Theory matters!

Theory matters!

I have just posted a blog on linkedin about business and IT strategy.  I say a bit more here! This was provoked because I was doing some research for a job application which involves IT strategy. I was considering the alignment of business strategy with that of the IT department and what I might say. I outlined three models, although they were all developed a while ago, I think they all have relevance today. The three models address business strategy, software portfolio management and architectural pattern selection. Business strategy should drive portfolio and project management choices. While business strategy will outline how to do what must be done, it also defines what will not be done.  Portfolio management determines the allocation of development funding, priority, maintenance funding, project risk appetite, people skills, project governance and software sourcing policy and as result of choices made, one can select the appropriate platform super architectures, of which you may need more than one. I conclude that theory matters. See more below/overleaf … …


There are two ways to construct a theory, one is to observe the facts and draw conclusions, the second is to conceive a theorem and then prove its truth. The reality is that no matter how one builds one’s theory, it needs to be tested against reality. …

Maths, Economics and Mark Blaug

I just read Modern Economics is Sick, on the Real World Economics Blog which uses a quote from Mark Blaug to substantiate its thesis,

“Mainstream economics has become increasingly irrelevant to the understanding of the real world. The main reason for this irrelevance is the failure of economists to match their deductive-axiomatic methods with their subject.”

Mark Blaug (1927-2011) did more than any other single person to establish the philosophy and methodology of economics a respected subfield within economics. His path-breaking The methodology of economics (1980) is still a landmark (and the first textbook on economic methodology yours truly ever read)

One day, I’ll have look at it. …

Real Options & Flexible Planning

Kieron Bradley, one of my colleagues at Sun, during a piece of client consulting recently had reason to use financial option theory & language to justify why CPU’s in Sun’s large systems are more expensive to buy than those in the smaller ones. He and the customer had examined all the TCOO factors they thought were relevant and the fact remained that if one wanted to take a utility view of CPU supply, it was cheaper to buy and run smaller systems rather than larger ones. (This particular analysis did not perform a variable utilisation analysis. It was assumed, (or defined as policy) that all CPUs would run at a given % utilisation. Contradicting this assumption, it is a fact that large (and flexibly partitioned) systems are easier to keep busy.) …

Maximising Creativity

For various reasons, I decided to see if one of the early people motivation theories was still currently in use. This is the “Theory X, Theory Y” model. It was first stated in the “Human Side of Enterprise” by Douglas McGregor, published in 1960. This is listed on Amazon as out of print, but they do quote a price and shipment date, and has been reviewed in the last year by Sheila Ale. The top “Google, search site” offers, which holds an article about the Theory XY model here….

The model poses two forms of management behaviour, one is hard arse (X), the other enabling (Y). Theory X can be characterised as a directorial approach based upon a deep cynicism about staff (or people), which is described in the businessballs article, as based upon the view that people don’t want to work and have to be “forced” to do so. Theory Y was first described to me as “if you look after your people, they’ll look after you”. Again quoting the businessballs article “The capacity to use a high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in solving organisational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population”.

I find it interesting in that once one reduces Theory X to its minimal components, it comes as no surprise that only underachieving enterprises permit Theory X to be the dominant management culture. Belief in your staff leads to competitive performance, it is this which is the essential part of the theory. For top performance, believe in, enable and liberate your people; we no longer live in a production line economy.


In simplistic terms, I suspect that Theory Y only works when people are enjoying what they do. If they’re not, then Theory X might be the only way to get any productivity. When someone’s in the wrong job, Theory Y gives leeway for taking advantage of the organisation’s culture.

Posted by Sylvia on December 13, 2004 at 01:17 AM PST