I’m still here…
Yes, I know there hasn’t been much activity on this blog for quite a while now.
But don’t worry. I’m still here, still busy as ever. It’s just that, right now, much of that work is necessarily appearing elsewhere. For now. I will be back here soon.
In the meantime, a bit more detail about what’s going on.
First, there’s the videos.
The Tetradian on Architectures playlist been running on YouTube for more than a year now. These are brief (typically 2-4 minutes) overview-videos of some topic related to principles and practice for real-world enterprise-architecture and the like. On the respective YouTube for each video, there’s usually a list of blog-posts and suchlike that provide more in-depth information on the topic. They’re on a weekly release-schedule, with 65 published to date.
The Tetradian on Tools for Change playlist will showcase somewhat-longer, practical how-to videos, on using various tools from the Tetradian toolset-inventory. Right now the playlist is empty other than for the Introduction, but there are already seven videos in various stages of production: I have a technical-problem to solve, relating to audio-track overlays, but once that’s resolved these too should start coming out on a near-weekly basis.
As a thank-you to my supporters on Patreon (more below on that), each new video first gets a private release on the Tetradian channel on Patreon, and then formally published on YouTube about a month later.
Next, to Patreon, and the Tetradian Patreon channel. This is for crowdfunding the work on adapting the Tetradian toolset-inventory for a more general mainstream audience – rather than the more technical enterprise-architecture audience, for whom most of my work had been built prior to starting the Patreon project.
(This is where I need to put in a huge “Thank you!” shout-out to all of my/our Patreon supporters – especially Daniel, Jacqui, Laura and Eric, and also Shawn, Greger, Miklos and Glenn.)
This is where the bulk of my new work is appearing right now. The project has demanded a vast amount of effort of every kind, perhaps a lot more than I’d expected at the start: adapting Innovator-stage materials for an Early-Adopter market is hard, but adapting it for a mainstream Early-Majority is really hard… Courtesy of my indefatigable designer Joseph Chittenden, we’re getting somewhere solid now, though it’s taken a long road to get there. Joe’s graphics really do help to get the story over, as you’ll see from this example of the ‘rooms’ metaphor that we were using for the core Five Elements model some while back:
(Part of the work on Five Elements is already available in ebook form, as my work-in-progress ebook ‘Five Elements Sketchbook‘, on Leanpub. But to give some idea of how hard this journey has been, we’ve had to develop seven distinct metaphors so far for Five Elements as a change-mapping method, to get it to be simple enough for anyone to understand and use, yet still be able to address all of the mind-boggling complexities of a real-world mega-project, still working the same way, everywhere, every level, every scope, every scale, every type of content or context. Making systems-thinking and systems-practice available, accessible and easy for everyone, simple without being simplistic – that’s been our aim here. And yes, it’s working. That’s a huge advance, not just for enterprise-architecture, but for everyone.)
So please, join us on Patreon: you’ll help us get the tools out there, for everyone to use – and in meantime, gain a lot of value for yourself and your colleagues too.
For enterprise-architecture itself, I’m still pushing the envelope in the same way as I’ve always done here. Back a couple of years ago, I wrote a set of ‘report’ blog-posts here on what I saw as the current status for enterprise-architecture: where it was back then, where it was heading, and where it actually needs to be in order to address what the world really requires from us. Given my formal background as a futurist, no surprises that the last of those three is the one where I most focus my attention…
Things have moved on a bit since I wrote those reports. It’s true that the majority of so-called ‘enterprise’-architecture is still dominated and dragged backward by the dead weight and dead-end IT-centrism of TOGAF and the like. Yet this is changing at last – if only because of a dawning realisation that there’s no way to make those old IT-centric frameworks work well enough to resolve almost any of the most pressing real-world enterprise concerns such as digital-transformation or GDPR privacy-compliance. All the signs now kind of indicate that any enterprise-architects who are still stuck in an TOGAF-style world of ‘enterprise’-architecture are likely heading fast into ignominious irrelevance; but those who’ve heeded my advice here over the past decade or so – and the advice of other more ‘human-oriented’ practitioners such as Bard Papegaaij and Jack Martin Leith – are probably well set up for that near-future world of a real, literal ‘the architecture of the enterprise’. Whether the IT-obsessives like it or not, that is where enterprise-architecture is headed right now.
My sights, though, are set on a whole other level of need for the enterprise-architecture skillset: what I often term ‘Really-Big-Picture Enterprise-Architecture‘, or RBPEA for short. That’s about the architectures we need for change at a truly global scale, where ‘the enterprise’ is the whole of humanity itself. If you think that building an architecture for digital transformation is already hard enough, consider the architectures that we’ll need to cope with climate-change, and all the other global-scale disruptions and disasters that are already heading our way, irrevocably and inevitably, right now, in a future that’s already far too close for any real architect’s comfort or complacency… It’s tools and techniques for that kind of future that are my main research-focus right now: so if that’s of interest to you, then Watch This Space indeed, because there’ll be a lot more on that here over the coming year or two.
One example of RBPEA that I’m working on right now is about a metric for one of the key drivers for disruption, or what I describe as a mythquake.
A myth is an unchallenged or unverified assumption; and if we use a myth for everyday decision-making, as almost all of us will do, about almost anything, then when that myth comes into conflict with Reality Department, what we get is a mythquake. If we hold too tightly onto our myths, a mythquake might seem like an existential threat: and therein lie all manner of further problems, each with a risk of triggering off ever more severe mythquakes – some of which have a real potential to kill us all. In which case, an understanding of mythquakes and how to address them is an absolute must for any enterprise-architect – especially if they’re working all the way out to an RBPEA scope and scale…
The key insight I’ve been working on for this is a simple metric for mythquakes – the MQ scale – that also indicates the level of potential risk for each type of mythquake. What’s interesting is that it closely parallels the two standard scales for earthquakes: the Richter scale, as a measure of earthquake energy, and the Mercalli scale, as a measure of earthquake impacts. As such – and again like the earthquake metrics – we can use the MQ-scale to warn of potential risks, but also to suggestion intervention techniques. And by crosslinking to context-neutral tools such as Five Elements, we can use practice on lower-level mythquakes to provide us with better preparedness for the really big mythquakes that are already lining up to hit home in the all-too-near future.
I’ve written a fair bit about this in the past, starting probably a couple of decades ago, and with a fair few posts here. You’ll also see the topic come up soon in the ‘Tetradian on Architectures’ playlist, probably in July this year. And I also have the ‘mythquake.com’ domain registered, though it’s not active as yet. But right now, what I’m working on for this is a full rewrite of the previous (incomplete) book, with the intent of getting it out in at least e-book format within the next few months, and proper print-format book soon thereafter. Another item on the Watch This Space list, I’d suggest?
Over the past few years I’ve become more certain that fiction, and narrative-form in general, is likely to provide us with useful avenues to make our ideas more accessible to a mainstream audience – ideas on whole-enterprise architectures and the like, for instance.
One such example is my book ‘Changes – a business-novel‘:
On the surface it’s a novel about ordinary people dealing with seemingly-ordinary issues at home and at work. (‘Seemingly-ordinary’, though, because some things in the story are not what they at first seem…) There’s character, plot, everything else you’d expect in a story. Yet beneath the surface, it’s actually a step-by-step guide to business-transformation, showcasing the same Tetradian toolset that we’re working on in the Patreon project: not just a novel, but also a learning-tool as well.
It’s currently available from Leanpub, in the common ebook formats; it should be available soon in print-format as well. Take a look, perhaps?
If Changes is about the more mainstream business-oriented end of enterprise-architecture, then my other fiction-project – The Viner Codex – is more the contexts for RBPEA, out at the Really-Big-Picture scope and scale. It’s, uh, a bit different than you might expect: to quote the project’s tagline, it’s about “Weird politics. Weird plant-things. Weird battles in which nobody dies…”. Or, perhaps more usefully, the blurb on my new Patreon channel for Viner Codex summarises it as follows:
Take a real event from the English Civil War of the 1640s. Change its outcome.
Move forward a couple of centuries or so.
Give it all a bit of a steampunk twist.
What does that world look like?
What does it tell us about our own world – and what our world could be?
The event I’m describing here is about the development of a proposed social-constitution called An Agreement of the People. Back in its day, in the late 1640s, it was first sidelined, and then violently suppressed, by the self-styled ‘Lord Protector’ Oliver Cromwell; but it became hugely influential for later frameworks such as the English Bill of Rights, the US Constitution, the Chartists of the early 19th-century, and even Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto. Amazingly, almost four hundred years later, we still haven’t achieved everything that was on offer in the Agreement. Four hundred years of going off as fast as we could in the wrong direction, it seems, and only slowly working our way back…
So for the story, I’ve imagined that Cromwell’s suppression backfired, and that the Agreement was indeed taken up as the constitution for the new Commonwealth – at which point our worlds diverge. We know what our world was like, over the intervening centuries: but what might have happened in theirs? What have we all missed out on, as a result of Cromwell’s act of self-centred betrayal? And what might we do to get it back?
Oh, and there’s that “bit of a steampunk twist”, of course. Except that it’s not quite steampunk either, but something quite a bit more twisted, in a more literal sense…
Enterprise-architecture is important, yes. But this story-oriented approach is a way to address those same issues that’s a whole lot more fun – and more engaging, too.
So perhaps take a look at the Viner Codex website: there’s a lot of material on there already, both as fiction and about the underlying ‘storyworld’. And if you like what you see, maybe join in on the new Patreon for Viner Codex (launched today – the traditional Day of Revolutions!) See you there, perhaps?
So yes, I’ve been busy. I am busy. There may not be much happening right here, right now, on this weblog: but there’s a whole new world of material on its way to you, and not that far away. Once again, Watch This Space, if you would?
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