In the fall of 1996, MG Taylor Corporation held the third in its annual series of 7 Domains® Workshops. This particular shop focused on Venture Management, the seventh domain. Several of the exercises during the workshop used Christopher Alexander's excellent book The Timeless Way of Building and the companion volume, A Pattern Language, as a template from which to design. Alexander maintains that his language of some 253 patterns can be employed not just by architects and builders, but by any individual or whole communities of people to create houses, towns and cities that live. All that's required is an understanding of the patterns, how they relate to one another, and how to employ them in their living, healthy manifestations.

At MG Taylor Corporation, we wondered whether there exists a similar pattern language that we can all employ to build healthy enterprises that live. The pages that will follow over the next year comprise the unfolding result of this inquiry.

The Pattern of a Pattern Language
from A Pattern Language

The patterns are ordered in Alexander's book from largest and all-encompassing, to smallest and most detailed. He admits this to be a very linear approach. Our pattern language for the enterprise must take a less linear approach because there are parallel systems that design and are designed by one another. These are not related to one another in any hierarchical fashion. Even the components of these categories are sorted more as a matter of convenience than morphology.

These books are available from our KnOwhere store.

For more information on Christopher Alexander and hiw work, investigate Professor Nikos Salingaros' web pages

Each pattern in our pattern language for the enterprise follows the structure defined by Alexander, and reprinted below. We've found this discipline to be very valuable in constructing, challenging and verifying each pattern. Because our patterns are not nested together in a hierarchy like Alexander's, we drop the second context section for each pattern. Also, not all of our patterns have pictures associated with them, not diagrams.

"The elements of this language are entities called patterns. Each pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.

"For convenience and clarity, each pattern has the same format."

PICTURE: "First there is a picture, which shows an archetypal example of that pattern."

CONTEXT: "Second, after the picture, each pattern has an introductory paragraph, which sets the context for the pattern, by explaining how it helps to complete certain larger patterns."

PROBLEM HEADLINE: "Then there are three diamonds to mark the beginning of the problem. After the diamonds there is a headline in bold type. This headline gives the essence of the problem in one or two sentences."

PROBLEM BODY: "After the headline comes the body of the problem. This is the longest section. It describes the empirical background of the pattern, the evidence for its validity, the range of different ways the pattern can be manifested in a building, and so on."

SOLUTION: "Then, again in bold type, like the headline, is the solution--the heart of the pattern--which describes the field of physical and social relationships which are required to solve the stated problem, in the stated context. This solution is always stated in the form of an instruction--so that you know exactly what you need to do, to build the pattern."

DIAGRAM: "Then, after the solution, there is a diagram, which shows the solution in the form of a diagram, with labels to indicate its main components."

CONTEXT: "After the diagram, another three diamonds to show that the main body of the pattern is finished. And finally, after the diamonds there is a paragraph which ties the pattern to all those smaller patterns in the language, which are needed to complete this pattern, to embellish it, to fill it out."

the next section lists the six major categories in our pattern language for the enterprise

for an interesting story of how Alexander's work is being applied to object-oriented programming, check out this article from the C++ report

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