From Business Strategy to Solution: A Unified Conceptual Framework

In my last post, I suggested that Agile methodologies could benefit from a simple change: replacing User Stories by Problem Statements. Originally I was trying to link the work of Prof. Knott on Organizational IQ which is related to the ability of an organization to solve problems.

However, as I started comparing the metamodel of a User Story and to the formal definition of a Problem, I realized there was something more profound at play. The Metamodel of a User Story looks like that (using the BOLT notation):

us-model

 

If we now compare it to the metamodel of a problem, it looks like that:

pb-model2

 

I define a problem formally as non existing transition between two known states. [1']

Please note that both the actors and the actions are part of the solution:

sol-model

This is where the problem lies when using User Stories, you are specifying the requirements with the solution in mind. I do agree that there is generally a relationship between actors and entities with the “from” and “to” states of the problem. The states are defined in terms of their state, but it is a mistake to think that the actors that perform the actions are always the same as the actors related to the states.

I feel that distinction is profound because we can now clearly articulates:

a) the problem statements with respect to each other (as a graph of states and transitions)

b) we can articulate the solution in relation to the problem statements

c) we can articulate the verification (BDD) in relation to the problem and solution [2]

d) we can actually articulate the Business Strategy [3], the Problem Statement, the Solution and the Verification with the same conceptual framework

e) derive the Organizational IQ from the problems being solved on an every day basis

To the best of my knowledge none of these articulations have been suggested before and no one has ever provided a unified framework that spans such a broad conceptual view from the Business Strategy to the Verification. In the proposed framework (which we defined as BOLT in our book, B = mc2) the business strategy is simply a higher level and specialized view of the problem and solution domains. This has an extremely important implication for the execution of the strategy because now both the Strategy and its Execution are perfectly aligned, at the semantic level: the strategy, problem, solution and verification graph represent a map that everyone in the organization can refer to.

I’d like to keep this post as short as possible to show how consistent and powerful these concepts are. This was already apparent at the strategy level when we wrote B = mc2. This is even clearer today.

I will take some specific examples over the coming days to illustrate how these concepts can be applied in specific contexts. I believe at this point that this model extends well beyond the boundaries of software engineering.

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[1] For instance, you build a vehicle, obviously you want to car to transition to the “in motion” state. Different “actions” will lead to the vehicle to reach that state (a horse pulling, an engine, transmission and wheels, a fan, …).

[2] BDD Metamodel (Scenario):

bdd-model[3] Living Social Business Strategy mapped using the same conceptual framework (Source: B = mc2)

lifecycle

 

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