Enterprise integration and wholeness

As outlined in my article about enterprise challenges, enterprises experience and effect change. In so doing, they compromise their integration with the environment in which they operate and their internal integration. Ichak Adizes refers to this as dis-integration which then requires re-integration.

Architecture is fundamentally about the design and realisation of integration and wholeness within enterprises. Just as with individuals, the more that a person or an enterprise is “at one with their environment, with others and with themselves”, the richer the life that the person or enterprise leads.

Experiencing dis-integration

If you have been part of a small enterprise, you may well have had the experience of and the need to deal with transitioning from:

  • knowing everything about the enterprise to only knowing some things about the enterprise
  • doing things yourself to trusting and delegating others to do things
  • feeling like a family to feeling less connected and perhaps even lost or ignored

This requires attention to the essential elements necessary for consistent practice to occur in a more distributed fashion across a larger number of teams and staff.

Even in small enterprises, challenges emerge in ensuring that the organisation operates in a manner which is sufficiently consistent to achieve its goals and aspirations. These arise in relation to individual thinking patterns, individual behaviours and individual exercising of key processes – whether they be core value adding, client facing processes or support processes which need to provide internal services consistently.

The issues that arise can be quite simple and include ensuring:

  • consistency in the fulfilling of a role or function by two different people that was previously performed by one person or the person to whom a role or function has been delegated
  • flexibility to respond to differing circumstances without being overly constrained by structures created to provide the consistency described above

These situations lead to dis-integration as others involved are unable to readily deal with the different behaviour or need to expend greater effort in responding to varying behaviours.

Potential responses

Enterprises have a variety of mechanisms by which they achieve consistency, integration and wholeness within teams, including:

  • articulation of a common vision and supporting values
  • establishing clear policies, standards and guidelines
  • establishing supporting systems

These and other mechanisms need to integrate in a coherent manner across the entire enterprise, such that, in the words of Tom Graves, they describe the architecture of the enterprise, enabling the enterprise to

“work together better”

This entails the enterprise in establishing and sustaining a foundational capability in describing the principles, models, structures and guidance that enables all participants in the enterprise to act in an integrated and coherent manner to realise the enterprise goals and aspirations.

These capabilities are needed in small enterprises and will serve the enterprise well through all facets of growth and development, providing the enterprise with greater flexibilty, agility and scalability.

Optimal path

Doug McDavid introduced me to the book “Managing Corporate Lifecycles” by Ichak Adizes. This explores the different stages of development in the “corporate lifecycle” and outlines four management roles which are critical to this development.

Adizes identifies an optimal path for the growth and development of enterprises which requires that the integration role is given greater attention, earlier in the life of enterprises – as it is often the last of the four roles that is given attention.

In essence, Adizes recommends establishing the integration capability at the outset of establishing an enterprise, ensuring that as each change and development occurs, appropriate capabilities exist and are exercised to address any consequential disintegration and necessary re-integration.

How does an enterprise give attention to integration? This can be done by:

  • establishing and sustaining an architecture which provides the guidance for achieving sustained integration
  • ensuring that the architecture and integration capabilities are based around a holistic approach to change and a focus on realising enterprise wholeness
  • establishing sufficient self-awareness within the enterprise that sounder decisions are made, avoiding the costs associated with rework that would arise once poorer decisions are found to be wanting


Developing and sustaining an architecture of an enterprise enables the members of the enterprise to operate in a more integrated and coherent manner and to realise greater wholeness across the enterprise – a challenge that all enterprises face.



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