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Performing work by organizational units

Conducting the life cycle (the forced alteration of the states of the target system from outside during its conception, creation, operation, liquidation, i.e. the "life of the lifeless") is done by organizational units—people with materials and equipment at the disposal of these organized individuals. Typically, organizational units do not initiate work themselves. In collective activities, some organizational units have the authority to request work from other organizational units who have the obligation to fulfill such requests—this is the organization. If you ask for a pizza in a pizzeria, you will be provided with the service of preparing it—and this is a remarkable fact in itself. Try asking a pizzeria to prepare summer sandals for you, and see what happens after this request.

Organizing cooperation in terms of fulfilling work requests is the subject of one of the practices of systems management: the practice of organizational development/organizational management (sub-practices include organizational design and leadership): who can request work from whom (organizational units) about what (work/services) in a way that the requests lead to their execution, not surprise, questions, or resistance instead of collaboration.

This discussion is not about how and why work is carried out from a content perspective (i.e. not about creating systems as functional parts) but about the logistics of work: how to ensure that someone, as a resource, performs this work (services of system creation as modular components/modules/organizational units). Systems thinking enables us to reason about systems creation and the environmental systems of the target system using the same concepts. The concepts/types that focus attention in thinking for all types of systems (target, environmental, creators in chains) are the same, although the terminology/words for these concepts may vary. In this compactness lies the power of fundamental disciplines, including methodology, discussing ways of working on system creation.

Each piece of work goes through a cycle of interaction between organizational units (this is discussed in the DEMO approach to Enterprise Architecture Description[1] and the "Systems Management" course):

  • The work is requested by the initiating organizational unit, often in the form of its appearance in a plan (with a defined sequence of work, and if it's a schedule, then with specified deadlines) or a backlog (a set of work to be done—but without specifying a strict sequence of execution, including deadlines): a coordination act, referring to the information world of requests-approvals-promises by organizational units, but not to the actual physical work of changing the world or even the work of changing system descriptions.
  • The work is accepted by the executing organizational unit. This is also a coordination act.
  • The work is carried out by the executing organizational unit. This is a production act, the actual execution of work. This is what is considered in the life cycle of the target system on which the work is being done. Only production acts are discussed in the life cycle, not coordination acts! Accounting for coordination acts and the resources and time spent on them (sometimes intense work for a year might be needed to get approval for a five-minute actual work) is yet to be properly reflected in the methodology. Currently, this is considered in the discipline of rationality as "rational decision-making" based on decision theory[2].
  • The work is submitted for acceptance by the executing organizational unit. This is a coordination act.
  • The work is accepted by the initiating organizational unit of the work, a coordination act.

The division into coordination and production acts is important for making accurate time estimates: from the moment of work request to acceptance of the work, up to 60% of time might be spent on coordination acts, and only 40% of the time on actual execution of the work. In the case of knowledge work, this can be 80% on coordination and 20% on average on actual work (as decision justifications are quite labor-intensive by themselves). Therefore, the life cycle of a nail might take multiple times longer than the time spent on the actual work affecting the physical nail as production acts. The difficulty in carrying out coordination acts (decision making on work implementation, while understanding that making these decisions requires not only collective thinking/computational work but also actions, experiments, obtaining additional information—i.e. resource expenditure) is often referred to in organizations as "lack of political will": all the material resources for work are available, but work is not being carried out because those authorized to make decisions on their implementation do not take action! Sometimes it is truly a lack of focus, sometimes it is unwillingness to invest resources in conditions of extreme uncertainty, and removing uncertainty may also require resources, which again might not be a priority for investing the "political will"!

How should work be planned—based on the total time of coordination+production of work, or based only on the actual time of resource consumption? Different work management schools (project management, process management, program management, case management) answer this question differently. Work management is precisely about work planning and work execution control as units of behavior of organizational modules/organizational units/constructive organizational entities—without discussing how to correctly perform work to change the target system in the desired direction (i.e. without discussing organizational roles and their functions/life cycle practices).

Work management subjects do not involve the functionality of actions occurring with the system life cycle; in other words, functional parts of creation systems are not considered in work management. The creation systems are not viewed as organizational roles/functional parts performing practices with a specific purpose, but only as constructive resource parts that are valuable for carrying out work, regardless of their content.

Organizational units play organizational roles, and organizational roles are realized by organizational units (functional objects are realized by constructive objects, this is the relationship of realization, remember 4D extensionalism). Organizational roles carry out practices/methods/work (functional/role/applied engineering approach), while organizational units carry out work/services (constructive/organizational/managerial approach).

Since the introduction of the concept of "life cycle" in systems engineering projects, this "initial version life cycle" has come to include the time spent on work that occurred in the initial (before the manufacturing of parts of the future system) period, i.e. the time spent on describing the future target system and documenting these descriptions, i.e. work not related to the actual embodiment of the system, not work related to manufacturing-assembly. Such a concept does not exist in biological systems! Genomes and memes differ in their treatment: Darwinian evolution cannot rely on "smart mutations," but techno-evolution can. In Darwinian evolution, only changes to the entire organism can be operated upon, as the phenotype unfolds from the mutated genome, but in techno-evolution changes can be made within one carefully designed module, making changes both to the meme (stored separately from the system being created) and the phenotype of the completed system. Remember: a genome and a meme are inheritable materials (genes in DNA and memes on some information carriers), and a phenotype is the manifested inheritable material in the organism. Techno-evolution progresses rapidly, and the life cycle (i.e. not life and not a cycle) has now included stages/work in which work is performed to obtain and develop the meme as a description of the target system, the design of the target system. The word "project" in Russian also has the meaning of the created meme, a description of a system that has not yet been realized. We will differentiate project-work and project-system-description as a project/project and a project/design.

Since the addition of design stages (work related to the meme of the future system) in the life cycle, it has completely stopped being associated with changes in system embodiment states (the focus of biological living system life cycles) and the term has completely shifted to works of system creation as with descriptions as well as embodiments of target systems. The life cycle has ceased to be a life cycle of the system itself—it simply indicates the work/services carried out on the creation systems. Furthermore, in comparison to biology and physics, the concept of "evolution" has disappeared in favor of "single-time design," "non-cyclical progression of the life cycle." The focus has shifted from "systems thinking about complex systems" to "methodology as thinking about ways of work for creators."

The target system is only a "project/case object," an object for a group of works associated with the "life cycle of the project/case" that indicates what these works are targeting. The life cycle of a nail—these are works of a factory::creator producing nails, dealer networks trading nails distributors::creators, carpenter::creator (where the carpenter is not even an "operator" of the operation time because the nail, when fixing a connection, i.e. being used, does not need an operator, but rather an engineer for commissioning, a "fixer"!). The nail itself does nothing, it does not "live." People do things with it.

Soon, in general, "life cycle" became synonymous with the works of creators throughout the lifetime of the system: from the creation of the initial descriptions to the disposal of the used and no longer needed embodiment, work on the creation systems as necessary for changes in the states of the target system influenced by external forces.

The target system itself simply acted as a marker that allowed all work related to the system (both to its embodiment and description) to be identified, regardless of the numerous enterprises/organizational units involved with the system throughout its life cycle.

When referring to the "life cycle of a nuclear power plant," all works related to the nuclear power plant—from the conception phase and the search for funding for its design and construction to the moment when it is decommissioned, are broken down into stages/major works performed by numerous enterprises/organizational units. When referring to the "life cycle of a dance performance," works on its conception, staging, and a possible series of performances of the performance are meant. These works are seen as a coherent whole, irrespective of the fact that they are carried out by various teams from the moment the performance is conceived until the viewing ends (we recall that the performance may still exist in recordings, so its life cycle does not necessarily end at the time of performance).

Therefore, the "life cycle" of something in version 1.0 simply means the sequence of works that produce the services of the creators of that something:

  • Creators are the modules/constructive units of systems managing the life cycle, taken as units of their organization (possibility to give and perform work), organizational units. These can be companies, project workgroups/teams, cooperations of multiple companies, and so on.
  • Creator services are the external behavior of creators/organizational units, enacted through an interface/channel (as with any other module: the reasoning is identical for modules of creation systems, environmental systems, target systems, subsystems, supra-systems—all are systems, hence the reasoning with the use of systems approach concepts).
  • Work is the unit of engagement of the service/external behavior of the organizational unit, which can be attributed to a specified set of resources.
  • Life cycle (in its initial understanding, 1.0) is a set of works carried out concerning the target system by its creation systems.
  • Life cycle stage is a set of works in a specific period of time. The timeframe is typically selected as the time taken by the leading/most characteristic/key/important work of that time.

  1. Jan L.G. Dietz, Hans B. F. Mulder, Enterprise Ontology: A Human-Centric Approach to Understanding the Essence of Organisation, 2020 ↩︎

  2. ↩︎