Engineered for Change--The Dynamically Stable Holonic Enterprise
Last modified: May 11, 2007
1. Hours to assemble a car, years to “assemble” a decision
Complexity systems is a science that argues the impossibility to predict the future for complex systems. This result is unacceptable when comes to businesses, one of the most widespread complex system in use. The need to control the future outcome is even more critical, when there is a need to increase productivity for the decision making processes. For instance, a car could be assembled in only few hours, but deciding on its color choices may take years and enormous resources. A solution if found, can be easily extended to fields where costs are running out of control, like education and healthcare.
Regardless of the approach, everyone agrees that IT will play a very important role. However, building an integrated IT infrastructure requires a well-defined foundation to build on. The answer lies in building a clear structure for the enterprise processes that doesn't require the need to predict its future. Only after this first step is completed, the right technology can be applied.
2. Introducing a new principle for Holonic Systems, that leads to the Integrated Holonic Enterprise
The proposed approach looks into system dynamics for answers on how to start the structuring process. The first step is to split all top processes in two categories based on the basic feedback cycles and ‘stocks and flow’. They become the main transformation cycles and business entities lifecycles of the enterprise. This vision can be extended further to a view that has a multi-level hierarchy structure, called holonic system, with each layer potentially guided by a different model. This is similar to the way biological organisms can be viewed as a holonic system. At the highest level , the brain-centric control model is at the helm. On the next level, various control models are ‘driving’ subsystems like the circulatory system, or the digestive system. At the lowest level, each subsystem is built on individual cells, with their own operational model.
The challenge is to achieve an integrated structure for all these layers. To accomplish this, this paper introduces a new fundamental principle that applies to all holonic systems, regardless of their origin. Its definition is: in a holonic system, each subsystem, called holon, is required not only to obey its own layer control model, but it is required to comply with the combination of all models from all subsystems that are part of its upper hierarchy. For instance, the principle asserts that a cell that is part of the heart needs to implement control structures that conforms to the top brain-centric level model, and the second-level model for the circulatory system.
An immediate consequence is a clear, integrated structure for all different holons. Nevertheless, when this new fundamental principle is applied, it also explains one of the biggest challenge facing complex systems. The lower the level, the less information the holon has to work with because of the partitioning. But the complexity is much higher because of the combined control model that it has to work with.
This new principle is used to successfully create an integrated top-down, layered structure for all enterprise processes, and easily identify for each level the corresponding control model. The end result is the integrated holonic enterprise.
3. Applying the right technology leads to the Dynamically Stable Holonic Enterprise
Just because there is a well-defined, integrated layered enterprise structure, arriving to the right technology roadmap is still a challenge. For over a century, technology was mainly used to achieve a higher enterprise efficiency. With the upcoming demand for higher flexibility, an integrated IT infrastructure has to accelerate productivity for decades to come by balancing the support for operational efficiency with the one for introduction of changes. Designing an integrated technology platform able to play this dual role was resolved many decades ago, during 70s, by the aircraft engineers. Their goal was to built a plane that was highly maneuverable and highly efficient at the same time. They called their solution the dynamically stable configuration plane, and it resulted in the black- diamond shaped stealth plane called Nighthawk, famous for its capabilities. The same principles are applied to guide the design and the implementation for an integrated IT infrastructure that will transform a holonic enterprise into a high agility, high efficiency business. This type of enterprise, with a name inspired from the aircraft field, is called the dynamically stable holonic enterprise, and can be the blueprint for many decades to come.
This type of enterprise is not only perfectly adapted for mass customization, but it is also well prepared to support other complex fields like healthcare, education, government services, and even military operations. But probably its biggest contribution is in its ability to link for the first time in the history the macroeconomics to the microeconomics. A decision made at the macroeconomics level, can be quickly implemented by an enterprise that is highly responsive, while it maintains a high level of efficiency.