Praxeme and Complex Systems (posted by YvesC)

This is a follow-up to a conversation that started during the meeting of the “Collège des contributeurs” last week. Although I do not have the time to post a proper discussion, I’ll start with a few headlines to “get the ball rolling” : start a discussion. Hence I’ll use an “outine style” and leave the need to “fill in” each point for later occasions.

Four themes that came up:

(1) Praxeme is a model well-suited to recognize the enterprise as a system. It is actually very well spelled out in the short 10 pages paper that we were discussion (about “transformation”). The enterprise is a reflective system (a system = set of entities with dynamic interactions and a finality, reflective = that recognizes itself as a system).

(2) The enterprise is a complex system, hence the need for tools, methods and training. We all agreed that “system design” is not taught enough in the French educational system. “Systémique à la Lemoigne”, although very relevant (cf. my post in French), is not the best way to start learning about “System Thinking”.

(3) What is a complex system ?  Complexity arise when the finality of the system cannot be (simply = in an analytical way) deduced from the finality or behavior of the parts (cf. the concept of emergence). A complex system can be understood through simulation or experimentation, not through rational top-down analysis.
What makes a system complex ? Ususally we find one of the following (or more):

  • Human interaction within the system
  • Time scales and delays
  • Heterogeneity and number of stakeholders

“Dynamic Systems” science provides a lot of insight about these complexities (cf. the study of delays or feedback loops).

(4) Although a large ERP is more “complicated” than “complex”, the information system of a large company is complex. Because of the time scale (accumulation process and slow rate of change), because of the human factor (and all the wonderful “governance” issues)

So what ? what struck me during the meeting is that the “Enterprise Transformation 10 page paper” could be a vehicle to explain the concept of complexity to managers and propose methods such as Praxeme as a practical framework to address those issues. I have been an advocate for positining the CIO as the “complexity officer” for a while (cf. my last book or a recent post), but there is even more value to bring the message directly to the CEO.


– Yves

2 Responses to “Praxeme and Complex Systems”

  1. 1
    Fabien Villard:

    Thanks you for this post, Yves. I’m very glad to welcome you on this community blog.

    You are right, Complexity is one of the characteristics of our systems today and it is important to start to deconstruct this term in order to try to build an understandable and actionable meaning for people out of IT sphere (and even for IT people :-).

  2. 2

    Yves, we are very grateful to you for your active participation to the College of contributors and for this post.
    I had not anticipated that this session would have led to discuss the system theory! But, this can provide an opportunity for making clearer the foundation of Praxeme and for enriching its theoretical basis. That is precisely what I expect from the new deal between University and Enterprise.

    Regarding item #3 in your post, I agree that observation and experimentation are required when it comes to complex systems, but I would not despise the conceptual endeavor. Right, analytical approach reveals itself as powerless, at some point when applied to complexity, but it is certainly not the only tool in our hands. Even though we are unable to go further today, we must believe that – some day – science will be able to decipher the laws of complexity and provides us with enough clues for anticipating even emergence – at least, in some fields.
    In this prospect, we ought to pay attention to a basic phenomenon: what the linguists call “degree of articulation”, i.e. the link between two planes of the language (sound/word/sentence…). It is not only a matter of quantity like in the collection of individuals that shows emergent properties. It is about aggregates that appear on a different plane of being and that behave according to a different logic. In the process, we touch the mystery of meaning.
    “Meaning in action” …

    I stick to your conclusion regarding the use of the Enterprise Transformation Manifesto: our targets should be the CEO rather than anyone else.


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