Setting the record straight
One of the Tweets last week was a pointer to a post by Andrew Johnston of Questa Computing, somewhen back in June this year, on his Agile Architect blog, titled ‘Architects: Masters of Order and Unorder?‘.
For enterprise-architects, it’s well worth a look: quite a good summary of how standard Cynefin concepts – such as Cynthia Kurtz’s distinction between ‘order and ‘unorder’ – can be used in an enterprise-architecture context. I remembered that I’d read it when it first came out, so I scrolled down to see if there were any comments that had been added since then.
There were. The first was a typically astute question by Richard Veryard, asking for practical examples, because “it would be good to have some practical examples of how Cynefin makes a real difference to what architects can achieve” – which is something that we do all need. The second comment was a reply from Andrew, in essence saying ‘yes, we do have examples, please watch this space’. But the third comment, again from Andrew, a couple of weeks later, and with no apparent connection to anything anyone else had said, was this:
My paper is a straightforward application and extension of Dave Snowden and Cynthia Kurtz’s 2004 work, and properly credits that work. Dave has indicated that he is happy with this.
Tom Graves has recently referred to this paper, I believe mainly as a source for the Cynefin diagrams without having to seek permission directly from Dave. Tom has not contacted me in any way, or sought my permission to re-use the diagrams in his article. I do not in any way endorse his views, or have any relationship to this derivative work.
I will admit that I did what just about anyone else would do under these circumstances: I blinked. Followed by a “Wha…? – where the heck did that come from?” – because it frankly makes no sense at all.
Looking back through my weblog, I can’t find a post of mine from that period that references Johnston’s paper. I do remember reTweeting someone’s link to it, though. I haven’t found any reference of mine to that specific diagram – i.e. “as a source for the Cynefin diagrams without having to seek permission directly from Dave” – and Tweets don’t carry graphics, of course. So I really don’t know what this frankly bizarre rant of Johnston’s is all about… I’ve no idea what’s going on there.
I posted a reply-comment, which duly went into the “Your comment is awaiting moderation” state, from which it has never emerged: I’ll have to assume that Andrew deleted it. Which is disappointing, but there ’tis: he’s entitled to do so if he wishes. Yet in the interests of setting the record straight, this is the comment that would have appeared there if he had allowed it.
Andrew: re: “Tom Graves has recently referred to this paper, I believe mainly as a source for the Cynefin diagrams without having to seek permission directly from Dave.”
I referred to this paper because I thought it was good work. The assertion that I referred to this paper “mainly as a source for the Cynefin diagrams without having to seek permission directly from Dave” is both insulting and absurd – not least because the Cynefin diagram is explicitly in the public domain anyway (see Snowden’s licensing notice on the Wikipedia page on Cynefin).
In the past I have done very extensive work on ‘the Cynefin categorisation’, in particular on attempting to integrate the Chaotic domain, which is barely addressed in Snowden’s work (though it is addressed in some depth in Kurtz’s more recent work). The methods and approaches I used in that work are most certainly not ‘derivative’ – a fact which seems to be the main source of Snowden’s very public ire (including an extraordinary out-of-context misuse of two of my diagrams in his ‘History of Cynefin’, seemingly for the sole purpose of mockery, and certainly without any apparent understanding of their proper context or use). It is certainly true that most of my work around ‘the Cynefin categorisation’ has a different practical and theoretical base – for example, Snowden concentrates on complexity-science, whereas my work leverages iterative/recursive techniques from the futures disciplines (such as Causal layered analysis) and enterprise-architectures (such as TOGAF ADM, as also extended beyond IT). At Snowden’s request, I have explicitly and publicly separated my work from his, although you might note that Kurtz does explicitly acknowledge some of my ideas and material in her current work on ‘Confluence’.
Richard Veryard above asks “it would be good to have some practical examples of how Cynefin makes a real difference to what architects can achieve”, to which you replied “Yes, I do have some real, current examples where complexity is forcing me to say to the client ‘you can’t analyse this’: watch out for a follow-on ‘examples’ piece sometime soon”. However, it is now three months later: would you give us a timeline as to when you publish these examples? (In the meantime, if anyone is interested, there are many examples of real-life usages of a ‘Cynefin-like categorisation’ linked to proven enterprise-architecture methodologies available in my books – see TetradianBooks – and on my weblog.)
I do acknowledge that Snowden and I have disagreed strongly in the past over our significantly different approaches to theory and practice in the ‘unorder’ space, and I appreciate that people may sometimes choose to ‘take sides’ in such cases of ‘conflict of ideas’. However, ‘taking sides’ does not actually further the progress in the field. You might also note that Snowden’s work is not designed to work directly with and in enterprise-architectures, whereas mine is. In that sense, might I request that you at least consider my work properly in its proper context, rather than dismissing it outright on the say-so of someone from a largely unrelated field of enquiry?
If I were of a more paranoid frame of mind, I could almost believe that someone might grant permission to use their material only on condition that specific other people and their work are to be publicly denigrated. There are plenty of examples of that happening throughout the history of science and elsewhere, after all, where jealousy or fear takes precedence over honesty or sense. Fortunately I’m not that paranoid: yet it would be disappointing – to say the least – if that were to turn out to be so in this case, wouldn’t it?