The Antimatter Pattern

The Antimatter Pattern


Some fifteen years ago now, patterns seemed like they might become a widely adopted way of capturing and sharing knowledge and know-how. It also seems like they never really caught on in the software development field.

Personally, I still find them useful for organising and recording my own thoughts, and, occasionally, for sharing those thoughts with others. This post presents the StartingTheWheelOfChange pattern, which proposes the Antimatter Principle as a solution to one of businesses’ most widespread and seemingly intractable of problems:

Problem: How to create a climate, context, or situation in which folks will want to change their behaviours to the benefit of all.

What Is A Pattern?

A pattern is the formalization of a problem/solution pair, potentially useful in making design decisions. The purpose of a pattern is to codify existing design knowledge/experience so that folks can avoid constantly re-inventing the wheel. Also, by naming such patterns, people can more easily reference and share them. The term pattern was first popularised by the architect Christopher Alexander working in the fields of e.g. building design and town planning.

Some folks refer to collections of patterns – relating to a common domain or discipline – as Pattern Languages. My interest these days is primarily in Pattern Languages for business management and organisational improvement.

My Pattern Form

Most of the patterns I’ve written over the years have shared a common form. You can see an example of this form in the StartingTheWheelOfChange pattern which is the subject of this post. Briefly, this form starts with a header, and then has the following various sections below that:

  • Context: The context(s) in which the pattern might be relevant.
  • Problem: The problem this pattern purport to solve.
  • Forces: The forces at play in the problem domain described by the problem and context sections. Sometimes also known as the trade-offs.
  • Solution: The solution which proposes to solve the stated problem, in the stated context, and resolving the stated forces.
  • Examples: One or more practical examples taken from the author(s)’ personal experience in applying the solution to real-world instances of the stated problem.

Starting The Wheel of Change

The StartingTheWheelOfChange pattern suggests a solution to the question of “How to encourage widespread learning and improvement in a community such as a for-profit organisation. The full pattern is presented as a pdf.

– Bob

  1. Paul Beckford said:

    Hi Bob,

    I really like the idea of patterns… Cataloging patterns has seemed to me for a while the only way to break the fad cycle, that characterises new management theory adoption within organisations.

    If your organisation doesn’t share the context, problem and forces outlined in the pattern… why on earth should you think that the proposed solution has any relevance to you? 🙂

    Of course people will be mindless nonetheless, but a pattern language for organisational change would provide one less excuse 🙂

    Allan Shalloway started to create such a pattern language awhile ago… but didn’t get very far:

    For such a thing to take off, I think it needs to be a collaborative effort along the lines of the original PLoP, or the C2 Wiki… Involving a large cross section of the Agile community.

    As a community, we don’t seem very good at collaboration, even though we espouse it a lot 🙂 Not sure why.

    Anyway thanks for this.

    One last thing… you’ve missed the most important part…. The examples!!!

    For me the credibility of patterns is that they are drawn from real-world examples… So they stand half a chance of avoiding the over theorising that goes on. Concrete examples allow the readers to check the validity of the pattern for themselves.

    Patterns are subjective, and without the ability for peer review, we have no way of assuring quality.

    Looking forward to reading the examples..


  2. Lukasz said:

    What if folks values are very different than what organization would like to have (so there’s some mismatch)? How attending people’s needs will help here?

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