Method & Structure Möbius strip

Method & Structure is a tiny consultancy that creates resources that help organizations—their leaders and their teams—think and talk about what they do and how they do it.


Every business entity is ultimately an information processor. Treated as a unit, it senses its environment, interprets signals and responds—but it also imagines, and speculates. It has to remember, and it has to recall what it remembered.

The services we provide revolve around the fact that organizations aren't unitary, but rather are made up of people. People tend to have diverse backgrounds and skill sets, differing perspectives, and most importantly, people come and go.

The substance that enables people to coordinate, to make organizations run, is information. It's difficult these days to talk about information, without coupling it to information technology. Our position is: of course we're going to use technology—computers and the Internet—that's what they're for. We'd be crazy not to. Now let's talk about the contours of the information itself.

Sensing, Interpreting, Acting

Once a military concept that is now part the business lexicon, situation awareness is the comprehensive understanding of what exists in your surrounding environment, and, critically, what is moving around within it.

How We Can Help

Clear Understanding & Communication

A complementary idea, that comes out of early projects to develop computer operating systems, is conceptual integrity, which can be understood as everybody involved in a project having a unified understanding, to appropriate levels of detail, of what you're trying to do.

How We Can Help

Remembering More, Forgetting Less

Organizations are notoriously forgetful things, because the people who constitute them come and go, as well as move around within them. Most knowledge isn't written down, and what is written down may be lost, go stale, or simply be too demanding a read.

How We Can Help


Services

There really only is one service, and that is to strengthen and reinforce your organization's ability to sense and comprehend its surroundings, make—and justify—decisions, and remember the decisions it made and why it made them. Here are some concrete ways we can go about that:

Process Modeling & Design Rationale

Every project is ultimately a planning problem, and the way you solve any problem is to break it down into pieces that are small enough to be individually tractable. Doing that, however, can be tricky. At the same time, it doesn't take that big a project to generate a need to explain to onlookers why a given decision gets decided one way and not another. We use a mature methodology and tools made in-house to facilitate the process of estimating effort and cost, choosing from competing strategies and tactics, and wringing out many of the myriad surprises before they happen.

More…

This technique is not only useful for defining particular processes, but also systematizing processes so they may be reduced to practice, instrumented, or even fully automated.

Concept Architecture

A situation arises in organizations of a certain size—not even very large—where the language between teams starts to diverge. People use different words to refer to the same thing, and the same word to refer to different things. Customers (members, users, constituents, etc.) tend to develop their own vernacular, entirely separately. The goal of this service is to create a structure of concepts that helps people—both inside and outside the organization—understand each other better.

More…

We decided on the term concept architecture to refer to the creation and curation of different kinds of conceptual structures. There are taxonomies that arrange concepts in broader-narrower relationships, and ontologies that define relationships between concepts as concepts in their own right. The value of this kind of service, is not only to standardize on language, but also to accommodate language that resists standardization, so everybody has a better chance of understanding each other.

Policy/Protocol Design

When we say protocol, we mean a set of constraints on the behaviour of the actors in a process. A protocol can be understood as a more-elaborate species of policy, which itself reduces to a set of rules about how to respond to certain situations. When we say design, we literally mean designing these things.

More…

Policy or protocol can be something computers do, or something that people do, or a mix of the two. The details are different but the dynamics are very similar. Indeed, establishing where the line between people and computers is an important part of the task.

Business Ecosystem Mapping

A business ecosystem is the set of entities—both categories of entities, along with any important specific ones: customers, users, competitors, constituents, shareholders, vendors, members, unions, governments, etc. The purpose of mapping out the business ecosystem is to establish a single, synoptic picture of everything that can affect the organization; everything that has—or may need—a sensor.

More…

The business ecosystem is an excellent starting point for gaining situation awareness, and acts as a backbone for more detailed analyses and modeling.

Asset Inventory

When attempting to assert control over your information infrastructure, it's important to understand what you even have. This is an exhaustive inventory that identifies, among other things, every website, intranet, social media account, and vendor relationship.

More…

One reason for doing an asset inventory is to determine the set of capabilities among the vendors and other assets, and compare it to what capabilities are needed to achieve certain goals.

Bibliography & Literature Review

People working in the same domain tend to reference the same documents—books, papers, articles, et cetera—though not everybody may be familiar with every potentially valuable resource. There likewise tend to be documents—both internal and external to the organization—in far-flung places that could be better surfaced and summarized. This is librarian-adjacent work aimed at producing a concentrated resource that helps disseminate information within the organization.

Content Inventory & Audit

Closely related to the literature review is the content inventory and its concomitant audit. This tells you everything that's on your website(s) and/or internal knowledge base.

More…

The content inventory provides the input to the content audit, which is usually aimed at aligning content to its audiences, as well as pruning material which is either redundant or out of date.

Toys for Thinking

What we call toys for thinking are a species of dynamic information visualization that uses a mixture of real data and random chance, with knobs and dials to manipulate the contours. These are specialized simulations to probe the kinds of what if? questions that are too complex for a spreadsheet.

Governance Strategy

Governance, as it pertains to an organization's information infrastructure, refers to the policy around how the system is going to maintain its continuity—and by extension, its utility—over time: how is it resourced, who's responsible, how do they make decisions, what are their duties, what are their powers, what are their products, who has access, how is succession organized, and so on.

Infrastructure Planning

While services like asset inventories tell you what you have, information infrastructure planning helps you figure out what you need. This is a more comprehensive service that encapsulates things like policy and governance design, and likely includes a number of other line items in this list for good measure.


Approach

Many consultants are content to issue their work product in the form of slide decks, Word documents, and spreadsheets. These are fine, and if you need them we can certainly make them, but we believe these kinds of artifacts lend themselves to people doing the work that would be better suited to a computer. We say don't let computers off the hook that easily; they could be pulling a lot more weight than they do.

What we mean by that, is that embedded in these 1980s-era artifacts—often enough—is crisply-delineated digital information, that despite four decades of progress, people still have to pluck out by hand if they want to use. What makes us different is that we begin with a formal structure—a finely-sliced and densely-connected knowledge graph—and project it into these conventional formats. This knowledge graph becomes your permanent asset, which we show you how to use and maintain.


About

Method & Structure is led by Dorian Taylor, a veteran designer of business information infrastructure.