Enterprise, organisation and the Olympics

For enterprise-architects, the Olympics provides a great illustration of the difference between ‘the enterprise’ and ‘the organisation’.

Although in business it’s quite common to regard ‘enterprise’ and ‘organisation’ as synonyms for each other, for enterprise-architecture its wisest to use the terms to describe two distinct types of entity. As a quick summary:

  • the enterprise is a social structure, primarily emotive/aspirational in nature, defined by vision, values and mutual commitments
    – the enterprise is – it provides motivation, ‘why?
  • the organisation is a legal structure, primarily conceptual/physical in nature, defined by rules, roles and responsibilities
    – the organisation does – it provides action, ‘how?

Each enterprise and organisation has its own scope. For enterprise-architecture, we typically aim to model the scope-relationships in terms of three distinct layers: the organisation itself and its own business-enterprise (an ‘inside-out’ view); the organisation and enterprise of the market within which the organisation does its business; and the broader shared-enterprise – the guiding idea or vision (the ‘outside-in’ view) that underpins all of the respective activities.

I’ll summarise each of these layers in terms of my own experience of the current London Olympics. Which, as it happens, isn’t much of a direct connection, but actually quite a bit indirectly – which makes this a useful illustration.

Note, of course, that your experience may well be different from mine – in fact that’s the whole point here. So please map out your own experience in terms of these layers – and then, wearing your ‘enterprise-architect’ hat, apply the same modelling to your own organisation and enterprise. I think you’ll find it an interesting exercise…

Olympics as organisation

The London Olympics centres around two key organisations: the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is responsible for the Olympics as a whole; and the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), which is responsible for the ’30th Olympiad of the current era’ – the current instance of the Olympics, otherwise known as London2012.

I have no direct connection with IOC, either as supplier or customer. (Not many people are, of course.)

I have no direct connection with LOCOG, either as supplier or customer. (Probably the only way I would do so is if I’d bought or tried to buy tickets to any of the events, which I haven’t.)

Olympics as market

The overall market that the Olympics operate within is anything to do with the business of sport. There are many other organisations operating in this space that have direct connections with IOC and/or LOCOG, including:

  • coordinating-organisations for specific sports (e.g. archery, swimming, boating, athletics, football)
  • organisations for other major sporting events (e.g. Commonwealth Games)
  • government agencies, particularly those in sports-related domains
  • coordinating agencies for host-cities
  • venue-builders and venue-managers
  • event-sponsors (commercial and non-commercial)
  • media providers, journalists’ organisation and suchlike
  • medical providers (dope-testing, athlete health etc)
  • judicial services (primarily sports-oriented)

There are then a vast number of organisations in that market that connect indirectly to IOC or, more, to LOCOG. Those with closer connections – usually via some kind of coordinating-body – would include police, security, public-transport, official ticket-resellers, venue-logistics, media-staff, volunteers and so on. Those with more distant connections include food-wholesalers, supermarkets and others selling souvenirs, and media-intermediaries such as telcos and Twitter.

A market also has organisations that set the rules and responsibilities that apply within that market – i.e. market-as-organisation. For the London Olympics, these include price-setting agencies to monitor prices and availability of tickets, souvenirs, food and suchlike; also, more controversially, the literal use of police to protect major-sponsors’ interests.

My own connection with the Olympics-as-market has been minimal:

  • I bought one souvenir for a friend in the US, who collects Olympics pins
  • I’ve watched parts of the opening-ceremony a few times, via BBC iPlayer (internet replay of BBC programmes)
  • I’ve noticed the Olympics headlines on BBC News (via internet), and in the front few pages of the national-newspaper (The Independent) that’s delivered daily to this household

That’s it: for the most part, I’m a non-client of the Olympics. I’m not much of a sports-fan, y’see… 🙂

Olympics as enterprise

As a shared-enterprise, the Olympics has a two-part vision:

  • a focus on competitive-sport for its own sake – typified by the tag-line ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’
  • use of that focus to support international relations – typified by the values-set ‘Excellence, Respect, Friendship’ and, for example, activities around peace through sport

‘The enterprise’ in this sense is not an organisation – it’s an idea, a purpose, an emotive aim or direction.

Every organisation that in any way links itself explicitly to ‘the Olympics’ presents itself and its performance to be judged in part by the values associated with that vision, to the extent that it connects with the Olympics. If it fails to live up to those values, it will be considered to have ‘betrayed the values’ of the Olympics. Explicit alignment with an enterprise such as ‘the Olympics’ is therefore a non-trivial matter for a business, since the ‘Olympic values’ are likely to be impact on many different aspects of that organisation’s strategy, tactics and operations. For example, the staff of an organisation closely associated with the Olympics must themselves enact and embody ‘Olympic values’ such as ‘excellence, respect, friendship’ in everything they do and say in relation to the Olympics.

Also, by definition, anyone who connects with any of those themes will automatically align in some way with the enterprise of ‘the Olympics’. Hence connection with the ‘Olympic values’ may be implicit as well as explicit – but may still be evaluated in much the same way.

This alignment is dynamic: it occurs at the time that they connect with those themes, and lasts only for as long as they connect with those themes.

For some people, connection with ‘the Olympic spirit’ – a focus on competitive sport to support international relations – may be intense, personal and lifelong.

Other people may have a sense of permanent connection with one or other side of that double-theme: either competitive-sport, or international relations. During and around the Olympics, this brings such people into closer connection with those who would normally focus only on the other side of the double-theme.

And others again would connect with the Olympics only peripherally or tangentially, as and whilst it touches other themes that are of interest to them. For example, my elderly mother watches BBC News every evening: she’s interested in the Olympics at present because it’s a major theme of the daily news-roundup – but when it ceases to be ‘today’s news’, it’ll drift out of her focus again.

My own connection – or lack of connection – with the enterprise of ‘the Olympics’ could be summarised as follows:

  • I have little interest in the competitive aspect of competitive-sport, and a strong dislike of the ‘win/lose’ mindset that often underpins it
  • I have a strong interest in skills-development, hence connect to the Olympics via the skills-development aspects of sport, and the role of ‘competition-with’ in skills-development
  • I have some interest in international-relations, hence can see the potential value of the Olympics in that domain
  • I have a strong interest in storytelling and enterprise-story – hence my interest in the opening-ceremony, which used storytelling to connect ‘the enterprise of Britain’ with ‘the enterprise of the Olympics’
  • I have a strong interest in the dynamics of enterprises, and the relationships between organisation and enterprise – hence this article 🙂

Yet like many others, I’m not only something of a non-client for the Olympics, I’m also at real risk of becoming an anti-client – someone who objects to the enterprise, and/or to an organisation’s engagement in that enterprise. Most anti-clients are fairly passive, but some can be very active indeed – and on occasion, active enough to cause serious damage to an organisation and its business. In my own case, the Olympics anti-client risks include:

  • ‘drowning’ in Olympic-related news and other coverage (but I don’t watch TV or much read a newspaper, so this is less of a risk than it might be in relation to others)
  • road-traffic disruption – there are signs everywhere here (50 miles from the main stadium) warning us to ‘plan your journey’
  • rail-traffic disruption – the main stadium is on the same main-line that I use to get to London, so I’ve had to avoid going to the city for the duration the Games
  • air-traffic disruption – I’ve had to plan my business-schedule to avoid any international travel for the whole of the Games period

Fortunately for me it’s been no more than a minor irritation; less so for many others, such as those who’ve had surface-to-air missile-batteries parked on their roof. To prevent anti-clients from becoming fully active – and, preferably, to help them revert from anti-clients to unengaged non-clients or even to engaged clients – the core-organisations need to demonstrate to each person that:

  • the enterprise of the Olympics – in this case – does not fundamentally clash with their own personal values and enterprise
  • that even if there is some disruption, inconvenience or a clash of values, the enterprise is still ‘worth it’ – the trade-offs point in favour of the enterprise, rather than against it

So, for example, although the Olympics is of little interest to me, and it’s a significant irritation too, I can see that it does matter to others: so for their sake rather than mine, I’m willing to put up with it for a while at least. And as for many others, Danny Boyle’s brilliant opening-ceremony helped convince me that although it’s a huge financial cost at a time when everything is tight, overall it is ‘value for money’. So although I’ll probably never be a client of the Olympics, I’m not much of an anti-client either – and in itself that’s still a positive result for the enterprise and organisation of the Olympics.

Implications for enterprise-architecture

So, perhaps take all of the above, and apply it to your own organisation and its shared-enterprise. Some questions to play with:

  • what is ‘the organisation’ for your context? – what are the rules, roles and responsibilities that define its boundaries?
  • what is ‘the enterprise’ for your context? (or, since most organisations within a myriad of intersecting enterprises, which of those is the key or highest-priority ‘the enterprise’?) – what are the vision, values and mutual-commitments that define its boundaries?
  • via what means does the organisation connect and align itself with this enterprise?
  • via what performance-metrics does it demonstrate alignment with the vision, values and commitments of the enterprise?
  • what is the overall market through which the organisation does its business?
  • in what ways and via what means do all players in the market connect and align with the shared-enterprise?
  • who or what are the ‘core organisations’ in that market, that most define and epitomise connection with the enterprise? (the equivalents of the role of IOC and LOCOG in relation to the enterprise of ‘London 2012’)
  • what are the relationships between all of the players in the market? – and in each case, what is their respective distance-from-self relative to that core?
  • what are the anti-client risks for the organisation and enterprise? – what needs to be done to ensure that clients or non-clients do not become active anti-clients?

What do you learn from doing this comparison? Comments/suggestions, anyone?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *