At a fundamental level, a model is merely a collection of
structured information with zero or more relationships that represent something
of interest. These days models and modelling are used almost everywhere.
Financial models, Stock Trading models, Buildings, Cars, Spaceships, Oilrigs,
Weather, etc, etc, etc, although for some reason, many Enterprises cannot
understand how useful it is for Transformation.
There are two main reasons why models are used:
You cannot build (or change) anything that is complex by wading
in with a screwdriver - you need to understand what you are trying to build or
It is easier, cheaper and faster to build a model of something
and then to find out it is wrong in some way, than to build the thing the model
represents and then discover the problems.
What we seem to have forgotten is that Models have been used
for many many years to help with Architecture and Engineering alike. Long
before any computers, when technology consisted of paper, pencils, a drawing
board and a chair, there was a department in many Enterprises called the Drawing Office and the people that worked there were
called draughtsman. The only reason I have a very vague recollection of this is
because my father worked in the Drawing Office
at Rolls-Royce in the 1960’s working on the design of the Olympus 593 Engine
that powered Concorde. This department existed to produce and manage drawings -
models. It was an extremely important and a strict change management process
was in place to make sure that as the drawings were used to engineer and
manufacture the engines, that any problems encountered or opportunities that
were missed that meant the drawings needed to be changed, were fed back to the
Drawing Office and appropriate updates were made.
This cost a lot of time and money. So why did they do it?
The reasons are utterly evident and need no explanation. What does need
explanation is why we are finding it so hard in the 21st century to
explain to management that modelling is of crucial importance?
Imagine how Rolls-Royce would have fared if every time a
change to an engine was required that the person responsible for that change
had to first spend a whole lot of time wandering round the factory trying to
find a drawing of the part of the engine he was going to be working on. Maybe
he found one, maybe he didn’t. If he found one he had no way of knowing how old
or up to date the drawing was so would wander around trying to find people who
knew something about it, who maybe had conflicting opinions. Then, after
cobbling together a vaguely correct (who knows!) diagram of the domain of
interest (that his project manager would constantly moan about him wasting his
time on because that task was not on his project plan) and performing his work,
the diagrams (models) of what the engine looked like before and after his
changes were then left gathering dust on a shelf while he moved on to other
things. Maybe the next person would find them, probably not.
This is, of course utterly ridiculous, but this is exactly
what goes on in 95% of all Enterprises every single day with the resultant loss
in quality of work performed, not to mention the billions of wasted money, but
even more importantly the waste of time. Money maybe important, but if you lose
it you can always get more of it. Once time is gone, it’s gone forever.
Your Enterprise doesn’t have a Drawing
Office - but it is of crucial significance.
In the past models were drawn by hand on paper, but in
today’s world computers are used to streamline that process. And once a model
is in a computer there are many operations and analyses that can be performed
which streamlines that process even further. What-If analyses can be performed
almost instantaneously to explore different scenarios and to aid selection of a
But Enterprises seem to have forgotten the fundamentals -
Fundamentals that POET is trying to highlight. IT is massively important of
course, but people can fall into the trap that thinking that IT can solve all problems,
forgetting that IT is only a tool and as important as a tool is, it’s not a
case of how big your tool is, but how you use it ;-)
The word meta just means “information about” so a meta-model
is information about a model. It really is that simple. You can also use the
word meta in conjunction with just about anything so long as there is some
benefit/reason for doing so. The word meta also can be used repeatedly for
example meta-meta-model which is information about the information about a
As well as giving us the structure of the information that
we can model a meta-model also defines the semantics or language used. This is
massively important as language is the second biggest enemy of Enterprise
Transformation (after Cultural problems).
A lot of the words used in Transformation are very ill
defined - from individual to individual, group to group and framework to
framework. Using the same word doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing and
using different words doesn’t necessarily mean different things. A lot of the
time, people think they are speaking the same language (because they are both
speaking English for example) when in fact they are not. In this environment it
is easy to have a disagreement without either party being aware of it. That
creates hidden problems which are the worst kind of problems. It is also easy
to have disagreement when in fact both parties agree - Have you ever heard
anyone say “I think we are in violent agreement”?
Defining the meanings of the words that are used in a model
is key to allowing people from multiple backgrounds and domains to be able to
communicate effectively. This is one thing that a framework brings. A common
set of terms, definitions and explanations of a discipline.
Semantics/Language is defined in two ways:
Words - A dictionary or
glossary, specifying definitions and the meanings of words and phrases and
(more importantly) the relationships between them.
Symbols - The Notation used on
diagrams, specifying definitions and usages of shapes, lines, colours and
These Words and Symbols form the language of Enterprise
Transformation. Different people, or roles, tend to speak these different
languages and dialects.
Recognising that these languages and dialects do exist is an
important part of the glue between each level and in getting the whole of the
Transformation stack to work holistically together.