Framework 25: Transactional Analysis

Transactional analysis is an approach to psychotherapy that focuses on the interactions between people as a route to understanding and change.

From the Wikipedia page:

  1. As a theory of personality, TA describes how people are structured psychologically. It uses what is perhaps its best known model, the ego-state (Parent-Adult-Child) model, to do this (see diagram). The same model helps explain how people function and express their personality in their behaviour.
  2. It is a theory of communication that can be extended to the analysis of systems and organisations.
  3. It offers a theory for child development by explaining how our adult patterns of life originated in childhood. This explanation is based on the idea of a “Life (or Childhood) Script”: the assumption that we continue to re-play childhood strategies, even when this results in pain or defeat. Thus it claims to offer a theory of psychopathology.
  4. In practical application, it can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of many types of psychological disorders and provides a method of therapy for individuals, couples, families and groups.
  5. Outside the therapeutic field, it has been used in education to help teachers remain in clear communication at an appropriate level, in counselling and consultancy, in management and communications training and by other bodies.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Wikipedia page notes the Philosophical principles of TA as ”

  • People are OK; thus each person has validity, importance, equality of respect.[2]
  • Everyone (with only few exceptions, such as the severely brain-damaged) has the capacity to think.[2]
  • People decide their story and destiny, therefore these decisions can be changed.[2]

Freedom from historical maladaptations embedded in the childhood script is required in order to become free of inappropriate, inauthentic and displaced emotions which are not a fair and honest reflection of here-and-now life (such as echoes of childhood suffering, pity-me and other mind games, compulsive behavior and repetitive dysfunctional life patterns). The aim of change under TA is to move toward autonomy (freedom from childhood script), spontaneity, intimacy, problem solving as opposed to avoidance or passivity, cure as an ideal rather than merely making progress and learning new choices.”

The overall theory is complex and encompasses, for example, the “Parent-Adult-Child” model, the types of transactions that can occur between these states, “Life positions” that colour these transactions, the “life script” that interprets events for an individual, injunctions and drivers that guide people’s reactions, and the analysis of games that people play (“a series of transactions that is complementary (reciprocal), ulterior, and proceeds towards a predictable outcome”), amongst other aspects.

Further information is on the Wikipedia page and in the books (, unaffiliated) by the founder of the theory, Eric Berne.

FA Rating

Completeness of Vision: as an attempt at a complete understanding of human interactions, the theory seems complete.

Ability to execute: not the sort of thing that you can learn about in a day and then execute – the theory probably takes a lifetime to master.

Overall rating: Visionary


Framework 24: ITIL(r) Service Management

A management framework used for structuring and best practice in ICT service providers, the IT Infrastructure Library framework (ITIL, now at version 3) was originally developed for the UK Office of Government Commerce, now part of the Cabinet Office, as a way to reduce risks in IT operations and commissioning. The first versions of the framework were published between 1989 and 1996. It is based on a set of recommendations originally developed by the UK Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency in the 1980s and owes much to the Plan-Do-Check-Act model.

From the Wikipedia Page: “… the 2011 edition consists of 5 core publications – Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement”, replacing the eight ITIL version 2 books.

The model surfaces all IT activities in a service provider in terms of a service catalogue and covers development, deployment, operation and improvement of these services.

ITIL Continual Process Improvement


The Wikipedia page notes that ITIL is generally equivalent to the scope of the ISO/IEC 20000 standard (previously BS 15000) and is also related to frameworks developed for specific product sets such as the Microsoft Operations Framework and IBM’s Tivoli Unified Process as well as COBIT, an IT Governance Framework.

There are various levels of certification for ITIL and mastering the full model is challenging.

Much more information is available on the ITIL official site.

FA Rating

Completeness of vision: As a best practice guide for running a professional ICT department or commercial service provider, ITIL covers pretty well every activity. However, at its basic level it doesn’t guarantee high quality services, only that there is a process in place to develop and continuously improve them.

Ability to execute: It sometimes seems that ICT professionals would rather implement a framework than talk to their customers like humans. Process is of course important but not more important than outcomes.  A full ITIL implementation is therefore, thankfully, a rarity. But I am very cynical and bitter.

Overall rating: Challenger

NB: ITIL is a registered trademark and used here entirely without permission.

Framework 23: Mintzberg’s 10 schools of Strategy

One of the difficulties of learning about strategy is that it can be quite a tenuous subject to grasp, meaning different things to different people. This is the problem addressed by Strategy Safari, a 2002 book by Henry Mintzberg,  Bruce Ahlstrand and Joseph Lampel.

The “10 Schools” categorisation arose from an extensive study of management literature and tries to put each school in context and provide a critique. From

  1. “The design school, which sees strategic management as a process of attaining a fit between the internal capabilities and external possibilities of an organisation.
  2. The planning school, which extols the virtues of formal strategic planning and arms itself with SWOT analyses and checklists.
  3. The positioning school, heavily influenced by the ideas of Michael Porter, which stresses that strategy depends on the positioning of the firm in the market and within its industry.
  4. The entrepreneurial school, which emphasises the central role played by the leader.
  5. The cognitive school, which looks inwards into the minds of strategists.
  6. The learning school, which sees strategy as an emergent process — strategies emerge as people come to learn about a situation as well as their organisation’s capability of dealing with it.
  7. The power school, which views strategy emerging out of power games within the organisation and outside it.
  8. The cultural school, which views strategy formation as a process rooted in the social force of culture.
  9. The environmental school, which believes that a firm’s strategy depends on events in the environment and the company’s reaction to them
  10. The configuration school, which views strategy as a process of transforming the organisation — it describes the relative stability of strategy, interrupted by occasional and dramatic leaps to new ones.”


The book (, unaffiliated) notes that one of the biggest problems with devising, facilitating or executing strategy lies in the different interpretations given to the word by the various actors in an organisation. In particular the book classifies some strategic approaches as “deliberate” and others as “emergent” which combine to give a “realised” strategy – what actually happens:


FA Rating

Completeness of vision: The Wikipedia page notes that over 2000 sources were reviewed in order to construct this model, and as a result all angles appear to be covered.

Ability to execute: Once understood, it can be a revelation to see why particular strategic approaches might be failing. Often, however, there are no quick fixes – especially in large organisations with complex and mature processes.

Overall rating: Leader

Framework 22: Viable System Model

One of the classic models in system theory, the Viable System Model (VSM) was proposed by cybernetician Stafford Beer in 1972. It can be used to model more or less any system.

From the Wikipedia page: ” A viable system is any system organised in such a way as to meet the demands of surviving in the changing environment. One of the prime features of systems that survive is that they are adaptable. The VSM expresses a model for a viable system, which is an abstracted cybernetic (regulation theory) description that is applicable to any organisation that is a viable system and capable of autonomy …. The first thing to note about the cybernetic theory of organizations encapsulated in the VSM is that viable systems are recursive; viable systems contain viable systems that can be modeled using an identical cybernetic description as the higher (and lower) level systems in the containment hierarchy (Beer expresses this property of viable systems as cybernetic isomorphism). A development of this model has originated the theoretical proposal called Viable systems approach.”


Source: Wikimedia Commons

The VSM models systems as being composed of several subsystems with specific purposes (called “System [1-5]” in the diagram above. As the Wikipedia page notes, ” In broad terms Systems 1–3 are concerned with the ‘here and now’ of the organization’s operations, System 4 is concerned with the ‘there and then’ – strategical responses to the effects of external, environmental and future demands on the organization. System 5 is concerned with balancing the ‘here and now’ and the ‘there and then’ to give policy directives which maintain the organization as a viable entity.

There is a short YouTube video (4 minutes) giving a very basic outline of the model, and for those that wish for a deeper treatment the original “Brain of the Firm” book (Amazon link, unaffiliated) is highly recommended. There is also a (1hr 26 minutes) talk by the man himself available via the Social Technology website (thanks to Gordon Rae for the link)

FA Rating

Completeness of Vision: The model aims to be a complete method for modelling any system (although it is obviously more challenging the more complex the system is).

Ability to execute: It can be used in both simple and complex ways, as a shorthand (“have I included the various subsystems?”) or a full modelling tool.

Overall rating: Leader

Framework 21: Value Disciplines

This model was proposed by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema in 1995. The basic idea is that any company can deliver value to its customers in three disciplines:

  • Operational Excellence (pursuit of scale economies, optimal running costs)
  • Product leadership (having the best product and being first to market with it)
  • Customer intimacy (understanding customers and thereby offering them the best, most responsive, service).
The purpose of the model is to focus executives’ attention on attaining a minimum standard in all three disciplines and choosing one in which to excel, by asking questions around what has the most meaning for customers, what industry standards are like and how competitors shape up.


Treacy & Wiersema argued that market leading companies are successful because they don’t “go all-out” to pursue all three disciplines at the same time as this can cause conflict and inefficiency. Although there are minimum standards to be attained in each discipline, a company must decide which of the disciplines will be primary and structure operations around that discipline.

Their thinking is well summarised in this HBR article from 1993.

FA Rating

Completeness of vision: this model is not by definition complete and is intended to be used with other frameworks.

Ability to execute: the model has been misused when it forces too much focus on one area (for example Customer Intimacy) and this allows another discipline to get out of control (such as Costs). Nevertheless the model makes logical sense and seems easy to put into practice.

Overall rating: Challenger

Framework 20: Gartner Hype curve

The Hype Cycle (more accurately, a Hype curve) is a graphic representation of the adoption and maturity of particular technologies. The term was coined by Gartner, who seem to have used it since about 1995.

From the Wikipedia page: “hype cycles … characterize the over-enthusiasm or “hype” and subsequent disappointment that typically happens with the introduction of new technologies. Hype cycles also show how and when technologies move beyond the hype, offer practical benefits and become widely accepted.”

Gartner note that Hype Cycles should be used “to get educated about the promise of an emerging technology within the context of their industry and individual appetite for risk.” Gartner analysts Jackie Fenn and Mark Raskino have produced a book (Amazon link, unaffiliated) explaining how to use the tool and the methodology behind it.

File:Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.gif

Emerging technologies, July 2009. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Wikipedia page notes that various criticisms have been made of the hype cycle, namely that ” it is not a cycle, that the outcome does not depend on the nature of the technology itself, that it is not scientific in nature, and that it does not reflect changes over time in the speed at which technology develops. Another is that the “cycle” has no real benefits to the development or marketing of new technologies and merely comments on pre-existing trends”. Despite these criticisms, it remains a well-used concept.

Also worth reading: technology readiness level and the work of the economist Carlota Perez.

FA Rating

Completeness of vision: As it is applied to technology or new media trends, all of the above criticisms apply.

Ability to execute: I actually use the concept more as a descriptor of my own learning process than anything else. I find it helps to be aware that excitement over discovering a new thing is often followed by a dip and that this in itself precedes me being able to effectively use the new knowledge. But maybe that’s just me.

Overall rating: niche player

Framework 19: Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence model

This model, originally introduced in 1995 by Daniel Goleman, offers a way to classify and self-assess one’s emotional competences in a way similar to one’s IQ.

It is a subset of emotional intelligence models summarised on this Wikipedia page. All the models, according to that page, measure “the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. Various models and definitions have been proposed of which the ability and trait EI models are the most widely accepted in the scientific literature.Criticisms have centered on whether the construct is a real intelligence and whether it has incremental validity over IQ and the Big Five personality dimensions.”

Goleman’s model breaks down into four quadrants:

Source: Psychometric

The Wikipedia page notes that “two measurement tools are based on the Goleman model:

  1. The Emotional Competency Inventory (ECI), which was created in 1999, and the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI), which was created in 2007.
  2. The Emotional Intelligence Appraisal, which was created in 2001 and which can be taken as a self-report or 360-degree assessment.”

Some techniques such as the Johari Window can be used to improve some competencies. The Wikipedia page also notes that various criticisms have been made about both the validity and the measurement of the competencies in the model.

FA Rating

Completeness of vision: the fact that this model is so popular is possibly due to it covering areas that many feel are lacking from standard assessment centre tools.

Ability to execute: it is difficult to properly assess a person for something so nebulous as emotional competencies. I’ve done a 360-degree appraisal and found it very useful but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have benefited just as much from introducing a different model in that process. Finally, we shouldn’t take some of these models too seriously, especially when dealing with things we know so little about. My approach is always to learn what I can and be prepared to ditch it in the face of conflicting evidence.

Overall rating: Visionary