everyone needs and wants —  is often left unexamined, even as people presume it can be managed for “innovation”.
Creativity is intentional discovery, as distinguished from accidental discovery. It can be recognized when it’s there, and it can be cultivated so as to become a practice “in effect”.
A quick glossary of Creativity from an Innovation point of view:
  • The value of creativity is discovery.
  • The effect of creativity is invention.
  • The operation of creativity is experimentation.
  • The subject of creativity is structure.
  • The skill of creativity is composition.
Given those terms, there are still certain limitations on what creativity provides to innovation.
  • an invention may be new to its maker without being new to the world. It is possible that the same thing can get invented at multiple places or times, completely independently of each other.
  • a discovery is not necessarily of a “new” thing. Things that have already been discovered may get independently discovered again through different means and/or by different parties, therefore also possibly at different places or times.
As a result, innovation is not based on the uniqueness of creativity. This may at first seem to make “management” more difficult, in terms of control. But the more important aspect is in terms of development —  noting that multiple wide ranging sources of creativity can be called upon to support a more singular innovative concept or outcome.

Recognizing Governance

Doing things the right way is most often looked at in terms of whether a desired result predictably arrives. Those results make sense for “share” holders as performance, but “stake” holders are different.

Stakeholders want things done a certain way, and they base their support of the organization on that. To retain that support, assurance must be developed for stakeholders.  It means discovering and aligning governance opportunities as an intrinsic influence throughout the organization’s behaviors.
Get the notebook behind this overview diagram on Slideshare at this link.
(c) 2014 Malcolm Ryder




Systemic Governance

Like defense or offense, governance is a high-level orchestration of multiple concurrent activities, conducted to create an overall state — in this case, a state of assurance of stakeholder values. Governance provides an orientation to activities that, by executing them under known constraints, aligns their impacts cooperatively towards assurance. This framework guides the orchestration.

The background notes for this framework are here on Slideshare.





The Typology of Change

Now that “Change” is the default condition instead of the exception, ordinary management intends to bring regularity to directing the influence, preparation, and exploitation of it. The key obstacle to this regularity is ambiguity. The ambiguity often stems from the buzziness of the words used to make change stand out as a priority. Disambiguation is a good thing.For example…


The Typology of Change