I’ve thought about writing a book on workflow.  I have a lot to say (more below).  The problem is, no one wants to read a blinkin’ book on workflow.  So, I’m thinking about a business novel (like Goldratt’s The Goal or Who Moved My Cheese by Johnson and Blanchard).  Problem is: I’ve never published fiction. 

This is an odd space, really… business stories.  Taking a dry topic and wrapping it an story makes it much easier to grasp.  Normal people, who don’t spend their time in geeky pursuits, may even be able to benefit (or at least, enjoy). 

How else would I get someone to read a book on the notion of multiple levels of abstraction?  I’m certain that a person, any person, can apply the principles of abstraction to workflow, and can create models for appropriate audiences that can be both useful and possible to automate.  I’m pretty sure I can teach my 12-year-old son how to model a workflow at different levels of abstraction, and how the best way to find the “big themes” is often to reduce, not increase, the amount of detail.

It’s counter-intuitive, until you do it about a hundred times. 

The thing is, instead of describing workflow and abstraction and models, I’ll be telling a story.  And that is much harder to do.

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

2 thoughts on “No one will read it”
  1. That’s awesome.  I know I have no real clue on work flow.  I’ve heard you talk about, I’ve played with the new foundation, but I don’t grok it.

    My question though is, "why wouldn’t tons of people buy a book on work flow?"  Especially a "Manager’s Guide" (ala Craig Larman’s book)

    I got incredibly excited seeing some of the stuff that Richard was demo’ing with the Windows Workflow Foundation.

    I got a vision in the future of architects using the tool to map out an enterprise app in big chunks, and then designers (baby architects?) mapping out the inner workings, and then finally the developers working out the basic arguments with a pretty good idea of how to unit test their little piece.

    Plus it’s all beautifully set up for continuous integration such that you are able to get the "string laden arrow" across the chasm, and have something to build on that the customer can see grow.

    Add in all the pretty colored boxes and you have manager heaven.

    Part of the wonder of workflow (as I saw it) was that it took the abstraction up to a point where an executive (not just a manager) could understand it.  

    Personally I see a possible paradigm shift on the order of magnitude that we haven’t seen since the introduction of structured programming, or of object oriented programming.

    Am I missing something?

  2. You might want to take a look at Patrick M. Lencioni’s series of leadership fables.  He puts a fictional spin on some really relevant workplace issues.  There is definitely a place for this type of book in the tech marketplace.  Fits just between something like Fowler’s Patterns of Enterprise Architecture and The DaVinci Code.

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