Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence
Enabling Operational Excellence

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The Governance Process Is What It Is – And That’s Way More Than Meta!

It’s a shame to have to resort to a ‘meta’ discussion to have what should be a direct conversation about governance process(es). After all, what’s more fundamental to an organization than those?! Does the BPM space ‘get’ it? Recent discussion in social media makes me doubt it. So back to ‘meta’ we go.[1] Here’s a recent wrong-headed post in social media that got my attention.

“I don’t see the appropriateness of labeling governance processes (e.g., business planning process, inventory policy process) as ‘meta’. They’re on a par with all the other business processes (i.e., request for proposal process, hiring process, product commercialization process, etc.). The process management process, on the other hand, is a meta process in that it stands above every one of the other processes, both governance and non-governance.”

My goodness! The process management process stands above governance processes? In what conceivable universe?! From a business perspective something is fundamentally flawed about a BPM approach that fails to recognize governance processes as above all others. Let’s think about it a bit. Some definitions …
  • I define ‘governance process’ as ‘process that governs other processes’. It’s ‘meta’ because both subject and predicate are the same kind of thing. (Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary 3b.)
  • I define ‘meta-process’ as ‘process that transforms other processes’. Since ‘governs’ is a specialization of ‘transforms’, that makes governance process a specialization of meta-process. I recognize there can be other kinds (specializations) of meta-process.
In other words there is a governance variety of meta-process that is the class of all processes that govern other processes. One example or instance of that class is THE governance process (singular) that governs the organization as a whole.

Aside: I can’t believe I had to prove in theory that an organization has a governance process!

To take the analysis further, you could specialize governance meta-process beyond THE governance process (singular) for an organization as a whole to suit governance of individual business areas or processes. The results (outputs) of all other specializations, however, should be consistent with the results (outputs) of THE governance process (singular). That’s a fancy way of saying you want to ensure business alignment. In social media, I wanted to initiate a discussion of what form the results (outputs) from all governance processes should take. If you want to talk about process improvement for governance processes, wouldn’t that be a foremost question?! No luck. These BPM participants wouldn’t go there. It leads me to believe they don’t really ‘get’ that governance is always about setting business policies. Indeed, if you want to improve the governance process sooner or later you’ll have to come to grips with business rules. Instead, they seemed satisfied to conclude the conversation with simply “a process is a process is a process”. I’m afraid not! ~~~~~~~~ www.BRSolutions.com

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Metaprocess vs. Governance Process

Mark Linehan commented[1]: Well-run businesses have a formal governance process: a business process for managing changes to other business processes. Defined this way, a governance process is a metaprocess. My reply: There is a governance process in every organization, whether well-run or not. Unfortunately it’s often unstructured and ad hoc. In any case, governance is about “the making and administration of [business] policy in [an organization]”[2]. Yes, the business policies can certainly have the effect of changing (transforming) other organizational processes. But that’s indirect. So I think calling a ‘governance process’ meta- is a bit tenuous.


[1] This series of point/counterpoint replies is a follow-up to my post “Meta Here. Meta There. Meta Everywhere?” (March 31, 2014), which generated a surprising amount of great discussion. (Thanks all!) Refer to: http://www.brsolutions.com/2014/03/31/meta-here-meta-there-meta-everywhere/ The definition I’m using for meta- is from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary [3b]:

3b: of a higher logical type – in nouns formed from names of disciplines and designating new but related disciplines such as can deal critically with the nature, structure, or behavior of the original ones *metalanguage* *metatheory* *metasystem* 

[2]from Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary [“govern” 1a]

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Meta-Cognition

Julian Sammy, management consultant and all-around guru, commented[1]: What about metacognition?

awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes,

or …

thinking that explores thinking.

My reply: Here’s some of what Wikipedia says about metacognition:

This higher-level cognition was given the label metacognition by American developmental psychologist John Flavell (1976). The term … literally means cognition about cognition, or more informally, thinking about thinking. Flavell defined metacognition as knowledge about cognition and control of cognition.

Following my ‘verb-not-proposition rule’ for meta- I get cognition that knows about, and controls, cognition. In other words, metacognition is about (also from Wikipedia) “when and how to use particular strategies for learning or for problem solving”. Yes, good one! http://www.brsolutions.com/


[1] This series of point/counterpoint replies is a follow-up to my post “Meta Here. Meta There. Meta Everywhere?” (March 31, 2014), which generated a surprising amount of great discussion. (Thanks all!) Refer to: http://www.brsolutions.com/2014/03/31/meta-here-meta-there-meta-everywhere/ The definition I’m using for meta- is from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary [3b]:

3b: of a higher logical type – in nouns formed from names of disciplines and designating new but related disciplines such as can deal critically with the nature, structure, or behavior of the original ones *metalanguage* *metatheory* *metasystem*

 

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Is There Such a Thing as Meta-Architecture?

Louis Marbel, President, Interactive Design Labs, commented[1]: Is there such a thing as “meta-architecture”? This is a simple one – yes! Let me explain. Essentially, an architecture description is a specification of the structure/form for organizing the function of system of interest in order to achieve its intended purpose effectively. The system of interest can be a building, bridge, enterprise, software system, application, enterprise/business data, etc. Now a meta-architecture is a high-order system that operates on an architecture specification as an instance/object, and can validate and/or evaluate the specification to determine consistency and coherence. This view of meta-architecture is consistent with predicate logic and concepts such as meta-types for software type systems, which are also specifications of the behavior of objects. My reply: You say “meta-architecture is a [high-order] system”. But you also say an “architecture [description] is a specification of … structure/form”. “Structure/form” is not the same thing as a “system”. So doesn’t that violate the fundamental meaning of meta- … something that operates on other things of its own kind? I have no doubt that there’s such a thing a meta-system. Should we think of (true) architecture as a system? http://www.brsolutions.com/


[1] This series of point/counterpoint replies is a follow-up to my post “Meta Here. Meta There. Meta Everywhere?” (March 31, 2014), which generated a surprising amount of great discussion. (Thanks all!) Refer to: http://www.brsolutions.com/2014/03/31/meta-here-meta-there-meta-everywhere/ The definition I’m using for meta- is from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary [3b]:

3b: of a higher logical type – in nouns formed from names of disciplines and designating new but related disciplines such as can deal critically with the nature, structure, or behavior of the original ones *metalanguage* *metatheory* *metasystem*

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Meta-System?

Alexander Samarin,Swiss business architect, commented[1]: You have defined metaprocess as a process that orchestrates or transforms other processes. I think that orchestrate is more relevant to “system of processes”. My reply: Good point about orchestrating being the right verb for meta-system rather than metaprocess. As always, we need to be careful not to think of system in just the computer sense. Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary [MWUD] defines system in the sense I mean here as:

1a: a complex unity formed of many often diverse parts subject to a common plan or serving a common purpose  b: an aggregation or assemblage of objects joined in regular interaction or interdependence : a set of units combined by nature or art to form an integral, organic, or organized whole : an orderly working totality : a coherent unification

A system in that sense could include rules, roles and many other things. It’s much more than just a process. Huge difference. So yes, I agree with meta-system orchestrates other systems. http://www.brsolutions.com/


[1] This series of point/counterpoint replies is a follow-up to my post “Meta Here. Meta There. Meta Everywhere?” (March 31, 2014), which generated a surprising amount of great discussion. (Thanks all!) Refer to: http://www.brsolutions.com/2014/03/31/meta-here-meta-there-meta-everywhere/ The definition I’m using for meta- is from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary [3b]:

3b: of a higher logical type – in nouns formed from names of disciplines and designating new but related disciplines such as can deal critically with the nature, structure, or behavior of the original ones *metalanguage* *metatheory* *metasystem*

 

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What about Meta-Meta-Somethings?

Richard Welke, Professor and Director at Georgia State University, commented[1]: Any process improvement or change process is a metaprocess of the process it’s targeted at. And, of course, it in turn can have a metaprocess (the process for deciding when and how to change the process improvement, or more generally BPM process). Hence it is a meta-meta-process relative to the specific organization process or “routine” being examined/managed. My reply: Yes, which leads to the questions of … Meta-meta-data. A similar argument can be made for “data”. Any data that describes other data is metadata. Metadata, in turn, can have metadata (the data that describes metadata, or more generally a repository model). Hence it is meta-meta-data relative to specific business data being managed. Meta-meta-meta? I don’t think any ‘meta-” above meta-meta-process or meta-meta-data would be meaningful (add value). I could be wrong I suppose. http://www.brsolutions.com/


[1] This series of point/counterpoint replies is a follow-up to my post “Meta Here. Meta There. Meta Everywhere?” (March 31, 2014), which generated a surprising amount of great discussion. (Thanks all!) Refer to: http://www.brsolutions.com/2014/03/31/meta-here-meta-there-meta-everywhere/ The definition I’m using for meta- is from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary [3b]:

3b: of a higher logical type – in nouns formed from names of disciplines and designating new but related disciplines such as can deal critically with the nature, structure, or behavior of the original ones *metalanguage* *metatheory* *metasystem*

 

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Testing for “Meta” Somethings – An Example

The definition I use for meta- is from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (MWUD)[1]:

3b: of a higher logical type – in nouns formed from names of disciplines and designating new but related disciplines such as can deal critically with the nature, structure, or behavior of the original ones *metalanguage* *metatheory* *metasystem*

In the definition of something that can also be meta- I recommend that there be an active verb that requires an object. The something must be able to be both subject and object of that verb. Example: model Definition (loosely): A model is something that represents another something. Active Verb Requiring an Object: represents Ability to Play Both Subject and Object of the Verb: In the definition above …
    • Suppose the “another something” is other models.
    • Then “other models” can be substituted for the object, which yields: “a model is something that represents other models”.
    • So “model” can play both subject and object of the verb.
    • That makes the subject a meta-model.
    • Substituting “meta-model” for the subject yields: “a meta-model is something that represents other models”.
www.BRSolutions.com


[1] This series of point/counterpoint replies is a follow-up to my post “Meta Here. Meta There. Meta Everywhere?” (March 31, 2014), which generated a surprising amount of great discussion. (Thanks all!) Refer to: http://www.brsolutions.com/2014/03/31/meta-here-meta-there-meta-everywhere/  

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Process Model or Process Instance … Which Do You Mean in ‘Metaprocess’?

Razvan Radulian, business transformation consultant, commented[1]: Is there such a thing as a metaprocess? When we say ‘process(es)’ there actually two things that match the term: (1) process models and (2) process instances. Going back to your definition for metaprocessprocess that transforms other processes – which one(s) are you talking about?  
    • If instances, that’s probably easier to grasp (and, most likely, already taken care of … by some process model).
    • If models, that gets quite more interesting. So, let’s see! Would that a process instance be (of a metaprocess-model) that changes another process model?
My reply: Good points. To answer I need to ask what an instance of a process is. You’re probably referring to a performance or execution of a process. Clearly, “transforming” a (‘live’) performance is an interesting question. There are at least two ways of doing that. The first is a process that coordinates another process in real-time. Think of a conductor’s process to direct a symphony, or a director’s process in the making of a movie. Another way is by real-time evaluation of business rules. That’s how you get truly dynamic, traceable, repeatable ‘performances’. But I was actually talking about process models, not instances (performances). If you change the model of a process, the effect is to change every performance (execution) of that process model thereafter. That’s the how I think most people in business process improvement would think about the matter. But your points are well-taken. First, there are probably two kinds of meta- with respect to processes:
    • Meta-process-performance coordinates other process performances.
    • Meta-process-model transforms other process models.
Second, you can mix the two – e.g., talk about a meta-process-performance transforming other process models. In that case, however, you’re not really talking meta-. The noun subjects are not the same (i.e., performance vs. model). At that point I think you’re just talking about doing actual process improvement work. http://www.brsolutions.com/


[1] This series of point/counterpoint replies is a follow-up to my post “Meta Here. Meta There. Meta Everywhere?” (March 31, 2014), which generated a surprising amount of great discussion. (Thanks all!) Refer to: http://www.brsolutions.com/2014/03/31/meta-here-meta-there-meta-everywhere/ The definition I’m using for meta- is from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary [3b]:

3b: of a higher logical type – in nouns formed from names of disciplines and designating new but related disciplines such as can deal critically with the nature, structure, or behavior of the original ones *metalanguage* *metatheory* *metasystem*

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Are PDCA & DAMIC MetaProcesses?

The Director of Business Analysis and Process Improvement at a major organization commented[1]: Would you consider PDCA and/or DMAIC to be metaprocesses? My reply: First some background from Wikipedia: PDCA (Plan–Do–Check–Act or Plan–Do–Check–Adjust) is an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products. It is also known as the:
    • Deming circle/cycle/wheel.
    • Shewhart cycle.
    • control circle/cycle, or plan–do–study–act (PDSA).
Another version of this PDCA cycle is OPDCA. The added “O” stands for observation or as some versions say “Grasp the current condition.” This emphasis on observation and current condition has currency with Lean manufacturing / Toyota Production System literature. DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) refers to a data-driven improvement cycle used for improving, optimizing and stabilizing business processes and designs. The DMAIC improvement cycle is the core tool used to drive Six Sigma projects. … All of the DMAIC process steps are required and always proceed in the given order. Here’s how I would answer.
    • The first question is whether they are truly processes. The do have steps, but PDCA at least is described as a method. Are methods and processes the same? I’m a little dubious, but for the sake of argument let’s say they are. (Something is only meta- if it is the same kind of thing as the thing it is applied to.)
    • The second question is whether they have processes as inputs, and processes as outputs. They do seem to do that.
    • The third question is whether they do what all processes do – they (potentially) transform the inputs. They do appear to do that too. (In other words they satisfy the predicate.)
So I would give a tentative yes to whether they are metaprocesses. http://www.brsolutions.com/


[1] This series of point/counterpoint replies is a follow-up to my post “Meta Here. Meta There. Meta Everywhere?” (March 31, 2014), which generated a surprising amount of great discussion. (Thanks all!) Refer to: http://www.brsolutions.com/2014/03/31/meta-here-meta-there-meta-everywhere/ The definition I’m using for meta- is from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary [3b]:

3b: of a higher logical type – in nouns formed from names of disciplines and designating new but related disciplines such as can deal critically with the nature, structure, or behavior of the original ones *metalanguage* *metatheory* *metasystem*

 

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Meta-Footnote?

Max Tay, Australian BPM consultant, commented[1]: Here is one of the meanings of meta: When you create new layers of abstraction between the thing or event, you are becoming more meta. Example: A footnote that is needed to explain another footnote is meta. My reply: I accept your implicit definition of meta-footnote: footnote that explains (other) footnotes … in the sense of ‘footnote that explains how to go about footnoting’. But I don’t accept your example: “A footnote that is needed to explain another footnote.” That’s ‘decomposing’ or ‘expanding on’ the original footnote … just going to a deeper level of explanation. Decomposition (to a deeper level of detail) or abstraction (to a more general version) is not the same thing as meta-. This same misunderstanding is rampant for metaprocess. Expanding the level of detail (decomposing) a process does not mean the original process is meta. http://www.brsolutions.com/


[1] This series of point/counterpoint replies is a follow-up to my post “Meta Here. Meta There. Meta Everywhere?” (March 31, 2014), which generated a surprising amount of great discussion. (Thanks all!) Refer to: http://www.brsolutions.com/2014/03/31/meta-here-meta-there-meta-everywhere/ The definition I’m using for meta- is from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary [3b]:

3b: of a higher logical type – in nouns formed from names of disciplines and designating new but related disciplines such as can deal critically with the nature, structure, or behavior of the original ones *metalanguage* *metatheory* *metasystem*

 

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