An acronym for (enterprise) effectiveness

What’s a quick way to keep reminding ourselves about effectiveness in the enterprise, and that tagline of “things work better when they work together, on-purpose”?

My suggestion for this is the somewhat-contrived acronym LEARN:

  • eLegant – clarity, simplicity, consistency, ‘feel’, self-adapting for human factors
  • Efficient – optimises use of resources, minimises wastage of resources
  • Appropriate – supports and optimises support for the respective vision, aims and purpose
  • Reliable – predictable, consistent, self-correcting, supports ‘single source of truth’ etc
  • iNtegrated – creates, supports and optimises synergy across all systems

The point about effectiveness is that we could always do it better – which means that there’s always something new to learn.

I often link this with some of James Carse’s themes in his book Finite and Infinite Games:

a finite game is played with the purpose of winning (thus ending the game);
an infinite game is played with the purpose of continuing the play.

If we’re only playing a single finite-game that’s bounded and delimited by predefined rules, then effectiveness doesn’t really matter – or rather, effectiveness is defined as ‘winning the game, within the rules of the game’. We need to learn the rules (or, in too many cases, learn them so as to find loopholes to exploit…) – but once the game is over, there’s nothing more to learn. We won, or we lost – that’s it.

But the moment we’re playing more than one game, it’s no longer about just that one set of rules – our finite-game is in the context of an infinite-game. (At this point, hunting for loopholes to exploit is something we’d want to dissuade, because it destroys the shared-purpose of the game…) And effectiveness in that sense above really starts to matter:

  • elegant: design for human-factors helps people stay focussed, remember what they’ve learnt about plans and strategy, self-adapt to changing circumstances, apply their own ‘body-learning’ in real-time
  • efficient: manage energy, resources, not just to the end of this game but onward to the next, and the next
  • appropriate: keep ‘on-purpose’, not just in terms of winning this game, but engagement in the whole shared-enterprise around the game, such that every stakeholder wins in one sense or another
  • reliable: not just to win this one game, but to keep on winning, creating ‘wins’ for the entire shared-enterprise
  • integrated: every element supports everything else, across every finite-game and across the overall infinite-game of the shared-enterprise

In short, we need to LEARN – and keep a focus on LEARNing.


For everyone.

With everyone.

There are plenty of well-known frameworks for this, including:

And for what it’s worth, there are all the frameworks that I’ve developed for this, around whole-enterprise architectures and the like, such as SCAN, SCORE, Five Elements, Enterprise Canvas and the ‘This’ game.

It might also be useful to link all of this to another LEARN acronym, that I described a few years back in the post ‘The LEARN principle‘:

So keep the focus on LEARNing.


With everyone.

For everyone.

eLegant, Efficient, Reliable, Appropriate, iNtegrated.

That’s one way we can help to create effectiveness in the enterprise.

Just another idea to play with, perhaps?

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9 comments on “An acronym for (enterprise) effectiveness
  1. Sally Bean says:

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks – could be a useful checklist. Here’s my 2p

    I like the idea of LEARNing, but feel that falling back on 2nd letters doen’t make for a very useful acronym.

    Two related things seem to me to be missing from your list:
    Firstly something about adaptability/sustainability for the future as well as the present. This is implied by some of your words but not explicit.
    This requires the second thing which is a capability to observe and respond to what is going on outside the enterprise. (I appreciate that you normally take enterprise to be a very wide scope, but I still think this is important to mention)


    • Tom G says:

      Sally: “I like the idea of LEARNing, but feel that falling back on 2nd letters doesn’t make for a very useful acronym.”

      Yeah, I do know it’s a kludge… (though in my defence, try saying ‘elegant’ and ‘integrated’ and you’ll find that they do kinda sound as if they begin with ‘E’ and ‘L’ respectively… 🙂 )

      @Sally: “something about adaptability/sustainability for the future as well as the present. This is implied by some of your words but not explicit”

      Yeah, though again the challenge is to come up with any kind of mnemonic that works at all. (The previous acronym was ‘EREAI’, which is a long way from memorable… 😐 ) You’re right about the lack of explicit mention of futures etc (though where would we put it in any acronym?), yet it is kind of explicitly-there just in the word ‘LEARN’: the only reason for learning something is for the future, surely?

      @Sall: “This requires the second thing which is a capability to observe and respond to what is going on outside the enterprise. (I appreciate that you normally take enterprise to be a very wide scope, but I still think this is important to mention)”

      Agreed, definitely: it’s not there in the acronym. Yet once again, there’s only so much that it’s possible to do in a one-word acronym that really does need to be no longer than about five to seven letters…

      It is explicitly included in the descriptive text. The breadth of scope is explicitly (or, if you insist, implicitly) included in the tagline, which applies to ‘togetherness’ across any scope. It’s not in the acronym ‘cos there just ain’t room for it. Simple as that, bluntly.

      (I’ve struggled and struggled and struggled to pare things down to the bone, to keep it as simple as absolutely possible, such that it might just possibly be understood by execs with the attention-span of four-year-olds on an overdose of sugar and red food-colouring – and then I get hauled over the coals by what feels like a whole swathe of architects who complain that I haven’t crammed every single tiny nuance into the one very very very small space of a single tagline acronym. I just can’t win, can I? – whatever I do, it’s going to be wrong, isn’t it? And I really have had enough of it: guess it really is time for me to give up on this ludicrous mess of a so-called ‘discipline’… Oh well.)

  2. Gene Hughson says:

    How about this (yes, I’m addicted to word puzzles):


    • Tom G says:

      Nice. 🙂

      (The only bit I’d worry about is how to use the acronym itself:for example, to whom or what should we be assigning PRAISE? How does the acronym itself help in ‘selling’ EA or enterprise-effectiveness?

      That’s why I was looking for an action- and/or outcome-oriented acronym such as ‘LEARN’ – because in that case, for example, we can link it to how organisational-learning and enterprise-effectiveness are deeply intertwined and interdependent on each other.)

      • Gene Hughson says:



        • Tom G says:

          Again, nice (though I worry about the loss of the connection to/with people – my ‘eLegant’ wasn’t a particularly clear link to people, but at least it gave some inclusion…)

          The difficulty for me is that I still don’t see how we would use this acronym, or your previous one, in practical, day to-day work in EA and the like. Something that might well be worth an in-depth post or two on your ‘Form Follows Function’ blog, perhaps? 🙂

          • Gene Hughson says:

            I can be credible re: application and solution architecture, even enterprise IT architecture. When it comes to _true_ EA, however, my level of contribution is that of a student – I can ask interesting questions, perhaps even offer an unexpected insight, but I’ve no real experience in that realm.

  3. Tom G says:

    I theeenk you might be under-rating yourself there, Gene… 🙂

    In my experience,’true EA’ isn’t so much about specific content, but more about an awareness of ‘systems-of-systems’, of sociotechnical ecosystems and suchlike, in which people play as much if not more of a part than any technology as such – and that understanding is something that you’ve proved time and again you have in spades. In short, don’t worry? – you’re definitely ‘credible’…

    (In some ways the fact that you worry about it is itself the reason why you don’t need to worry; whereas if you didn’t, you would. If you see what I mean? 🙂 )

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