Toward A User-Centric Government

My new article in Government Executive is out today. Called “Too Big To Succeed”–the article talks about the importance of simplifying and organizing large, complex organizations, such as government, to achieve transformational and valuable change. The article is anchored in the Law of Diminishing Returns and the Law of Large Numbers.Although the article doesn’t use the term user-centric government, this is exactly the point and continuously driving forward with advanced technologies can help us make the leap. Hope you enjoy reading! Andy

>The Sigmoid Curve and Enterprise Architecture

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The Sigmoid Curve is critical for understanding the need, timing, and challenge for organization transformation efforts.


According to Charles Handy in the book “The Empty Raincoat,” The Sigmoid Curve, which is a S-shaped curve is the metaphor for the life-cycle of all things: from a product’s waxing and waning in popularity to the rise and fall of empires.

What can individuals or organizations do to survive beyond the Sigmoid Curve?

The secret of constant growth is to start a new Sigmoid Curve before the first one peters out.” And the right time to start the second curve is before reaching pinnacle of the first, so that there is time and resources to get the new curve off the ground (this is at point A). The challenge with starting a transformation effort or new Sigmoid Curve at point A is that “all messages coming through…are that everything is going to be fine, that it would be folly to change when the current recipes are working so well.” Unfortunately, if we wait until the sign of downturn and disaster is apparent (point B), then it is probably too late to make the leap to a new Sigmoid Curve, “leaders are discredited…resources are depleted,” and morale is damaged.

Another challenge with starting a new Sigmoid Curve and undertaking a transformation effort is that from point A to the pinnacle of the first Sigmoid Curve, it is “a time of great confusion. Two groups of people, or more, and two sets of ideas are competing for the future.”

“The discipline of the second curve requires that you always assume that you are near the peak of the first curve, at point A, and should therefore be starting to prepare a second curve. Organizations should assume that their present strategies will need to replaced within two to three years…it may well be that the assumption turns out to be wrong that the present trends can be prolonged longer…nothing has been lost. Only the exploratory phase of the second curve has been done. No major commitments will have been undertaken until the second curve overtakes the first.”

However, the importance of preparing for the second curve is that “it will have forced one to challenge the assumptions underlying the first curve and to devise some possible alternatives. It is tempting to think that the world has always been arranged the way it is and to delude ourselves that nothing will ever change. The discipline of the second curve keeps one skeptical, curious, and inventive.”

From a User-centric EA perspective, the first Sigmoid Curve is the current or baseline architecture and the second Sigmoid Curve is the target architecture. The Sigmoid Curves demonstrate to us the constant need to reinvent ourselves and our organizations—to transform from the as-is state to the to-be state. “Moving on requires a belief in…curvilinear logic, the conviction that the word and everything in it really is a Sigmoid Curve, that everything has its ups and then its downs, and that nothing last forever or was there forever.” This is the mandate for enterprise architecture; it is the way of constant vigilance, innovation, and transformation to survive to the next Sigmoid Curve of life. Moreover, “the accelerating pace of change shrinks every Sigmoid Curve.”