The military communication model

“….I thought about the problem of communication of vision and strategy a lot, but I didn’t realise how the functional, hierarchical structure we’d borrowed from the military made communication in large organisations possible. Thinking a lot more about it since, I think the military model – the foundation of the industrial, functional, hierarchical organisation structure – is a communication-driven model… First, I led the development of our vision and strategy, along with my senior management team. They each, in turn, communicated to their direct reports, ten to thirteen of them; incidentally, but perhaps not surprisingly, this is the same size as a Roman military unit or an army military squad. And that action was repeated downward, again and again, until all had been communicated with. In a similar manner, the budget process worked from top down and then the bottom up to successively aggregate low-level performance right up to the top, where we finally concluded whether we were making any money or not – that is, whether we were ‘winning or losing.’
But boy Jim! Did IT ever change this! Because of IT networks, I didn’t have to rely on the hierarchy and the rather slow communications relay by each level of management to the next lowest level, nor did I have to wait for the slow process of upward communication back up through the chain of command to find out whether we were winning or losing

Robert D. Austin, Richard L. Nolan, Shannon O’Donnell in their book, “Harder Than I Thought: Adventures of a Twenty-First Century Leader.

OSS are also built upon communication hierarchies. For example, the TMN model suggests a hierarchy of:

Business Management Layer (BML) – represents the functionality relating to strategic business planning such as trending, quality, etc and provides the basis for billing, budgeting and goal-setting.

Service Management Layer (SML) – is responsible for defining the services offered by the carriers. This provides the interface between a customer’s services and the network including definition, administration and charging.

Network Management Layer (NML)  – provides the overall management view of the network as a sum of component parts. This is particularly necessary for representation of end-to-end concepts such as circuits that traverse multiple element management domains. Is responsible for the end-to-end supervision, configuration and control of the network.

Element Management Layer (EML) – provides definition and coordination of a collection of network devices, albeit a sub-set of the entire network. This layer would normally include consolidation of alarm management, backup, logging, and maintenance of the systems that support the network devices.

A fifth layer, Network Element Layer (NEL) – Represents the network devices themselves that the customers’s services traverse.

As the management and orchestration (MANO) standards of nascent virtualised network frameworks such as SDN and NFV evolve, I will be watching on with great interest with respect to the communication hierarchies discussed above.

Will virtualised networking bring with it a communication revolution like IT did to corporate communications (via email, social networking, etc) or will they continue to build upon structured hierarchies like TMN?

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