AT #13: Companies are Elephants!
The famous parable of the blind men and an elephant is a story of a group of blind men, who have never come across an elephant before and who learn and conceptualize what the elephant is like by touching it. Each blind man feels a different part of the elephant’s body, but only one part. They then describe the elephant based on their limited experience and their descriptions of the elephant are different from each other. The complete text of the poem is here.
When I read the parable I instantly found it to be very suitable to use it for companies within the digital transformation. Companies are elephants employing blind men like:
- Strategic management focuses on strategic management, BUT does not understand architecture and is puzzled by the Agile movement
- Business units focus on their specific part of the business BUT do not understand the work done in other business units
- Business analysts focus on answering specific business-related questions with a narrow project scope BUT do not understand business architecture
- Project managers focus on time and budget BUT do not care about anything else at all
- Business architects focus on modeling the business BUT do not understand IT
- IT developers focus on code BUT do not understand as much of business, strategy, architecture as they might believe
- Agile people focus on being agile as a value in itself BUT do not understand architecture
- Enterprise architects try to see everything BUT fail, because complexity is overwhelming
Everyone involved in transforming businesses has a tendency to claim absolute truth based on his limited, subjective experience. We ignore other people’s limited, subjective experiences which may be equally true.
The Architectural Thinking Framework® wants to provide a model of the company, a language everybody understands. It is here to provide a model of the company/elephant that is simple enough to be seen even by the blind, or speaking with the parable:
“The elephant is a very large animal,” said the Rajah kindly. “Each man touched only one part. Perhaps if you put the parts together, you will see the truth. Now, let me finish my nap in peace.”
What you should do:
- create architecture maps that are understood within a second by various roles. This is a prerequisite that every viewpoint on the same thing (the transforming enterprise) gets involved in creating the architecture of the company.
- The model and the architecture maps must be simple and self-explanatory otherwise they will not be accepted by a wide range of stakeholders.
- Define simple but well-defined integration points to relevant processes of the enterprise (e.g. vision building, governance, solution development)