Helping others make sense of my work
Have been struggling hard for the past few days with a truly brilliant challenge from Bulgarian enterprise-architect Ivo Velitchkov, when he dropped by for a visit near here over the weekend. And I’d have to admit I’m no nearer solving it as yet. Hmm…
His point is this: there’s a huge body of knowledge – or something like that, I guess? – that’s scattered throughout this website, in my books, on the Slideshare account, and various other places too. But there’s so much of it, spread across so many different themes and topics, with ideas developing and changing over the years: so how on earth can anyone make sense of it all? How does it all tie together? What links with what? What’s changed, what hasn’t changed? And how do we use it all, anyway?
Looking around, fact is that he’s right: I need to apply a bit more enterprise-architecture to my own enterprise-architecture here. Rather than just churning out the work, day after day, more and more new ideas, new concepts, new connections, I need to do more to help people make sense of those ideas in context, and to put them to practical use.
So I’ll make a quick start here, with a brief summary of how the various sources fit together. But for the rest, I’ll need you to help me to help you – if you see what I mean? 🙂
This weblog is where most of the visible action happens. Its main role is to present ‘work in progress’, and to ask for comment and feedback to guide that work-in-progress. The good part is that this is where you’ll find whatever I’m working on at the moment – always pushing the boundaries, which I hope is significant for a fair few people at least. The catch is that, almost by definition, what you’ll see here isn’t likely to be in ‘finished’ form. It also covers a huge scope: for example, that ‘no-plan Plan‘ for an extended view of enterprise-architecture is just one small part of it. So it’s very fragmentary, and there’s a lot of it – more than 500 distinct articles so far, excluding background admin items and the regular collections of ‘A week in Tweets’. And I’ll admit the search-tools here aren’t good: a small set of categories, a subset of tags, and a very simple text-search field. Making sense of what’s going on here isn’t easy, especially for someone who’s just dropped in for the first time: so yes, I need to do more to make it easier. Yet what do I need to do?
The books are ‘finished work’, of course. Each book addresses a single issue or theme, and can be used as a standalone item in its own right. Yet other than the barest set of categories, there’s not much there to show how they all link together – which they do, even across the categories. For example, the main purpose of the screenplays and stories is to illustrate ideas that are often too abstract – or, in some cases, too challenging – to explain other than through some form of fiction: yet in essence they’re still the same ideas as in the overall theme of enterprise-architecture. Likewise the books on dowsing: although some people don’t like the fact, they do actually describe the process and practice of sensemaking in some of its most extreme and most concrete forms. But again, making sense of those cross-connections isn’t easy or obvious: I need to do more to make it easier for it to make sense. Yet what would that be?
I probably don’t make enough use of the Sidewise weblog. It’s sort of halfway between this blog and the books: complete standalone articles that address a single theme. More like a story-bank, I guess – or an idea-bank, perhaps? It’s there, anyway: though I do need to explain more about how it links in with everything else. Yet how?
The slidedecks are likewise ‘finished’ – though without the context of the respective conference or whatever, they often seem a bit incomplete. It’s probable I ought to record a sound-track for each: perhaps you might let me know if that would help?
Then there’s the two ‘official’ websites, the Tetradian website and Tom Graves website. Both of these are literally years out of date: at present they’re useful as historical archives, but not much more than that. It’s obvious I need to update them both, and urgently: but what would be the best approach? What do those sites need? More to the point, what do you need from those two websites?
And there’s also the SEMPER Metrics website. Its purpose is to showcase the SEMPER diagnostic, that assesses organisational ‘ability to do work’, and indicates appropriate tools, techniques and tactics to address any identified problem-areas. It even includes a fully-functional implementation of the diagnostic; but since the access-permissions mechanism still doesn’t work properly at present, I’d have to admit that there’s not much point… But it’s there, and usable, sort-of, and potentially useful to quite a lot of people, too: yet what should I do to bring it up to date, and link it in to everything else?
So I’ve spent a lot of time and effort over the past few days trying to find any tools that would help me bring all of this together into a more meaningful, accessible, usable form. Fact is that I can’t find anything that would actually work. There’s CMapTools, of course, or Compendium or Cohere; yet none of them will read in a website or weblog and help me to build an automated, self-maintaining set of concept-maps across all of the articles and other items, which is what seems to be most needed here. Any suggestions, anyone?
The key item that would seem to make sense for this kind of sensemaking would be a glossary/thesaurus, coupled with annotated links to articles and other items. Would that work?
I do have a sort of ‘wiki-engine’ that I wrote some years back that I can re-use for this purpose, though it’ll take some significant hacking to get it closer to self-updating from this weblog. Would that be worth the effort?
And what else would help you to make sense of all of this body of work? And help you to put it into practice in your own context?
Anyone have any advice / comments / suggestions for me here, please?
Many thanks, anyway.