Architects – Masters of Order and Unorder?

Do you work in an ordered environment, where things follow rules in a nice, predictable way? Or does your environment exhibit “unorder”, characteristics of complexity or chaotic behaviour. If the latter, you need to read this paper to understand how your domain may differ from others, and appropriate techniques to use as an architect, analyst or designer.

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5 Responses to Architects – Masters of Order and Unorder?

  1. Are there specific situations in your architecture practice that call for a top-left approach? I think it would really progress the debate and the understanding if we had some solid examples of how the Cynefin framework applies to specific architectural projects in specific businesses. Cynefin is currently being picked up by the Agile Methods crowd, and it would be good to have some practical examples of how Cynefin makes a real difference to what architects can achieve

    • Andrew says:

      Yes, I do have some real, current examples where complexity is forcing me to say to the client “you can’t analyse this”. Watch out for a follow-on “examples” piece sometime soon.

  2. Andrew says:

    My paper is a straightforward application and extension of Dave Snowden and Cynthia Kurtz’s 2004 work, and properly credits that work. Dave has indicated that he is happy with this.

    Tom Graves has recently referred to this paper, I believe mainly as a source for the Cynefin diagrams without having to seek permission directly from Dave. Tom has not contacted me in any way, or sought my permission to re-use the diagrams in his article. I do not in any way endorse his views, or have any relationship to this derivative work.

  3. Tom Graves says:

    Andrew: re: “Tom Graves has recently referred to this paper, I believe mainly as a source for the Cynefin diagrams without having to seek permission directly from Dave.”

    I referred to this paper because I thought it was good work. The assertion that I referred to this paper “mainly as a source for the Cynefin diagrams without having to seek permission directly from Dave” is both insulting and absurd – not least because the Cynefin diagram is explicitly in the public domain anyway (see Snowden’s licensing notice on the Wikipedia page on Cynefin).

    In the past I have done very extensive on ‘the Cynefin categorisation’, in particular on attempting to integrate the Chaotic domain, which is barely addressed in Snowden’s work (though it is addressed in some depth in Kurtz’s more recent work). The methods and approaches I used in that work are most certainly not ‘derivative’ – a fact which seems to be the main source of Snowden’s very public ire (including an extraordinary out-of-context misuse of two of my diagrams in his ‘History of Cynefin’, apparently for the sole purpose of mockery, and certainly without any apparent understanding of their proper context or use). It is certainly true that most of my work around ‘the Cynefin categorisation’ has a different practical and theoretical base – for example, Snowden concentrates on complexity-science, whereas my work leverages iterative/recursive techniques from the futures disciplines (such as Causal layered analysis) and enterprise-architectures (such as TOGAF ADM, as also extended beyond IT). At Snowden’s request, I have explicitly and publicly separated my work from his, although you might note that Kurtz does explicitly incorporate some of my ideas and material in her current work on ‘Confluence’.

    Richard Veryard above asks “it would be good to have some practical examples of how Cynefin makes a real difference to what architects can achieve”, to which you replied “Yes, I do have some real, current examples where complexity is forcing me to say to the client ‘you can’t analyse this’: watch out for a follow-on ‘examples’ piece sometime soon”. However, it is now three months later: would you give us a timeline as to when you publish these examples? (In the meantime, if anyone is interested, there are many examples of real-life usages of a ‘Cynefin-like categorisation’ linked to proven enterprise-architecture methodologies available in my books – see TetradianBooks – and on my weblog.)

    I do acknowledge that Snowden and I have disagreed strongly in the past over our significantly different approaches to theory and practice in the ‘unorder’ space, and I appreciate that people may sometimes choose to ‘take sides’ in such cases of ‘conflict of ideas’. However, ‘taking sides’ does not actually further the progress in the field. You might also note that Snowden’s work is not designed to work directly with and in enterprise-architectures; whereas mine is. In that sense, might I request that you at least consider my work properly in its proper context, rather than dismissing it outright on the say-so of someone from a largely unrelated field of enquiry?

  4. Andrew says:

    Tom,

    Apologies I have not contacted you sooner. I have been on holiday until last week, followed by a busy catch-up with my clients, and I was trying to digest your comments before taking action.

    The reference to my paper is in your post “Tackling uniqueness in enterprise-architectures” at http://weblog.tomgraves.org/index.php/2010/06/03/uniqueness-in-ea/#more-986. I read this when my attention was brought to it by a Google blog scan back in June, not by any other mechanism.

    Your post contains one direct reference to my paper, and no comment that I could discern on my own assessment/use of Cynefin. The only other references are where you reprint the diagrams, where you promptly make notes that these are not the “up to date” versions against which you would like to comment. In the comments to the piece you then used the phrase (addressed to Dave Snowden) “I would also point out that since you’ve publicly accused me of plagiarism if I do reference the original sources…”. You never contacted me to post any sort of comment on my article itself.

    Taking these points together I think my inference about the use of my paper was unavoidable. If that was incorrect I apologise, but I hope you’ll accept it was a reasonable assessment based on the evidence I had.

    I’m not a “Dave Snowden follower”, and I don’t agree with everything he says. However, I have found his/Cynthia’s work on Cynefin extremely useful, and I think we are both comfortable about the relative relationship between his work and my use of it. I was keen to “set the record straight” to ensure that your use of my paper as a source was not seen to challenge this relationship, hence the comment on my blog, and an equivalent comment on Dave’s blog.

    I did read your paper, but didn’t find anything in it which I could latch onto as a working Solution/Enterprise Architect. That’s not to denigrate your work in this field, just an assessment based on my need for very simple, clear concepts which I can use with developers and business people with little or no knowledge or interest in the formal knowledge management space.

    A quick point on Richard Veryard’s comment. That was originally made when the paper was published in 2005, and at the time I had the best intentions of publishing a follow-up piece with real world examples. However, as my clients are major organisations and my relationships with them mostly on public record, it has proven very difficult to find ways of documenting examples of “unorder” in a way which will not challenge those ongoing relationships. I may resolve this at a future date, but may not do so very quickly.

    I hope this sets the record straight with you. I am happy to publish your comment alongside this explanation, if you will do the same.

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