Systems Thinking and Architecting for the Enterprise

Updated: Apr 11, 2019


Whenever we attempt to map patterns to behaviors and/or related activities (real or perceived), we are in a sense trying to describe these patterns using a systemic approach (applying Systems Thinking to larger and/or more complex problems).   Systems Thinking can be applied to organizations (systems of enterprises), applied to people interacting through social media (ethno-graphics, demographics, etc), and applied to countries (macro-economics, compliance patterns) are just a few that come to mind. It seems that systems thinking has been practiced for longer than Enterprise Architecture. The question that I'm interested in exploring is "what does Enterprise Architecture (EA) bring to the "game" for systems thinking ? (is it simply a blending of disciplines to augment the science behind systems thinking ?).  I'll try to explore this briefly in the next paragraph.


From my narrow perch, I only come across a few practitioners of EA who view enterprises as systems and even fewer approach value chains and macro-level models with systems thinking.  Most of the problems created in organizations are due to a persistent divide and conquer mentality born out of the industrial age from the early 1900's.  Silos of workers and functional areas that establish boundaries with managers who protect, insulate, and control these using management models born out of even earlier periods (some may refer to these as fiefdoms).  Business models are becoming more fluid and organizations need to think about the flow of services, resources, with an eye towards adaptability.  Very hard for organizations to deal with change due to the rigid nature of their structures (and way of thinking).  A systems thinking view does help, but EA needs to enable the structures to support the adaptability of the organization so that these "flows" are optimized.  The EA also can play a crucial role in helping organizations think differently so they see the larger picture of systems within systems and how the flow of goods and services work at a macro & micro level.  Once they begin to think differently, they start to act differently and the culture adapts to enable these changes (some folks call this transformation).  Same thing is happening in healthcare and bioengineering as they begin applying systems level thinking, the innovation opportunities have multiplied significantly.  Integration is the biggest challenge for organizations and individuals...but overcoming this challenge requires a combination of systems level thinking, the right structures and the right attitude (some folks call this the right stuff).


There's much more to add on this topic, but hopefully this will generate some new thoughts about ways to promote collaboration across multiple professions and organizations.  Who knows...maybe we can change the way a few folks think along the way.

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