Levels of design and dimensions of design

In the last week I have been wrestling with levels and dimensions – all part of ongoing work on the Operating Model Canvas.   Here is where I have got to.

There seem to be five levels of design

1. Strategic goals/ambitions expressed as design principles (see blog on design principles)

2. One page drawing of the operating model plus an Operating Model Canvas analysis

3. Activities defined in terms of “capabilities” and “sub-capabilities” and high level “process maps”,  distinguishing between “operating” capabilities and “support” capabilities (an outcome of my organisation modelling tool), distinguishing the most important for success from the rest, and showing the links between “capabilities” and “resources” – this is a bit of a mouthful and I need to simplify it  … but this is where I have got to.  “Resources” covers people, locations/buildings, other assets (brand, IP, etc) and data (PLOD!).

Levels 4 and 5 are different depending on the dimension of the design that is being focused on.   So for the Process dimension – level 4 is about detailed process maps using a notation such as BPMN (Business Process Modelling Notation) and detailed decision analysis using an approach such as TDM (The Decision Model).  Level 5 is the development of the information systems needed to support the processes using a tool such as UML (Universal Modelling Language).

For the People dimension, level 4 might be detailed organisation structure charts with numbers and types of people needed for each box in the chart. It might include an analysis of responsibilities using tools such as RAPID or RACI.  Level 5 would then involve detailed job descriptions for each role, draft contracts of employment and such like.

For the Locations/Building dimension, level 4 would be a detailed location chart specifying the size of building required in each location and other infrastructure needs.  Level 5 would be detailed building floor plans, wire routing and so on.

The other dimensions – Other Assets and Data – would have similar levels 4 and 5.

So there are five levels of design and five dimensions of design (Process, People and Organisation, Locations/Buildings, Other Assets and Data).  The design work is the same for levels 1, 2 and 3 for all dimensions.  It only starts to become different at levels 4 and 5.

What do you think?


About Andrew Campbell

Ashridge Executive Education Focus on strategy and organisation Almost retired!
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8 Responses to Levels of design and dimensions of design

  1. Andrew – I like your thinking here but it seems that the culture question is missing, as is the question of collaborative networks (internal and external). Maybe these factors are embraced in your levels, but if so they deserve specific mention I feel. Maybe I have misunderstood your paradigm here? Another way to think about culture is that it frames the prevailing paradigm (and hence behaviours) that enable or indeed disables the factors you have already noted. What do you think? Is this what you hav ein mind?

    • andrew campbell says:

      Good thoughts Richard. Both culture and collaboration are important ingredients. In the Operating Model Canvas, I have mentally moved “relationships with suppliers” to the “Activities” box – so it is not part of “Resources” or “PLOD”. But be assured, I have not left it out.

      Culture comes into the “organisation” box of the canvas. But, it is more of an output than an input. There are a lot of things you do that affect culture – people you choose, HR policies you set up, the way you react to “triumphs and disasters”. These are all part of what I am calling the “organisation”.

      I think I need to do another blog on the Operating Model Canvas — to clarify where I have got to.

      • Andrew – I am coming late to your thinking here – do you have a conceptualisation that shows how the elements you have identified plug together? – Richard

  2. andrew campbell says:

    I am probably coming late to my thinking as well Richard! It is still forming. I have resisted trying to create “the framework” because my experience is that, once you have a framework, you become less open to influences. But I am getting close.

    But to give you a little help….my conceptualisation of the Operating Model Canvas has three columns or boxes. On the side of the right hand box/column is an arrow called “value promise” pointing to the customer (represented by a picture or cartoon of a real person or business or ..).

    The right hand column is headed “Activities”. It is empty, allowing space for drawing a value chain or listing all the main activities that the business needs to do to deliver the value promise. The bottom of the column is a dotted line rather than a solid line representing “activities done by suppliers or business partners”.

    The middle column is headed resources and contains segments for PLOD (people, locations/buildings, other assets and data). In each segment, we need to list the key factors.

    The left hand column is headed organisation. It is also empty, allowing space for drawing an organisation model or chart and for listing any elements of organisation that are particularly important, such as culture.

  3. Pingback: Levels and actors in the design process | Ashridge on Operating Models

  4. L.J. Lekkerkerk (Hans) says:

    When I read about levels of design I think about ‘levels of recursion’ as Stafford Beer described.
    Global company: what are the divisions we choose (functional, geographic, product/service, ..)
    Divisions: how do we form Business Units
    BU’s: how many sites do the have
    Sites: how is the division of labour at this level over departments
    Departments: do they exist of subunits

    • andrew campbell says:

      Yes Hans. This, layer by layer approach is one way of thinking about levels. But there are also levels of detail – level 1 is lines and boxes of an organization chart; level 2 is role descriptions for each role in the chart; Level 3 might be process maps for processes that connect different roles in the chart; Level 4 might be detailed job descriptions, training plans and training materials for each role in the chart.

      • L.J. Lekkerkerk (Hans) says:

        I can see the different level of detail in the four examples. However, it seems to me these are not levels that are nested, i.e. suppose you have a zoomlense, pick a box of a chart, and when zooming in on that particular box further you won’t get via 2 and 3 to 4 job desriptions etc. Because of that I’d think it would prevent confusion to see the four eamples as different ‘models’; each simplifying and focussing attention to some other aspect.

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