Life and Business Architecture — Any Connections?

Nimble People Change Architecture

Remember when the phone was just for making phone calls, when travel by air was a special event, when research meant poring through tomes in the library or viewing archived materials there.

The iPhone was only born in 2007! Airplane travel for mass transportation only took off towards the end of the century. Though the Internet is old (early 60’s), its usage has increased around the world since the 90’s.

Life is hectic these days. There is a ton of information available lots of the time, and change seems to come faster than in the past.

The same conditions that introduced complexity to the business world are also impinging on our lives.

What has this got to do with Business Architecture? Well. Business Architecture is an approach that looks at capabilities in terms of people, process, systems and information. There is a simple parallel to this in life.

But why bother? If you know what capabilities support the way you conduct your life now, then you are in a better position to adapt to change and enjoy the surprises along the way.

You might be surprised at how nimble you can be when there is structure in the way you approach change.

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Ping. I looked at my smartphone. A calendar alert. My oldest child just added an item in our shared family online calendar. It’s titled “Discuss business case for my new laptop.” I smiled. Talk about giving me some warning for tonight’s post-dinner conversation.

The capability – financial management/sub-capability: major purchases.
The process for major purchases – justification and discussion with parent, to be booked ahead via online calendar or scheduled as family conference.
People involved – family member who proposes purchase, parent decides.
The tools – simple spreadsheet or notes
Information – cost, available family discretionary budget, other relevant considerations welcome.

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On the train home, I wondered “Who’s in charge of dinner tonight?” The roster says its J. I check the FindFriends app to check his location. (A condition for using smart devices in our household is that we turn on FindFriends location service). “Oh, J’s just a street away from home. That’s great. Dinner will be on time. I hope.”

The capability – home operations management / sub-capability: food services.
The process – detailed procedures to individual’s ability and preference; Set meal times
People involved – per roster
The tools – weekly menu, roster and what’s in the kitchen
Information – the day’s meal item, recipe, set meal time

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Well, you might say that’s simple and thinking it in those terms just seem more complicated. These are the simpler capabilities. Like any family, there are others that support a well-run life: asset management, security, learning and development, health management, and many more.

Just run your mind over all the capabilities that support your life across the four components (process, people, tools, information) then you’re set. You have your architecture! Along the way, you might realise that one capability is still in basic form and you would need to enhance it for the future. Or you may realise you are missing aspects of a capability and you need to figure out the gaps fast.

Taking an architecture approach to your activities can give you the following advantages:

1. Know what and where your ‘life’ capabilities are as an individual or a family unit, so you can adapt quickly to changes that come along the way.

When school and work commitments changed over the years, the capabilities around home operations were going to be impacted. Since we thought of this in advance of the change, we had time to alter the way we operated so the disruption to life was minimal.

2. Know how your life capabilities fit together for the good of the whole, so when you want to change a part, you know how other parts will be impacted and what it means to the whole. If it’s not good for the whole, why would you pursue the change?

When we moved to the US, I had a list of the capabilities that were being disrupted or need to be replaced in the new location. I knew which ones were more critical for the family to address first, and how the critical ones impacted the others. Although it was very disruptive, we saw a lot of good come out of the move. (Read Leading Change and Managing Change)

3. Know what goes where and in what order, so you can prioritise changes and order your activities well.

As in our move to the US, certain activities were prioritised first because they were critical capabilities or they were needed to support the others.

4. Make informed long-term and operational decisions when you require changes to capabilities to execute them, otherwise you might be unable to implement your decisions well. An informed decision is better for managing impact and risk.

When the family became interested in moving to another home a few minutes away (we think we need more space but it could be we just need to give away our books and other things we’ve collected over the years!), we discussed the matter during dinner. It was clear that the disruption and the major changes to our “life” capabilities (because of location and timing) were more than we could support at that time. So we agreed to change our timeline for a better set of conditions.

5. Develop your own or the family’s future direction using additional information that describes how the current capabilities might look like in the future to support that direction.

When I started to blog, I worked with the family to have a shared understanding of “why” and “what for”. The vision is far bigger than just to satisfy my desire to write and help others. Although this is still a work-in-progress, the conversations have started about what capabilities we can improve and what else we can develop, as the blog readership grows.

How about you? Have you considered looking at the capabilities that support your life? How would you alter them so you can adapt to changes quicker?

What do you think about this? I would like to hear from you.

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