Designing for Flexibility

Written by John A. Zachman on Wednesday, 20 November 2019. Posted in Zachman International

Relative to Dewey’s conceptual innovations, in addition to his observation that the secret to the whole thing lies in the coding and classification of the data, Dewey identified and formalized the Process orientation in the late ‘60s long before Mike Hammer and Jim Champy popularized the concepts of Process Reengineering in their 1993 book.


When we, the DP (Data Processing) people came on the scene in the 1950’s and early ’60’s, there already were a lot of formal systems in place. In fact, there was a large Systems and Procedures community in many large Enterprises. They had formalized a lot of manual systems deriving from the Frederick Taylor “Principles of Scientific Management” in 1911. The formal systems resulted from the work flow studies that focused on the allocation of responsibilities for most efficient production of the product or service. Therefore the systems were very organization dominant and we, the new Data Processing people, simply coded up the existing formal, manual systems and told a machine what to do rather than the manual systems that told some person(s) what to do. In doing so, we automated, hard-coded, the organization structure. Then, Management would change the organization! Good night!! Every time Management changed the organization, it rendered the systems obsolete and we had to re-build them!

Dewey pointed out that the Process was different from how you allocate responsibilities (the Organization). You should build the systems around the Processes, not the Organizations. That way, you could change the systems all you want and it wouldn’t affect the Organizations ... or, you could change the Organizations all you want and it wouldn’t affect the systems. That is, there is a “many-to-many” relationship between Process and Organization. (Any one Process may be performed by many Organizations and any one Organization may perform many Processes. Organization and Process are independent variables. Orthogonal.)

Apparently this Process to Organization independence is still not very well understood. Within the last two or three years, I heard Steve Towers a notable figure in the Process Management community speaking at a Conference in Bangalore India emphasizing a strong point, “The Process TRANSCENDS the organization!” That is, a Process may have many Organizations involved and conversely, an Organization may be involved in many Processes. That is, once again, there is a many-to-many relationship between Processes and Organizations ... or, they are “independent variables.” Dewey had figured that out sometime before I found him in 1970.

The point is, in order to design for flexibility, you have to separate the independent variables.


In fact, let me say that again:

To design for flexibility, separate the independent variables.





We learned this in the Data Processing community decades ago! It is called “LATE BINDING”. The moment you hard-bind two independent variables together, they are fixed. If you want to change one or the other variable, you have to throw the whole thing out and start over again. The best of all possible worlds is to “bind only at execute time”! Why aren’t we doing this? Most people would argue that the technology doesn’t support it. I would say, the problem is, we haven’t defined the independent variables! We don’t know how to keep independent variables separated because we don’t even know what the independent variables are! We do not accept an ontologically-based definition of Enterprise Architecture that identifies and separates all the relevant independent variables (facts that exist) upon which the Enterprise is dependent for its existence.

As I've mentioned, this works in every other scientific field. Architecture is no different. I will try to define that further shortly with Enterprise Architecture Perspectives.

About the Author

John A. Zachman

John A. Zachman

John A. Zachman is the originator of the “Framework for Enterprise Architecture” (The Zachman Framework™) which has received broad acceptance around the world as an integrative framework, an ontology for descriptive representations for Enterprises. Mr. Zachman is not only known for this work on Enterprise Architecture, but is also known for his early contributions to IBM’s Information Strategy methodology (Business Systems Planning) as well as to their Executive team planning techniques (Intensive Planning).

Mr. Zachman retired from IBM in 1990, having served them for 26 years. He is Founder and Chairman of his own education and consulting business, Zachman International®. He is also the Executive Director of the Federated Enterprise Architecture Certification Institute (The FEAC® Institute) in Washington, D.C., as well as the Chairman of the Zachman Institute™, a non-profit organization devoted to leveraging Zachman International's vast network of professionals and resources to offer services to small businesses and non-profit organizations as they prepare for and experience growth.

Mr. Zachman serves on the Executive Council for Information Management and Technology (ECIMT) of the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) and on the Advisory Board of the Data Administration Management Association International (DAMA-I) from whom he was awarded the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award. In August 2015, Mr. Zachman was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for “recognition of his long term impact and contribution to how people think and practice Enterprise Architecture today, leaving his mark on generations to come” by the Global University Alliance and LEADing Practice. He was awarded the 2009 Enterprise Architecture Professional Lifetime Achievement Award from the Center for Advancement of the Enterprise Architecture Profession as well as the 2004 Oakland University, Applied Technology in Business (ATIB), Award for IS Excellence and Innovation. In August 2011, he was awarded the Gen. Colin Powell Public Sector Image Award by the Armed Services Alliance Program. In November 2013 he was acknowledged for Achievement and Excellence for Distinguished Innovative Academic Contribution by the IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society Technical Committees on Enterprise Information Systems and on Enterprise Architecture and Engineering.

Mr. Zachman has been focusing on Enterprise Architecture since 1970 and has written extensively on the subject. He has facilitated innumerable executive team planning sessions. He travels nationally and internationally, teaching and consulting, and is a popular conference speaker, known for his motivating messages on Enterprise Architecture issues. He has spoken to many thousands of enterprise managers and information professionals on every continent.

In addition to his professional activities, Mr. Zachman serves on the Elder Council of the Church on the Way (First Foursquare Church of Van Nuys, California), the Board of Directors of Living Way Ministries, a radio and television ministry of the Church on the Way, the President’s Cabinet of the King’s University, the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Citywide Children’s Christian Choir, the Board of Directors of Heavenworks, an international ministry to the French-speaking world and on the Board of Directors of Native Hope International, a Los Angeles-based ministry to the Native American people.

Prior to joining IBM, Mr. Zachman served as a line officer in the United States Navy and is a retired Commander in the U. S. Naval Reserve. He chaired a panel on "Planning, Development and Maintenance Tools and Methods Integration" for the U. S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. He holds a degree in Chemistry from Northwestern University, has taught at Tufts University, has served on the Board of Councilors for the School of Library and Information Management at the University of Southern California, as a Special Advisor to the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University, on the Advisory Council to the School of Library and Information Management at Dominican University and on the Advisory Board for the Data Resource Management Program at the University of Washington. He has been a Fellow for the College of Business Administration of the University of North Texas and currently is listed in Cambridge Who’s Who.

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