EA: Being fit is overrated

By Garry Doherty, The Open Group

Charles Darwin is usually misquoted. He didn’t mention anything about “survival of the fittest;” what he really said was, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” And that’s what EA is all about, is it not?

In nature, complexity abounds; but nothing is ever more complex than it needs to be… a real lesson for Enterprise Architects.

So, like evolution, TOGAF™ is a catalyst to appropriate change, creating the infrastructure and momentum behind business strategy, simplifying the organization and ensuring that it is never more complex than it actually needs to be. To slightly misquote Turing Award winner Alan Perlis: “Fools ignore complexity, pragmatists suffer it, but geniuses remove it.” Image credit: jscreationzs

Managing complexity is the key

Of course, I’m not suggesting that Enterprise Architects are geniuses (though I’ve met a few who could credibly apply for the position), but without a control mechanism to ensure that appropriate change happens in the way it needs to happen, rising complexity (and therefore risk) will strangle the organization.

TOGAF™ is much more than just a method for doing EA; it must genuinely be seen in the broader context of a natural process. Admittedly, evolution has had a bit of a head start, but the outcomes of TOGAF™ and evolution are similar. As natural evolution never stops, neither too must that of TOGAF™.

Garry DohertyGarry Doherty is an experienced product marketer and product manager with a background in the IT and telecommunications industries. Garry is the TOGAF™ Product Manager and the ArchiMate® Forum Director at The Open Group. Garry is based in the U.K.


  1. As you say, Charles Darwin is usually misquoted. There’s no way he would have said the words you (and many other people) have attributed to him. As you can easily check by searching for the quote on Google, it is now thought to have been invented by Leon C. Megginson, a management sociologist who died in February 2010.

    See my post on Arguments from Nature

  2. By the way Darwin did use the phrase “survival of the fittest”, but not until the fifth edition of Origin of Species (1869). According to Wikipedia, the phrase was coined by Herbert Spencer in 1864, after reading an earlier edition of the Origin of Species.

  3. As someone who did an excellent TOGAF™ 9 certification course last week, I was left wondering if TOGAF is more complex than it needs to be? While there is a lot of good and useful material in the TOGAF specification, I worry that it conflates the purpose of architecture frameworks (providing a structure that helps people to see interdependencies and relationships) with that of creating a generalised ‘body of knowledge’ on a wide range of topics ranging from business analysis to governance and security.

    TOGAF also rather well illustrates the deficiencies of evolution versus radical redesign, having started as a technology framework and now trying to encompass business change, but finding it hard to shake off the IT orientation and introduce other viewpoints. The students who, unlike me, had not been familiar with TOGAF 8, struggled to make sense of all the different concepts and ideas that had been presented to us, and wondered if they were all really needed and logically organised. Also there were many course slides and chapters in the reference materials where the IT heritage had not been adequately re-framed or absorbed into a more holistic view.

    My gut feeling is that most consumers of TOGAF would have appreciated a more ruthless redesign in moving from TOGAF 8 to TOGAF 9.

    Having made that personal observation about TOGAF, I’m not meaning to imply that redesign is always preferable to evolution. I suspect that the ability to determine when to redesign and when to take an evolutionary approach, is probably one of the fundamental competences of any enterprise architect, and it’s never an easy decision.

  4. Sally’s observations are very pertinent, and lead to the conclusion that the needs of TOGAF consumers are not the same as the needs of TOGAF and its owners. Does this mean that the development of TOGAF itself has not followed enterprise architecture principles?

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