Organisation and enterprise as ‘how’ and ‘why’

What’s the relationship between organisation and enterprise? In particular, how would we work with that relationship in enterprise-architecture?

This one’s a follow-on from both ‘Fractals, naming and enterprise-architecture‘ and ‘Organisation and enterprise‘, and, more specifically, is a response to Len Fehskens, about a comment he made to the latter post:

This is why I object to your statement that the enterprise

“is always larger in scope than just ‘the organisation’”.

First the idea of “larger in scope” only makes sense when interpreted a certain way, and second, an enterprise cannot be realized except by an organization that is capable of realizing the entire enterprise.

To see the full context for that part of that comment by Len, you’ll probably need to read not only the full comment, but the whole comment-stream that precedes it, and the whole of the post as well. But there’s enough to start with just in that quote above, though I’ll add a few more quotes from that comment as we go along.

Again in the spirit of TL;DR (though I suspect that’s part of what’s caused the confusion in the first place), here’s a one-line summary: the organisation is ‘how’, the enterprise is ‘why’; the ‘why’ must always be larger than the ‘how’, hence the scope of ‘the enterprise’ must always be larger than the scope of ‘the organisation’.

To expand on that one-line summary, first, a key point about fractals, or patterns that sort-of repeat in self-similar fashion at multiple levels with the scope of an enterprise-architecture. Both Len and I do agree that that applies to this context:

OK, we agree that organizations are fractal or recursive in structure. But what makes something an organization, such we can sensibly apply that name to it?

That follow-on question sounds fair enough, but in practice – in Len’s description in that comment, at least – leads us into an even worse tangle of arbitrary boundaries. To make practical sense of it, we do need to keep very strictly to a very specific and very ‘flat’ set of fractal-oriented definitions – otherwise we’ll get lost in the thickets of terminology-confusion in no time at all.

To me, though, the core of that confusion arises in a slightly earlier part of Len’s comment:

For me enterprises and organizations are qualitatively different kinds of things. An organization is a real physical thing. An enterprise is a concept.

Yes, enterprises and organisations are qualitatively different things: the fractal-definitions I use (which I’ll restate below, just after this point) are very clear on that. But no, the qualitative difference is not that “an organisation is a real physical thing, an enterprise is a concept” – because both ‘organisation’ and ‘enterprise’ are solely conceptual entities. The expression of organisation – of the process of organising – is usually physical, yes; but organisation itself is not – not even as ‘the organisation’. A concept, versus the expression of that concept, are not the same thing: don’t mix them up!

To illustrate the qualitative differences that actually matter here, let’s restate those definitions, from the ‘Fractals’ post, and then extend them somewhat:

Enterprise: “a bold endeavour”; an emotive or motivational structure, bounded by shared-vision (purpose), shared-values and mutual commitments. In essence, it identifies:

  • the ‘why’ (purpose, or vision) for an activity
  • the ends (vision, or purpose) for that activity
  • key qualifiers and metrics (values) for guidance of that activity, to keep it on track to its intended ends
  • anchors (mutual-commitments) to engage people (as ‘who’) towards that ‘why’, those ends, those qualifiers and metrics

Organisation: the primary delimiter of scope; a legal structure, bounded by rules, roles and responsibilities. In essence, it identifies:

  • the human aspects of the ‘how’ (rules, roles, responsibilities) for an activity
  • the human aspects of the means (roles, responsibilities) for that activity
  • key guidelines (rules) to link the enacted activity itself back to the ‘why’, ends, qualifiers and metrics
  • anchors (roles and responsibilities) to engage people (as ‘who’) towards the respective ‘how’, means and guidelines

In short:

  • enterprise is why – the ends
  • organisation is how – the means

Or, to summarise this in visual form, using an Enterprise Canvas fractal approach where ‘the service’ is in effect synonymous here with ‘the organisation’:

The key here, then, is that the service – the organisation, the means, the ‘how’ – is always in context of the vision – the enterprise, the ends, the ‘why’. And one of the fundamental value-checks that we place on all enterprise, all organisation, all activity, is that the means must always be subordinate to the ends. We know – we all know – that if we ever get that one the wrong way round, we’ll be in deep, deep trouble, in many, many different senses of ‘trouble’…

So, assuming that it’s agreed that ‘enterprise’ in effect equates to ‘why’ and ends, and ‘organisation’ to ‘how’ and means, let’s follow through on the logic here:

— If the organisation is ‘above’ the enterprise, we’re in effect saying that the means has priority over the ends. That kind of mistake is directly implicit in, for example, the ‘BDAT stack’ in most so-called ‘enterprise-‘architecture frameworks at present, and is exactly what leads to the inane IT-centrism that occurs whenever we try to use those frameworks for anything other than IT-infrastructure (‘Technology’) architecture. Not a good idea…

— If the organisation is the same as the enterprise, we’re in effect saying that means and ends are inherently identical – that the ‘how’ is itself the ‘why’, the sole reason and purpose for the activity. This mistake occurs automatically whenever anyone conflates ‘the organisation’ and ‘the enterprise’ – which happens a lot in business in general. It causes self-centrism, self-obsession, and an automatic disconnect from customers, suppliers, market or just about anything else. Not a good idea…

— If the organisation is ‘below’ the enterprise, we’re in effect saying that the means are subordinate to the ends, the ‘how’ is subordinate to the ‘why’. This is the only way that works – and, as above, all of us already know this. (Though many of us still seem either to ignore it, or pretend that that fact does not exist. Again, not a good idea…)

The means is always subordinate to the ends.

The ‘how’ is always subordinate to the ‘why’.

The organisation is always subordinate to the enterprise.

This is the only way that works well. Any attempt or error which does not support that subordinate relationship – in other words, that attempts to place means, how, organisation equal to or above ends, why, enterprise – will cause failure.

Clear enough, I’d hope?

There’s one important addendum I’d make to that, about relative-distance to identify the total scope that we need for an enterprise-architecture. It’s pretty straightforward, and builds on the classic ‘Five Whys’. For this example, let’s start with the BDAT stack:

Assume that Technology-Architecture is the focus of interest – the ‘how’ or means for which we’re defining an architecture. As the ‘how’ or means, this also represents the actual ‘the organisation’, for the purposes of this item of architecture-development.

In the BDAT-stack, the first ‘Why’ for the technology-architecture comes from the mix of Data-Architecture and Application-Architecture – what TOGAF describes as ‘Information-Systems Architecture’.

In this version of the BDAT-stack, the second ‘Why’ – the ‘Why’ for the information-systems architecture – comes from the Business-Architecture.

We might shuffle things around a bit, give priority to data over apps or apps over data, or place an intermediate Information layer below Business-Architecture, to give us a ‘BIDAT-stack’: doing so might use up one or two more ‘Whys’. Even so, that’d still leave us anything up to three more ‘Whys’ to explore, to give us the real depth that we need, ‘above’ the business-architecture. And if we describe the scope of that business-architecture in the colloquial sense as ‘The Organisation’ – as so many architecture-folks would still misleadingly do – then the full scope of what we’d need to explore would look something like this:

Note that ‘the organisation’ that we’re really working with in this case, for the Technology-Architecture, is not the one shown on this diagram as ‘the organisation’, but in fact some two or three layers deeper within this ‘the organisation’. (That’s a typical confusion that arises from a fractal approach, of course, where we correctly use the same name for the same type of thing, but where others use arbitrary different labels for different levels of that same type of thing…) Strictly speaking, that diagram above shows the scope implied from around three to four ‘Whys’ outward from what’s colloquially called ‘the organisation’ and its respective architecture of ‘the business of the business’. But that distance all the way out to ‘the shared-enterprise’ above is where a Five Whys applied to an IT-infrastructure architecture actually takes us – and is the enterprise-scope that we actually need for that architecture.

All of which brings back to this last part of Len’s first comment quoted above:

an enterprise cannot be realized except by an organization that is capable of realizing the entire enterprise

Straight away, it should be obvious that this makes no sense – at least, when we look at it in terms of the Five Whys description above. In fact, it’s a direct example of the second mistake described above, where the boundaries of ‘the organisation’ and ‘the enterprise’, of the ‘how’ and the ‘why’, are deemed to be exactly the same. Instead, and in practice, an enterprise is realised by any number of organisations, from zero – in other words, where the enterprise is not realised at all – to a potential infinity of organisations: ‘why’ may be realised by any appropriate combination of ‘how’. Remember, it’s fractal, not linear: don’t mix them up!

So, to wrap up overall:

  • the scope of ‘the enterprise’ identifies the overall ‘why’ for ‘the organisation’ – the remit of organisation and control for the respective item of architecture-work
  • as the ‘why’ for the respective ‘how’, and the ends for the respective means, ‘the enterprise’ must always be broader in scope than ‘the organisation’
  • applying a Five Whys to a given ‘the organisation’ leads us to a ‘the enterprise’ that is necessarily much broader in scope than ‘the organisation’ – in practice, typically at least three steps broader, and sometimes (often?) more

Makes a bit more sense now, I hope?

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19 comments on “Organisation and enterprise as ‘how’ and ‘why’
  1. Len Fehskens says:

    As the old saw goes, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this. You and I see these things in fundamentally different ways. You seem to think that the way you see it is right, and the way I see it is wrong, but I think we’re more like the wave and particle factions of the early days of physics. Eventually the two factions agreed that neither was “wrong”, they were just two different, but equally valid, ways of looking at things. For certain problems, one might “work better” than the other — like the frequency/time duality of waves. What we need is Fourier transform that maps between the two domains.

    You insist that “both ‘organisation’ and ‘enterprise’ are solely conceptual entities.”

    I’ll agree that the “organization of the organization” is a conceptual entity, but concepts to do not effect change in the real world, except through their interpretation by conceptualizing physical entities, i.e., people. The people and resources that make up an organization are real physical things. That seems to me be a given. There are lots of concepts that we associate with these real physical entities, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are real physical entities.

    “but in practice – in Len’s description in that comment, at least – leads us into an even worse tangle of arbitrary boundaries. To make practical sense of it, we do need to keep very strictly to a very specific and very ‘flat’ set of fractal-oriented definitions – otherwise we’ll get lost in the thickets of terminology-confusion in no time at all.”

    Maybe you have trouble keeping them straight, but I don’t.

    “•enterprise is why – the ends
    •organisation is how – the means”

    That is, to me, a gross oversimplification, that I expect will lead to confusion. For me, both enterprise and organization have aspects of why, what, how, etc. It certainly sounds nice, though.

    I have written more times than I can recall that “an organization is the means by which an enterprise is realized”. I think we both agree with that characterization. But you derive from it a generalization that I am reluctant to make, and that I find unnecessary, indeed unnecessarily limiting, to make.

    An aside — this is trait of the enterprise architecture community that I find surprising — the need, almost compulsion, to make categorically specific statements, when retaining generality provides much more flexibility, “agility”, one might say.

    “The means is always subordinate to the ends.

    The ‘how’ is always subordinate to the ‘why’.

    The organisation is always subordinate to the enterprise.”

    See, this is a perfect example of what comes from such a categorical assertion.

    First, what is the value of such a statement? It’s like saying “the tails side of a coin is always subordinate to the heads side.” If you insist. But so what?

    An enterprise with no organization to realize it is just a concept. An organization with no enterprise to realize is just an aimless and effectively arbitrary collection of resources. It really takes both to effect change. Why does one have to be “subordinate” to the other?

    “In fact, it’s a direct example of the second mistake described above, where the boundaries of ‘the organisation’ and ‘the enterprise’, of the ‘how’ and the ‘why’, are deemed to be exactly the same.”

    Excuse me, but bullshit. It does no such thing. If I say there is a one to one relationship between two things (please note that a many to many relationship comprises many one to one relationships), that says absolutely nothing about their identity, their equivalence, their being coterminous, all these things that you gratuitously infer I am asserting by making a statement that seems to me to be axiomatic

    “an enterprise cannot be realized except by an organization that is capable of realizing the entire enterprise”

    You do understand that the “organization” in that statement is the organization comprising all the constituent organizations (you know, that fractal thing) that contribute to the enterprise in question?

    How can it be otherwise? Please, explain to us how the parts of the enterprise that are not realized by any part of the (fractally constituted) aggregate organization are realized?

    “Remember, it’s fractal, not linear: don’t mix them up!”

    You keep saying this, but it’s not the problem. Certainly not my problem.

    len.

    • Tom G says:

      Apologies for slow reply on this – I was working flat-out to get something else finished, but realised that I wasn’t going to be able to meet the deadline, hence I now have time (sort-of) to get back to here anyway…

      Short answer is I’m pretty certain that, yes, we’re still talking at cross-purposes. And I’m pretty certain I know why, and I’m also pretty certain that you’ll disagree that that’s why, which will leave us stuck, again. But I’ll give it one more try.

      For the purposes of creating a terminology that is consistent throughout, at every scale (and yes, I will will repeat “think fractal, not linear”, because I’m still fairly certain that you still don’t get it…), ‘organisation’ is in part defined as ‘the focus of concern for the current item of architecture-development’. So unless the current item of concern is, in turn, delimited by the exact legal boundaries of a company, or suchlike, ‘the organisation’ is probably not ‘the organisation’ in the usual linear sense: instead, it will either be a subset, superset or intersecting-set. For example, in classic TOGAF, ‘the organisation’ is actually ‘the organisation of/bounded by the IT-infrastructure’ (and trying to use the standard TOGAF ADM for any other ‘the organisation’ is likely to be problematic, at the very least).

      In turn, ‘the enterprise’ is in part defined as ‘the scope which impacts upon the organisation’. In classic TOGAF, this goes all the way out to what it calls ‘Business Architecture’, but in effect would be more accurately termed ‘anything not-IT that might affect IT-infrastructure’.

      Given those two secondary definitions, it should be immediately obvious that ‘the enterprise’ must be larger in scope than ‘the organisation in scope’, otherwise you would not be able, for example, to explore any ‘outside-in’ aspects – an omission that would almost certainly guarantee architecture-failure.

      If you choose a standard linear-type approach, and select the boundaries of either or both of ‘the organisation’ and/or ‘the enterprise’ to be exclusively as per the colloquial definitions – i.e. organisation as per the nation/multination-specific legal-boundaries-of-responsibility, and/or ‘the enterprise’ as synonymous with ‘the organisation’, then yes, you would indeed potentially arrive at a situation where, in effect, the scope of impact on an architectural concern (‘the enterprise’) might be narrower than ‘the organisation’, or where the narrower-scope ‘why’ associated with that ‘the enterprise’ might be be smaller in scope than the ‘how’ of the respective ‘the organisation’. If you make that kind of scope-nesting mistake, then yes, it’s possible to arrive at that conclusion: all I can say is that it’s highly inadvisable to make that kind of scope-mistake, that’s all.

  2. Len Fehskens says:

    A bit more after taking some time to reconsider both Tom’s remarks and my response.

    The first thing I realized was that Tom may be using “organization” in two different senses without clearly distinguishing them.

    The two senses are “organization as structure or arrangement”, and “organization as collection of people and resources”. The former is conceptual, the latter is physical. As I noted in my reply to Tom, I agree that the “organization (structure/arrangement) of an organization (collection of people and resources)” is conceptual. The kinds of things we can say about these two different denotations of the word are different. It is not helpful to conflate the two different denotations, and especially to extrapolate a connotation of one to the other.

    Tom wraps up with:

    “•the scope of ‘the enterprise’ identifies the overall ‘why’ for ‘the organisation’ – the remit of organisation and control for the respective item of architecture-work”

    No argument. While Tom prefers to characterize this as the organization being subordinate to the enterprise, I prefer to see it simply as a relationship. While Tom insists that this must be the case, I think all one can argue is that it should be the case. We all know of real examples were it is not the case, or at best very imperfectly the case. I prefer to acknowledge this by talking about an organization’s “fitness for purpose” with respect to some enterprise. Thus an organization may be fit for purpose for one enterprise but not fit for purpose for some other enterprise, at the same time. Indeed, that this can be so is the foundation of the idea of organizational transformation. We typically don’t transform enterprises, we transform organizations such that they become fit for purpose for a different enterprise. We can conceptualize that different enterprise by transforming a concept of an existing enterprise, but again, if don’t actually do something in the real world it’s just an abstract exercise.

    •as the ‘why’ for the respective ‘how’, and the ends for the respective means, ‘the enterprise’ must always be broader in scope than ‘the organisation’

    I simply do not understand why Tom insists this, or what desirable consequence flow from this being the case. On the face of it I find this assertion meaningless, because if, as Tom says he agrees, though for a different reasons, organizations and enterprises are qualitatively different things, how then can they commensurable? There’s only one way I can imagine; I agree that an enterprise can be “larger in scope” than *an* organization, in the sense that realization of the enterprise may require contributions from other recognizably distinct organizations. However, given Tom’s assertion that organization is a fractal concept, the aggregation of these multiple contributing organizations can then itself be considered an organization, which is “equivalent in scope” to the enterprise, in the sense that it is sufficient to realize the enterprise.

    So, if Tom’s assertion is true, one of two things must be the case:

    *Tom’s concept of the “scope metric” must differ from mine, in which case it would really help to have an explanation of what exactly it is, and how it confers commensurability on the two concepts (organization and enterprise), or

    *There’s a logical contradiction, because it must then never be possible for an organization to be sufficient to realize an enterprise.

    “•applying a Five Whys to a given ‘the organisation’ leads us to a ‘the enterprise’ that is necessarily much broader in scope than ‘the organisation’ – in practice, typically at least three steps broader, and sometimes (often?) more”

    You do understand that the “Five” in the “Five Whys” heuristic is arbitrary? In truth it’s a potentially infinite regress; in any given case it only terminates when you’ve reached an axiom, which usually just means we don’t have models that are able to explain what’s going on.

    I actually find this argument silly; it “makes sense” only because you’ve insisted that relative concepts (why and how) apply as absolutes to enterprise and organization. The Five Whys heuristic relies on the “relativeness” of the idea. All of those higher level Whys require that the enterprise that you insist must always be a Why be considered as a relative what or how.

    Finally I want to spend a little time on the ideas of one to one and many to many relationships.

    I have written repeatedly that the relationship between organization and enterprise is many to many. The nature of this relationship is “organization participates in enterprise” or “organization contributes to realization of enterprise”. I.e., a given organization may participate in many different enterprises, and many different organizations may participate in a given enterprise.

    While this is true in general, for any specific relationship between a given organization and a given enterprise, the relationship is necessarily one to one. Tom seems to believe (that I believe?) that this “one to one -ness” implies the identity of, equivalence of, same scope of, coterminousness of, …, the two participants in the relationship. The absurdity of this conclusion should be obvious.

    len.

    len.

    • Tom G says:

      Len: “The first thing I realized was that Tom may be using “organization” in two different senses without clearly distinguishing them.”

      Actually, I used neither of the two senses you mention, precisely because I’m aware of the conceptual/physical clash. (More on that in a moment.) Instead, as explicitly stated in the posts, ‘the organisation’ is a descriptor of scope – not of what happens in that scope.

      When we look more carefully at that conceptual/physical clash, we should be able to see that it’s actually a red-herring, and one that’s fully resolved by Zachman-layering. ‘Conceptual’ and ‘physical’ are layers of abstraction in a Zachman sense, (specifically, that we add further detail as we move towards real-world concretisation and utilisation); but those layers of abstraction (should) apply to the same scope. It’s the scope that the term ‘the organisation’ indicates here – not the level of abstraction.

      @Len: “You do understand that the “Five” in the “Five Whys” heuristic is arbitrary?”

      Yes.

      Please, do credit me at least with an understanding of that? 🙁 🙁

      I must admit this is getting very, very frustrating. You’re very clearly holding onto terminologies that merely cause more and more and more confusion. I’m trying to show you a way out the mess, and you’re doing instead is saying that I’m wrong. So perhaps let me assert something, loudly, in bold: the terminology that we use is a choice – there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ here, just useful or not-useful. The terminology that you’re using does work reasonably-well at a whole-of business level, with self-styled ‘business-folk’: it’s the terminology that they expect and use amongst themselves. The trap is that it only works well at that one level: for anything else, it gets wildly confusing, with ‘how’ suddenly gaining priority over ‘why’, and all manner of other unwise errors. What I’ve been trying to show you is a choice of terminology – and yes, it is only a choice – that, however, can work consistently and reliably at every level of granularity and abstraction, in a truly fractal sense.

      Which is why I keep having to say this: think fractal, not linear. If you try to force this fractal-oriented terminology to fit in with the linear-oriented assumptions of ‘the business’, then yes, it won’t work well, if at all. But don’t blame me for that: it’s your choice to use the terminology in a way for which it was explicitly not designed to be used – and darned unfair of you to then tell me that it ‘doesn’t work’.

      And yes, I do know that you’ve written a lot on this. It’s precisely that that I’m attempting to redress here.

      Frustrating just isn’t even the word to describe this. Sorry… 😐

      • Len Fehskens says:

        “The trap is that it only works well at that one level: for anything else, it gets wildly confusing, with ‘how’ suddenly gaining priority over ‘why’, and all manner of other unwise errors.”

        I’m sorry to say it this way, but bullshit. I suspect you are making inferences that I am not implying. I can’t see any way that the relationship I have described between enterprise and organizations confers “priority” (whatever the f**k that means)on how over why, and I cam getting increasingly annoyed with being effectively told that if just wasn’t so stupid I’d see things your way.

        I think I need to go soak my head.

        len.

        • Tom G says:

          @Len: “I am getting increasingly annoyed with being effectively told that if just wasn’t so stupid I’d see things your way.”

          Please, Len, please, don’t do this? This whole fraught conversation has been difficult already… And you’re very very far from being ‘stupid’ – we both know this. And I wouldn’t be that pejorative either – okay, perhaps maybe to some arrogant young incompetent, in extremis, but certainly not to you. You know how much I respect you knowledge and understanding – and it’s a lot more than mine, too.

          Seems to me we’ve managed to get ourselves in a mutual-misunderstanding loop about this, which is almost certainly down to a bit of terminology that we’re each interpreting entirely differently, but I can’t see where the heck it is. Just stuck. Just stuck.

          All I can suggest is that we drop this until such time as we can meet in front of a whiteboard somewhere, and can map out exactly what each term means to us, and how we would model the relationships between the respective terms. Trying to do it through text alone just ain’t gonna work. 🙁

          My apologies, anyway.

        • Len Fehskens says:

          Having soaked my head, I will try to proceed a little more calmly.

          First, let’s get the emotional stuff out of the way. I figured you’d say you weren’t implying my stupidity, but you are being quite explicit about my being wrong:

          “I do know that you’ve written a lot on this. It’s precisely that that I’m attempting to redress here.”

          I.e., everything I’ve written about organization and enterprise is wrong, and must be “redressed”.

          First, why do continue slogging ahead on this so doggedly? It’s not because I’m afraid of being “wrong”, or because I am absolutely certain you’re “wrong”. It’s because I genuinely don’t understand why you’re saying the things you’re saying.

          I have a number of specific goals in continuing to work at this:

          1) I want to understand exactly what you mean by:

          “the ‘why’ must always be larger than the ‘how’, hence the scope of ‘the enterprise’ must always be larger than the scope of ‘the organisation’.”

          2) I want to understand exactly why you believe this, i.e., how you came to this conclusion. I follow the “enterprise is how, organization is what” metaphor; I just thing it leads to problematic conclusions, is treated as an absolute rather than as a relative relationship.

          3) I want to understand exactly why you believe this is so important, and specifically why you believe that if one does not believe all sorts of terrible things inevitably follow, specifically the “prioritization” of how over why. Perhaps I am deluding myself, by I do not ever “prioritize” how over why, and am constantly vigilant that I not do so, so I am having a hard time with the idea that this is an unavoidable consequence of my “linear thinking”.

          4) I now understand (I think) that you are proposing to use “organization” to mean something other than the concept of structure or the physical instance of a structured set of people and resources. I want to understand what this other meaning is, and why it is worth hijacking the word “organization” to denote it, and what words you propose to use to denote the concepts that “organization” used to denote, the ones that everybody is comfortable with. You are correct in observing that our choice of words is a choice, and I have responded several times that we must makes those choices carefully, especially when one proposes to repurpose a word, especially a word like “organization”.

          5) I want to understand what any of this has to do with “linear” thinking, and why you keep insisting that my “linear thinking” has taken me off the rails.

          I now believe the key to breaking this logjam lies in item (4), so I will tackle that one first. Later.

          len.

  3. Len Fehskens says:

    One last thing.

    I don’t want followers of Tom’s excellent blog to lose sight of the really important point here, that we both agree about — organization and enterprise are different concepts.

    What we’re arguing about is the nature of the relationship between these two different things.

    I’m sure for most of you that argument is akin to “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin”.

    len.

    • Tom G says:

      Many thanks for that, Len.

      Yes, we do agree on that one point about ‘organisation’ and ‘enterprise’ being different concepts. I’m increasingly in doubt as to how much of anything – if anything at all – we really agree on beyond that point. 🙁

      And actually, no, this isn’t merely a ‘dancing angels’ question: attempting to use linear-style terminology in a fractal context will cause architectural confusion and even architectural failure – so it’s definitely a non-trivial concern, no matter how abstract it might at first seem.

      • Len Fehskens says:

        Tome replies to me:

        “attempting to use linear-style terminology in a fractal context will cause architectural confusion and even architectural failure”

        Please do me a favor — please stop implying that I don’t understand the difference between linear and fractal and am unable to apply the concepts. Actually, you’re kind of mixing your metaphors here — there’s one dimensional (linear), fractionally dimensional (fractal) and multidimensional.

        What I don’t understand, and what is confusing me, is you’re use of these concepts in a way that doesn’t provide any additional explanatory value — to me, anyway. I

  4. Len Fehskens says:

    Looks like Tom has lost interest in this discussion. Still, I keep rereading his remarks to try to figure out just what he means by “the scope of ‘the enterprise’ must always be larger than the scope of ‘the organisation’”, and why he believes this with such fervor.

    The closest I’ve been able to get is the Five Whys thing. In various different ways, Tom repeatedly says things like “the ‘why’ must always be larger than the ‘how’”. This makes absolutely no sense to me — what is the metric that we are using for the comparison? How do we measure the “scope of a how” and the “scope of a why” such that we can compare them and decide not only that in a specific instance, one is larger than the other, but that this must always be the case? The only thing I have been able to imagine is that Tom is arguing that the “Five Whys” can be applied only to a why and not to a how, and this application of the Five Whys somehow makes the why bigger than the how. In a lexical sense, “Why Why Why Why Why Why” (the original why plus the Five Whys) is “bigger” than “How”, but so what? Why am I not allowed to graft any number of additional questions (that would provide additional insight) onto the “How”, or onto the original Why, for that matter? Why must it be only the Five Whys (and remember the five is just a rule of thumb), applied only to the original Why?

    len.

    • Tom G says:

      @Len: “How do we measure the “scope of a how” and the “scope of a why” such that we can compare them and decide not only that in a specific instance, one is larger than the other, but that this must always be the case?”

      Business Motivation Model, for example. Or the Motivation section in TOGAF Metamodel or Archimate, both of which are in effect subsets of BMM. Or just about any requirements-method: my preference is Volere, but there are plenty of others. The modelling techniques are well-established and relatively straightforward: a lot of pedantic detail, sometimes, but not particularly hard.

      @Len: “The only thing I have been able to imagine is that Tom is arguing that the “Five Whys” can be applied only to a why and not to a how”

      Nope.

      Five Hows (though in practice usually a lot more than just five Hows) apply just as much as Five Whys.

      ‘Why’ takes you up the abstraction stack, towards motivation and suchlike; ‘How’ takes you down the abstraction stack, towards implementation and real-world use. Again, all of this is well-established, and not hard. I really don’t see why you’re making an issue of this; in fact I don’t even see how you’re making an issue of this.

      What with this, and the equally bizarre question about whether I understood that it could be other than just five Whys, I just don’t know what’s going on with your thinking here. That you’re not getting it is obvious; and, to also be clear about another key point, you’re also much more rigorous and honest, intellectually and otherwise, than to play the old game of ‘not getting it’ for the purpose of status-games and suchlike (a point I hugely appreciate in my discussions with you – thank you!). So clearly there’s something else that’s going on here – something that I just understand. No doubt a fair-sized chunk of it is my fault – that I’m not getting what you’re saying, not getting what it is that you’re not getting, something like that.

      Stuck…

      If it’d help at all, although I won’t be at the Open conference itself, I’ll be around in London next week – perhaps catch up with you there to try to sort this one out?

      Best regards, anyway – and thanks again for your tolerance, too, because I know this isn’t easy for either of us.

      (The things we do for this ‘trade’/discipline/whatever, that probably just about no-one else ever notices! :-wry-grin: )

  5. Len Fehskens says:

    Tom replies to me:

    “Business Motivation Model, for example. Or the Motivation section in TOGAF Metamodel or Archimate, both of which are in effect subsets of BMM”

    I don’t understand how any of these things are metrics tat confer commensurability.

    “Five Hows (though in practice usually a lot more than just five Hows) apply just as much as Five Whys.”

    I of course agree. Hence my belief that this would not be the explanation. And I really had a hard time imagining you would embrace such a flimsy argument.

    “[Why up, how down] Again, all of this is well-established, and not hard”

    I agree, I just don’t see why (or how) it explains that an enterprise is always larger in scope than an organization.

    “I really don’t see why you’re making an issue of this; in fact I don’t even see how you’re making an issue of this”

    First, I don’t understand why you’re making such a big deal about relative scope. Even if what you claim were true, so what? What does relative scope have to do with anything? As I explained earlier, the only scope that makes sense to me is the degree to which the organization is capable of achieving the enterprise. If you don’t have enough how, you won’t achieve all the why. But apparently you don’t mean this either. What’s frustrating me is you don’t explain anything, you just keep asserting it as obvious.

    But what I really just don’t is your comparing feet to pounds. Where is the conceptual “conversion factor”? Feet and pounds clearly apply to a rope; I can take a particular rope and say 1 foot of this rope weigh so many ounces. Then, for this rope (even more generally, a rope with these characteristics) I can switch back and forth between feet and ounces, whichever is more convenient for what I’m concerned about at any given moment. But I can’t compare the numbers and say one is “larger in scope than the other”. I could game this notion by changing my units from feet to inches and ounces to pounds. If one foot weighs four ounces, then 12 inches weighs 1/4 pound, and the comparative scopes change.

    Again I can’t believe this is the idea you’re trying to convey. It’s absurd.

    “So clearly there’s something else that’s going on here – something that I just [don’t] understand”

    Yes, we’re clearly thinking in two completely different frames, and each unable to get the other to understand the frame we’re each using.

    I understand what why is about. I understand what how is about. I understand that if you don’t specify the why, you won’t be able to make the right how. But if you don’t have a how the why is a sterile exercise.

    But none of this requires insisting that the why must always be bigger in scope than the how, or that one has to be “subordinate” to the other. These for me don’t add anything to the discussion.

    Why do I insist this? Occam’s Razor — Plurality must never be posited without necessity.

    len.

  6. Len Fehskens says:

    I’m bringing the thread back to the top level because that’s where the divergence started.

    I’ll start with the easy ones, but first, another plea.

    Please don’t tell me what or how I’m thinking. Do me the favor of assuming that I’m not delusional, and when I say I believe something, accept that I actually believe that, and when you conclude that I believe something that is inconsistent with what I have said (often repeatedly) that I believe, maybe this means you should reconsider that conclusion.

    In turn, I will do you the favor of not telling you what I think you think, except in this one case.

    It seems to me that once you (wrongly) got hold of this idea that I was (wrongly) thinking linearly, you then assumed it was both OK and necessary to interpret everything I wrote in a linear fashion, regardless of any contradictions that engendered with respect to other things I have said both here and elsewhere. If you weren’t doing this, please forgive my presumption, but it explains a lot of your making inferences I did not mean to imply.

    So, on to the first easy one.

  7. Len Fehskens says:

    You wrote:

    “both ‘organisation’ and ‘enterprise’ are solely conceptual entities.”

    I take this to mean you deny the use of the word organization to mean a physical instance of a structured set of people and resources. What then do you call such a physical instance?

    “The expression of organisation – of the process of organising – is usually physical, yes; but organisation itself is not – not even as ‘the organisation’.”

    OK, I ask again, what then do we call the “expression of the concept of organization”. It’s a bit clumsy to have to say “actual physical expression of the concept of a structured set of people and resources” all the time. There is a lot of tradition here that we’re OK using the same word to denote both a class and an instance of the class, and disambiguating from context, especially when we know that is what we’re doing. I’m sure you have a good reason for not applying this tradition to organization/organisation.

    “A concept, versus the expression of that concept, are not the same thing: don’t mix them up!”

    I’m not “mixing them up”; I’m acknowledging that the word organization can be used to denote two related concepts (structure, and a structured set of people and resources) and instances of these concepts. When it’s not obvious from context, I am usually very careful to be explicit about which I mean. Doing so does not mean I am confused, nor does it mean that I am thinking linearly. This is an example of your concluding I’m confused about something despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

    len.

  8. Len Fehskens says:

    You wrote:

    “All of which brings back to this last part of Len’s first comment quoted above:

    an enterprise cannot be realized except by an organization that is capable of realizing the entire enterprise

    Straight away, it should be obvious that this makes no sense”

    This seems to be the thing that really set you off.

    Here’s how it works.

    We both agree that “organization” is a fractal, recursive, or self-similar concept. I take this to mean two things:

    1) an organization (structured set of people and resources) as a concept or physical instance thereof can be thought of as comprising multiple (sub) organizations. That is, we can identify parts of an organization that are by themselves organizations.

    I agree that this hinges on precisely how one defines “organization”. For example, if an organization must be a legally recognized entity the idea of fractal applied to organization only rarely applies — very few actual organization go to the trouble of acquiring legal recognition for their suborganizations.

    I note that if, as you asserted earlier, an organization is only a conceptual entity, it seems to me that the only real-world organizations that fit your definition are things like “shell corporations”, i.e., legally recognized conceptual entities).

    We have words like corporation to deal with issues of legal recognition; I prefer not to saddle organization with that responsibility, so my concept of organization doesn’t require that it be legally recognized. That could very well be wrong in your opinion.

    So, an organization can comprise multiple (sub) organizations, each with a well defined boundary.

    2) (1) necessarily implies the mirror relationship — multiple distinct organizations can be together considered to be a single (super) organization.

    Hold that thought.

    “In fact, it’s a direct example of the second mistake described above, where the boundaries of ‘the organisation’ and ‘the enterprise’, of the ‘how’ and the ‘why’, are deemed to be exactly the same.”

    No, this is another example of you making an inference that I did not mean to imply, and that as far as I can tell I did not actually imply. You seem to be starting from the premise that if I do not use your language the way you use it, I am wrong, and since I am wrong about that, all of these other wrongs necessarily follow. I said and implied nothing about anything being “exactly the same”. And for what it’s worth, the boundaries of two distinct entities can never be exactly the same.

    “Instead, and in practice, an enterprise is realised by any number of organisations, from zero – in other words, where the enterprise is not realised at all – to a potential infinity of organisations: ‘why’ may be realised by any appropriate combination of ‘how’.”

    I have never said or implied otherwise, your inferences to the contrary notwithstanding.

    “Remember, it’s fractal, not linear: don’t mix them up!”

    Indeed.

    Now, why is this collection of all those organizations itself not an organization? Is the collection not bound together by the shared purpose of the enterprise? You’re the one who insists the concept of organization is fractal; why is this not an instance of such a fractal structure?

    And doesn’t this (single) (super) organization have to have all the capabilities necessary to realize the enterprise? This is the other question I can’t get you to answer.

    If the organization (possibly comprising multiple (sub) organizations) that realizes an enterprise is not capable of realizing the entire enterprise, how then is the enterprise successfully realized?

    How is this analysis not consistent with the nonlinear fractal thinking you require of me?

    len.

  9. Anders Danielsson says:

    Tom,Len
    could it be that you are using the term ‘organization’ differently? Seems to me that Len is thinking more in terms of boundary-of-identity (with the superorganization having the identity of ‘the enabler of the enterprise’), whereas Tom is using the term more in a boundary-of-control way (no single one controls the superorganization, therefore the enterprise will always be larger than the largest organization). I may perceive you wrong though, just trying to help out..

    /Anders

  10. Len Fehskens says:

    Anders writes:

    “could it be that you are using the term ‘organization’ differently?”

    We both agree that we are. That’s what we’re trying to sort out — appropriately enough, exactly how and why.

    len.

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